The holiday season brings images of happiness and joy but that doesn’t always happen. Our dreams of a fun filled holiday may instead be filled with stress, putting a strain on our relationships. The following are five ways stress adds to a relationship:
Believing our relationships need to be picture perfect. During the holiday season we are filled with images of the “perfect” relationship, the perfect family and sometimes we believe that is the way our life is supposed to be. We want everything to be meaningful and perfect. We think that every other couple, every other family is having a picture-perfect holiday. When ours doesn’t live up to our expectations, we worry and fret that our relationship isn’t “good enough.” We may blame ourselves, trying to be perfect or may focus on our partner’s faults, believing those are the cause of the problem.
Misjudging the seriousness of the relationship. It is easier to get carried away, thinking the relationship is more serious than it is. Watching other couples and the closeness they share during the season can make you want it too. And in doing so, you imagine your relationship is more serious than it is. Or, you may think the relationship is not very serious, not feeling you need to buy a gift or spend the day with his family, but yet, he feels it is serious and is disappointed and hurt that you don’t feel the same way.
You both celebrate the holidays in different ways and haven’t figured out how to compromise. It could be because you come from different religious backgrounds or cultures or follow different customs. Make sure you and your partner respect each other’s beliefs and customs. Take the time to learn about your partners customs and ask him to do the same for you. Then create a schedule that will allow for each person to follow their beliefs and customs.
You don’t get along with your in-laws. Dr. Teri Apter, in her book, What Do You Want From Me?, states that two-thirds of women feel intense stress from dealing with their mother-in-law. It helps when you and your partner can make decisions together and show a united front to both sets of parents about those decisions. For example, if you decide to spend time with your family over the holidays, your in-laws may be offended and make you and your partner feel guilty. Making sure you are together on decisions will help you fend off any attacks from your in-laws.
You decide to meet each other’s children. During the holiday season, you and your new partner decide it is time to meet each other’s children and spend the day as a family. Meeting your partner’s children for the first time is stressful for everyone, you and the children. Meeting them amongst the expectations of a stress-free, fun-filled holiday is even more stressful. You may worry about whether his children will accept you or like the gifts you bought. You might worry about your own children’s reaction to your relationship. It may be better to time the first meeting either before the holidays or wait until the holidays are over so you can focus on the meeting, rather than the holiday.
Small problems can seem much larger during the holiday season. When you are trying to make everything perfect, as we often do during the holiday season, small problems can be blown out of proportion. They can be seen as an obstacle to the perfect holiday. Work through problems as they arise and make sure to keep perspective, that all relationships hit snags and it is through resolving the difficulties that relationships grow and strengthen. Lighten your expectations of the holidays and accept them as they are, rather than how you think they should be.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.