We here at The Gottman Institute hope that you’ve all had a lovely Thanksgiving! As we recover from a long weekend away from the workplace and think fondly of you, we feel it is our duty to break from the Sound Relationship House Series to make an important announcement: The holiday season has begun! 

If the thought of the upcoming holiday season brings you emotions other than pure, unadulterated joy, we understand. With meals to prepare, gifts to purchase, decorations to put up, and in-laws to entertain, it can be a very stressful time. Don’t let your navigation of the holiday season cause you to inadvertently put your relationship on the back burner! To ensure that your relationship thrives, and that you and your partner enjoy your holidays to the fullest, follow Dr. Gottman’s 5 Tips for filling your holiday season with romance:

1. Give Love
On a budget? Instead of overspending on gifts, show your partner your love with a thoughtful, personal gesture. One idea we love: think of 10 qualities you love and cherish about your partner, write them on little bits of paper, and put them in a jar with a ribbon around it. Our favorite part: you can update this jar by adding positive qualities about your partner long after the holidays have passed.

2. Nurture Appreciation
Nurture appreciation during the holidays by noticing all of the things that your partner does and expressing your thanks for them. Our research shows that successful couples maintain a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. Simple expressions of appreciation like, “I really enjoyed the conversation over dinner,” “you really look incredible tonight,” and, “thanks for making the bed!” will go a long way. Making deposits into this emotional bank account will come in handy during times of stress and conflict.

3. Stay Emotionally Connected
Make sure to check in with your partner before going to bed by asking questions like, “How are you? How is the world treating you?” Really listen to their concerns, stresses, and frustrations. Don’t give advice, just express empathy. According to Dr. Gottman, it is critical that you show genuine interest, communicate your understanding, take your partner’s side, express a “we against others attitude,” express affection, and validate their emotions.

4. Make Memories

Cuddle up with your partner, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and watch your favorite holiday movie. Take a walk down a tree-lined street and kiss under the lights. Make breakfast in bed. Build a fire. Hold each other. Dream. Reminisce. Make sweet memories – they are the ultimate gift you can give to each other. 

5. Create Traditions
How did your partner celebrate the holidays growing up? Do they have traditions? What are their best and worst memories? What is the ideal meaning of the holiday season in your partner’s mind? Have a conversation about how you can honor that meaning this year. Share your own family traditions and create special ones of your own together – for this year, and the many years to come. 

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season.


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Dr. Gottman’s 5 Tips for Filling Your Holiday Season with Romance

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.