6 Ways to Keep Your Partner Your Priority During The Holiday Season
Christmas is a time of year that can easily overwhelm all of us. It is often the case that our relationships are low on our priority list and during the Christmas season our spouse can land even lower. So how do you keep your partner as a priority when it makes sense to divide and conquer the many events, recitals, hosting obligations and financial obligations?
Happy Holiday Relationships
Ask your partner what is important about the holidays for them.
So many of us think about how previous holiday seasons have played out, reflect on our own interpretation of the season and assume that our partner would comment if it wasn’t suitable for them. The reality is that many spouses are uncomfortable putting their needs first or have a belief that the holidays should be about others. So ask them the following questions:
- When the New Year arrives and you reflect back on the festivities what is one thing that would make the holiday enjoyable for you?
- What can I do to ensure you are having the holiday you would like?
- What will you be doing to make that happen?
- Do you know what my priorities are and how you can support me over the season?
Be Deliberate with your Choices.
There will always be an opportunity to attend one more holiday party, purchase one more gift, create one more dessert or add one more decoration to the house. In the moment, ask yourself if this will matter in 20 years from now? Saying No to the extras can often make the difference between feeling overjoyed and overwhelmed.
Set a budget for the holiday season.
Discussing the budget with your spouse can be a check in for what can be a “indulgent” time of year. You want to be on the same page with your partner when that Credit Card bill arrives in January. If your partner wants to have one spectacular Christmas party but is less worried about the meal on Christmas day then that can help you prioritize your spending. It will mean focusing on two priorities and finding the funds to make the time a special memory for yourself and your partner.
Schedule a minimum of ten minutes per day to focus exclusively on your partner in conversation or otherwise.
No thinking about the to do list, put away the cell phone and if possible go for a walk or a drive. Making your partner a priority means that for a small period of time, each day, you give your partner access to your current thoughts and feelings. It may be that connecting for your spouse is a ten- minute make-out session. Make sure your partner knows if you have said no to others and that time with your partner is a priority for you.
Setting boundaries for extended family is also a helpful strategy.
Other people’s traditions and expectations can be profound. “We have hosted Christmas Eve dinner since she was nine years old”, “The holidays will be ruined if you can’t join us”. Strong statements, such as these, from our families, are golden opportunities to show your partner they have status in your life. Choosing to make their priorities our priorities tells them that they matter. Our behaviours provide very powerful messages and when we feel caught we communicate our priorities with our choices. This year choose your spouse.
Discuss the use of liquor and other indulgences.
Any substance that can cause our spouse to be unavailable can be a source of conflict. I have heard many couples complain that their partner gets too loud, too quiet or becomes unmanageable when they have been drinking. Remember that when you are out with your partner to some degree you are representing both individuals. Discuss how to enjoy a social event with your partner’s experience in mind.
“Saying No to the extras can often make the difference between feeling overjoyed and overwhelmed.”
If any of these items provide a challenge for you and your spouse I encourage you to access some support from a therapist. Unplanned Holiday Seasons can result in resentments and negative narratives about who you are to your partner. Sometimes these narratives become beliefs that last for many years. Set some time aside, be curious about your partner, share your needs and make a plan. I hope it’s the best Holiday Season Ever for you and your spouse.
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I have noticed that a new perspective can have a powerful impact on a marriage. We are so often stuck in our own vantage point and are unable to see how this perspective blocks any other.
There is a great deal of focus in the therapeutic community for empathy in relationships. Many a therapist in a couple’s counselling session has attempted to increase the empathy of one spouse toward the other in the hope of increasing their emotional intimacy.
In therapy, we can talk a lot about the problem, but the better option is to flip the problem and create clarity by asking what the opposite of the problem is. In my practice, I ask people how they would be experiencing their relationship differently if there was a miracle in the night and it was fixed.