To learn more, we turned to Robin H-C, a behaviourist, relationship coach and author of Thinking Your Way to Happy (Author's Choice, 2008), for some advice on how to avoid arguments and keep your relationship strong throughout the hectic holiday season.
1. Stay in the moment
With so much going on during the holidays, it can be easy to get caught up not only in what you're doing today, but also tomorrow's to-do list, next week's big party and the fact that you still don't have a babysitter for New Year's Eve. This kind of thinking can increase stress and really take its toll on your relationship, causing you to lash out at your partner. "Do your best to take the holidays moment by moment and life will be easy," H-C says. "Deal with situations that are here and now, not imaginary ‘what-ifs?'"
2. Have a holiday plan
Plan well in advance where you'll be spending the holidays. This way you avoid last-minute arguments about who to see and where to allot your time. "When you have a plan, it eliminates chaos," H-C explains. Whether you have dinner at your in-law's house on Christmas Eve and spend Christmas Day at your parent's house, or spend a few hours at each after opening gifts at home, find a way to schedule your visits in advance. "Keep in mind while you're planning that you cannot be everywhere at once, but you can spend an hour at a few different places."
Page 1 of 2 -- Discover how quality time alone with your partner helps to ease holiday stress on page 2
3. Make time for each other
You may not have time to breathe or eat, let alone squeeze in a date night, but spending quality time together is important and should be planned for, H-C says. If you can't get out of the house or find a babysitter, stay in. Set the kids up with a movie and lock yourself in the bathroom with your partner for a bubble bath, or have an eggnog or glass of wine together while baking cookies with the kids or wrapping gifts.
4. Forget the "perfect" holiday
Over the holidays, as in life, if you expect perfection, something will inevitably derail your expectations. If the store ran out of your gift of choice, write an IOU. If dinner didn't quite live up to your expectations (or look like the picture in the cookbook), laugh about it, H-C says. Remember, the holidays are really about being with friends and family. "Focus on the importance of connecting with your partner and the people you love."
5. Ease up on the cheer
The holidays involve a lot of indulging. Every event you attend usually involves free-flowing cocktails and an abundance of rich desserts. All those treats and holiday cheer may be tasty but they can cause more harm than good. "Too much caffeine, alcohol or sugar can stimulate stress hormones in the body, activating the flight or fight response," H-C explains. "If you are feeling overwhelmed, forgo the cheesecake or wine and opt for vegetables and protein that will support healthy brain function and stress management."
6. Be sentimental
If you find yourself at odds with your husband during the holidays, stop for a moment and remind yourself why you chose him. "This will reignite the love and passion you feel," H-C says. But don't just keep those thoughts to yourself. Let your partner know how you feel. "The holidays are a wonderful time to tell your partner how he has touched your life."
It's not always easy to stay calm amidst holiday chaos, but you can avoid conflict and keep your relationship on track by making a few simple changes. Planning ahead, staying flexible and working as a team can go a long way in alleviating seasonal stress.
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