One Big Holiday Down: No matter which holiday you subscribe to, whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Passover, Easter, Ramadan or Kwanzaa, holiday gatherings tap chords of joy and notes of challenge for the best of couples. This is when partners feel pressured to perform at peak, cooking, cleaning, decorating, buying gifts, setting up guest facilities or traveling on buses, trains, cars and planes. Financial strains pull on the pocketbook and everyone has expectations of what should go right and what could go wrong.
Don’t Count on Mind Reading: There is still time to tweak the plans and make sure that you and your partner have a similar vision, similar program. Time to articulate what help you need, what roles each of you will play and expect the other to play. Do not rely on your partner “mind reading”. This is where danger lurks. Couples hope that magically their partner will know what they need, and do it, or buy it, or arrange it. “Years together, and she/he still needs to be told?” YES. Make a date to have that conversation. Each of you describe what you would like to see, expect or need. Listen and brainstorm. When differences of expectations emerge, compromise and collaborate.
There is always a Third Option: If you reach a road block, finding your partner’s ideas unappealing or unacceptable, think out of the box for a third option. Tradition is wonderful but not at the expense of the relationship. If the tradition doesn’t hold as well because children are older, grandparents are deceased, divorced or not traveling anymore, be flexible and plan another time to spend with them.
Beware Triangulating at Holidays: In laws, Blended Families, Step Families and Far Away Families. We live in a time when families are complex entities that often encompass many miles, time zones, and non blood related members, step siblings, step children, step parents. These complexities can enrich and delight if they are not triangulated: that is, if members are not forced to “chose sides” or locations or be cornered to select one set of relatives over another. Be smart together, avoid the traps that can often accompany these events.
Take the Time to Have this Conversation: Protect the Coupledom in all seasons. If you are concerned that this conversation will bog down in recriminations or attacks, seek out an expert to help you and your partner develop the needed strategies and skills. Once acquired, these same skills can be generalized to enhance the relationship for the future.
©Jill Edelman, L.C.S.W. M.S.W.