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How to Stress-Proof Your Relationship This Holiday Season

Cultivate an attitude of gratitude around your partner and loved ones during the holidays.

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It’s not uncommon for couples to feel overwhelmed or disconnected during the holidays, especially if one or both partners feel triggered by certain events. The added stress can create tension and highlight relationship difficulties.

Having a plan can help you and your partner stress-proof your relationship and spend more time enjoying the holiday season.

Take the Stress out of Holiday Plans

The holiday season can leave a partner feeling unappreciated or resentful for doing all the shopping and cooking, or it can lead to another partner feeling pressured into doing things their partner’s way. But the holidays are a time to come together as a team and create a sense of balance. This template can help you stress-proof your relationship this holiday season:

1. List all the urgent chores and responsibilities that require attention. This gives you an objective view for determining responsibilities.

2. Add three columns to the list: one for you, one for your partner, and one for both of you.

3. Read the list together. Talk about each other’s perception of how holiday responsibilities were handled in the past and discuss how you would like to approach them this year.

4. Go through the items that are easy to assign this year and choose who is responsible (you, your partner, or both). Check the appropriate task and partner on the list, and set aside the tasks that can wait.

5. For the items you didn’t assign, ask each other open-ended questions about the task and the difficulties associated with it. This is a learning opportunity.

Find Common Ground

After both partners feel understood, determine how you’d like to proceed this year and compromise when needed so both of you feel comfortable with your plans.

The goal here is to find win-win solutions that put your partner’s needs on par with your own. Work together in developing solutions that satisfy both your needs. Then decide who is responsible, assign the task, and note the date that it needs to be completed.

Now you have a better idea of who does what and when, which should already relieve a great deal of stress. Dr. John Gottman’s research shows that a purely equal division of tasks isn’t essential (keeping score can lead to resentment). It’s more important that each partner feels responsibilities are balanced. Modify plans if necessary, and support each other. If your partner feels overwhelmed or flooded, see if you can help out by taking on some of their tasks.

Reconnect with Your Partner

A Stress-Reducing Conversation can help you talk about your stressors outside of the relationship. Ask open-ended questions about how they’re feeling this holiday season, but don’t try to problem solve. Instead, listen to your partner’s concerns and express empathy.

You can also relieve stress and stay connected by sharing compliments, gratitude, and appreciation. Make an extra effort to notice the small things your partner does such as grocery shopping, wrapping gifts, taking out the trash, or making time for you. Verbalize your appreciation.

And (perhaps most importantly) try to schedule private time to reconnect. It may be difficult to get away from family and friends during a busy holiday season, but making intentional efforts to spend a few hours or an evening together will help you both feel calmer and loved.

Having a plan helps you spend less time stressing and more time enjoying company with your loved ones. We wish you a joyous holiday season!


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Kyle is a couples therapist and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist.  He loves nerding out on the science of relationships. When not highlighting research on a Sunday morning in his bathrobe, Kyle enjoys writing for his blog Kylebenson.net where he takes the research on successful relationships and transforms them into practical tools for romantic partners.

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