With the flurry of activities ahead of us this week (and the next several weeks after that), stress and pressures will run HIGH. It's a known fact that stress makes communication break down, so we've put together 6 tips for you and your partner to not only make it through the season intact, but better than ever.
Tip #1: Make Sure It’s Not ALL Logistical
At peak holiday season, when you’re juggling a thousand shopping lists, RSVPs, and family text threads… you and your partner might actually forget you can communicate for purposes other than logistics. “When are you leaving?” “Did you sign the card?” “Are you on your way?” “Have you gone to the store?” are all questions worthy of answers, to be sure, but they’ll make you feel less like you’re in a relationship and more like you’re sharing the same Uber. Take stock of your text messages and conversations: it might be time to shake things up with a “You look really cute today” or a “How’s your morning so far?.” You could even get really crazy with a “I’ve been really naughty this year…”
Tip #2: Know Your Stressors
If you + long lines at the mall + bad customer service = total freak out, then you know that it’s not a great time to be answering your partner's phone calls. Stressors multiply during the holidays because expectations are high and spare time is low (nearly non-existent). So stay vigilant of yours! If you feel yourself triggered by bad drivers or inconsiderate family members, don’t engage with your partner right away - unless they're ready to get an earful. Which brings us to our next tip…
Tip #3: Don’t Dump Your Emotions On Each Other
Venting is one thing: sometimes you just have to steal away for a few moments in the kitchen or decompress after a night at your mom’s about that thing you can’t believe she said but venting too often is a recipe for resentment. The holidays are stressful for all parties, so don’t make the classic mistake of getting stuck in your own point of view. Sharing feelings is great. Working through issues together is even better. But backing up a dump-truck of your negative emotions and releasing them into your partner’s lap is taking advantage of their support. Relish has great tips for self-regulation exercises and mindfulness practices so you can cool down before striking up a convo with your better half.
Tip #4: Remember We All Communicate Differently
You know that hot pit of anger that starts to form in your belly when you’re in a discussion where you know exactly what you’re trying to say but the other person just isn’t getting it? Well, when you feel the onset, that is the perfect moment to step away and collect yourself. First, breathe. Next, breathe deeper. Lastly, remind yourself that, like fingerprints, no two people share exactly the same communication style. Keep that in mind in all interactions - but especially those with your partner - and you’ll have much smoother conversations. Note cues like body language, tone, and put the OAR acronym to use: Observe, Assess, and Recognize. If you feel yourself heating up or see that your partner is starting to lose their patience, take a step back before you both get emotional and spiral out.
Tip #5: Don’t Overbook
For all words exchanged with family, friends, and co-workers during the holiday season, sometimes the loveliest one of all can be “no.” Give yourself permission to politely decline invites when you’re feeling stretched too thin. Reason #1: the high you get when you’re supposed to be at an event but you pull on sweatpants and curl up on the couch next to your partner is unparalleled. Reason #2: festive occasions are plentiful during the holidays, so don’t feel guilty for passing - there will be more. Reason #3: when you’re stressed out, underslept, and overbooked, do you know what you’re not doing? Connecting with your partner. Just as important as spending time with families is spending time with each other, so keep that a priority as you move through the mayhem.
Tip #6: Throw Kindness Around Like Confetti
There is no feeling quite as terrifying as opening your credit card statement after the holiday season. Everything is expensive: going out, hosting, staying in, shopping, flying, traveling, eating, drinking to cope with how much you’re spending, and so on. You know what isn’t expensive? Kindness. In fact, it’s totally free. And it’s one of the most thoughtful gifts you can give your relationship this holiday season. When you notice things, no matter how small: a made bed, a cooked meal, a clean kitchen, a stack of mail - thank them aloud for their service. It sounds silly, but the craziest part is - it works. When we hear recognition for our efforts, our desire is to increase our efforts, because we feel appreciated and valued. So the next time you look around and it seems like a slew of drunk elves dropped a sleigh in the middle of your house… find the silver lining. See that? That small corner of the house that is tidy and clean? That’s what you say aloud. That’s what you are grateful for. That is hope that the other side of the holiday season is right around the corner.
That's it! If you keep these 6 strategies in mind during the height of the holiday craziness, you and your partner will smoothly sail right through the winter blitz.