Ah, the holiday season is here once again. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, and all you want to do is rip out your hair. The dreidel is spinning, and…well, so are you, trying to get everything accomplished in time while also having time for yourself and your partner.
It’s supposed to be a holly jolly time of year but with the pressure to make it picture perfect, spend every penny you own on gifts, and attend all the seemingly hundreds of parties that you’re invited to, it often ends up being more anxiety-inducing and hectic than merry.
And that doesn’t bode well for intimacy and connection in your partnerships. In fact, the stress that the holidays bring often increases conflict and mental and emotional health issues, causing disconnection among partnerships — the antithesis of what is hoped for during this time of year. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way. Want to ensure your partnership doesn’t suffer this holiday season (and maybe even improves)?
Put the following six tips into action and you’ll be golden, like the twinkling star atop your tree:
I know, I know: you thought this was about connecting with your partner. Hear me out. Taking care of yourself first is crucial for your partnership. When you manage your own stress and emotions, you will be better equipped to handle whatever comes your way, whether it’s in your partnership or any other area of your life. You will also be less likely to experience conflict. Your partner unexpectedly needs to work late on Christmas Eve? The catering company got your order wrong? Ain’t no thang — you’re stress-free and going with the flow this year.
In order to manage your stress, feel peaceful and full of joy, and ensure you show up as your most loving self for your partner, take some time to connect with yourself each day or — at the very least — week. Meditate first thing in the morning or before bed. Hit up your favorite yoga class. Hire a therapist or coach to work through your feelings or read a self-help book. Write out your thoughts and feelings in a journal. This time to connect with yourself will make time with your sweetie so much sweeter; self-care allows you to have more love and kindness to give to others.
Schedule time together
Much like anything else, if you don’t put your partner on your to-do list (I don’t mean sexually but hey, scheduling sex is never a bad idea!), they’re going to be pushed to the back burner. Our schedules rapidly fill up this time of year, leaving us with little time to actually be alone with our partner and connect in an intimate way. Whether it’s one night a week, a fun weekend getaway, an extravagant vacation, or even just a few minutes before you go to bed, make sure you set aside some time to be alone together without distractions.
Check in with how they’re feeling and what they need from you to feel connected, loved and appreciated. Share some happy holiday memories. Create a new tradition or ritual to celebrate together. Whatever you decide: leave your electronics elsewhere and focus on each other.
Communicate your needs and desires for the season with one another
The best way to make sure your needs and desires are met at any time is to clearly communicate them — people are not mind readers (but that would be so cool and convenient if they were!). Too often we have expectations for how we want things to go that live silently inside our heads, which is a recipe for anger, resentment, and conflict. We must share our expectations with our partner if we want them to be fulfilled.
For instance, if you’re bogged down with work and need more help than usual with grocery and gift shopping, kindly ask. If you would prefer a low key, relaxing New Year’s Eve, speak up. Don’t assume that your partner will pick up on it and then resent them when they don’t.
Check in consistently and allow room for change
Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes we surprise ourselves with how to feel about certain situations that arise. It’s always in your and your partner’s best interest to consistently check in with one another to make sure you’re still on the same page with your plans and how you want the holiday season to pan out.
Maybe that annual ski trip is too costly this year or too many other plans have come up that make it less important to you. Or maybe you’re just damn tired and would rather have a romantic weekend alone. Give yourself permission to make changes to your plans that will ultimately be better for your mental health and relationship.
Learn each other’s love language
Gift giving can be a major pathway to connection — if you do it the right way. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, everyone has a primary love language, or way that they prefer to receive and show love. In his book, The 5 Love Languages, he explains that our primary love language is one of the following: acts of service; words of affirmation; touch; quality time; and receiving gifts.
Before you go breaking the bank on gifts for your partner, make sure you know how they really want to receive love from you — it may not require money at all. The best way to find out? Ask! If you’re not sure how a simple “How can I make sure you feel loved and appreciated this year?” will do.
Giving your partner gifts that they truly want will make them feel loved and understood, which is the best gift of all and will do wonders for your intimacy. There is little that creates more distance in a partnership than feeling misunderstood and unloved. Plus, you may learn something new about them or have more meaningful moments together depending on the gifts you choose to give.
Before you take something personally and react in a way that creates conflict, think about what could actually be going on with your partner when it comes to a particular situation. Put yourself in their shoes. Are they really upset about having to drive to your parents’ house in the snow, or could it be that it’s the first holiday after the passing of their mother and it’s affecting them more than you realize? Is it really that they don’t love you enough to propose or could it be that they don’t have enough money to get the ring you want and they don’t want to disappoint you?
Too often we perceive a situation to be about us and so we react as such when in reality it has nothing to do with us. When we’re empathetic, we stop and see the situation for what it actually is, not what we perceive it to be based on our past experiences. And in doing so, we create an opportunity to understand our partners better, feel less stress and pain, and avoid conflict.
If you’re unsure about what’s going on with your partner or you’re feeling hurt in some way, communicate your feelings and confront them about the situation. You’ll stop driving yourself crazy guessing and ruminating and you’ll probably feel closer to them, too.
Although the holiday season can be crazy, there are plenty of opportunities to create a connection in your relationship. By making your mental health a priority, scheduling time for one another, communicating effectively, checking in frequently, giving your partner the gifts they truly want, and practicing empathy in every frustrating situation, you will ensure that the holidays don’t create emotional distance between you and your partner but rather deeply connect you.