Holiday Relationship Rescue

How to get through the season of comfort and joy without fighting

By Joy Manning

Avoid Relationship Conflicts During the Hectic Holidays

If this is supposed to be “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” then why can’t you get through a single mall trip or holiday party without wanting to smack your spouse? The couples and families you see in movies may be caroling with the neighbors, smooching under mistletoe, and wrapping gifts in a state of yuletide bliss, but that’s not real life. For most people, schedules only get tighter and wallets just seem to get thinner between Black Friday and New Year’s Day. That added pressure can damage your relationship, sucking the fun out of the festivities and sowing the seeds for resentment in the year ahead.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We asked top relationship therapist Argie Allen, PhD, how to navigate some of the most common pitfalls that cause rifts between couples over the holidays. With her tips, you’ll be able to enjoy that glass of eggnog—without wanting to throw it in your husband’s face.

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The In-Laws Are Awful

You chose your husband, but unfortunately his parents are part of the deal. If the holidays bring you to your in-laws’ house for an extended visit, it’s inevitable they’ll get on your nerves, especially if you don’t get along under the best circumstances. Planning ahead is your best defense against a trip like this causing arguments with your spouse, according to Allen. “Get your husband’s support in advance and give yourself permission to carve out time away from the in-laws,” she says. How? Try taking the kids to a movie grown-ups would hate. What to Do When Your In-Law Is a Diet Outlaw

You Drive Me Crazy

You’re likely to be headed over the hill and through the woods more than one time during the month of December, and long car trips can be a minefield of possible arguments. If your husband is the never-asks-for-directions type, Allen recommends deciding in advance how long you’ll try to figure it out for yourselves before you pull into a gas station for help. And if you like chitchat on the road while your husband can remain silent through three states, ask open ended-questions. “You have to create the space and opportunity for him to express his thoughts,” says Allen. Yoga Poses That Relieve Aches and Pains

A Gift Gone Wrong

Even couples who have been together for decades stumble when it comes to giving gifts. What if your husband is excited for you to open your present, but when you do it’s the ugliest sweater you’ve ever seen? “The key is to make him feel appreciated,” says Allen. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a gift you’ll really use. Allen suggests telling him that though you appreciate his thoughtfulness, you’d love him to help you pick out a different style that you feel more comfortable in. Alternatively, she says, you can sidestep the issue by handing him a wish list in advance. Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

The Budget Crisis

It seems like money is tighter than ever this year and—in case you haven’t noticed—holidays are expensive. There’s decorations, party supplies, extra gas, special occasion outfits—and that’s before you tackle your gift list. “Talk, talk, talk,” is Allen’s advice for this problem. Be honest if you have less this year than you did in other years if that’s the case, and make a plan for homemade gifts this year. The time you spend together making something special can be much more precious than a new tie or toy. Silent Signals You Are Way Too Stressed What do you and your significant other argue about the most during the holidays?

Published December 2011, Prevention | Updated December 2011


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