Holidays = Hardships?

The arrival of “the holidays” creates a mixture of excitement and dread for most people. Many look forward to the festivities and celebrations with friends and family. For others it becomes a dreaded time of too much to do and rekindling of negative family interactions.

Many couples look forward to holiday parties and creating their own traditions. Others fear the stress they experience with their families or in-laws. They know the conflict will impact their marriage.

Bonding as a Couple

One of the best antidotes to the holiday stress is to anticipate it and discuss the possible scenarios. If Dan’s Mother always uses guilt to push him to attend Thanksgiving or Christmas at her house, discuss alternate responses and be ready with them when she brings up the subject. Work with one another to be on the same page with your family members before the situation arises.

Probably when you were first married you enjoyed being part of your families’ celebrations. But then you realized that you needed--and wanted to create your own traditions. That is a very important and healthy part of defining your couple relationship. It also helps with the important steps of separating from your family of origin so that you continue to grow, and grow up.


It is usual to have many expectations of one’s spouse or significant other. The problem occurs when these expectations are not clearly expressed. In therapy sessions with couples, I always explain that assumptions are “the enemy” of good relationships. Couples often fight about a disappointment merely because it has not been expressed.

Sara hinted to Dan that she wanted to spend a romantic Christmas Eve together. She also hinted about a beautiful sapphire bracelet they had seen which she very much wanted. At Christmas time when she became angry with him, he was totally puzzled. He could not understand where her sudden explosiveness came from.

When couples learn to communicate their wants and needs, they can create more specific goals. Their goals are better defined and allow each of them to feel heard and feel important in the relationship.


Good communication is central to a good relationship. We rarely learn this in our families as we grow up. So in my work with couples, and individuals I teach specific listening skills as well as communication skills. This helps each of you express your wishes, hurts, needs or desires more effectively. Then you can more easily get through these challenging holiday times.

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