Nothing can create stress and even disconnection for a couple like the holidays!  In the season of peace, love and joy, far too many couples feel anything but those healthy, bonding emotions.  Often when we are coaching an engaged couple who say that they never fight, all that we have to do is ask the question, “Where will you spend the holidays?”. Then we just sit back and watch the sparks fly! Here are some boundaries and tools to consider so that “all is calm, all is bright” describes your holiday season.

    1. Do not assume anything! Communicate clearly with one another about your Holiday expectations and desires. You each may need to compromise, negotiate and sacrifice something that you each want to come up with a game plan.
    2.  Mutually decide where and with whom you will spend the holidays. If both sides have families in the same area, don’t try to be two places at once. Make the plan that works for you and your relationship. Families may not like it, but they will accept it if you hold the line.
    3. Mutually decide ahead of time how long you will stay at each home or event that you attend. This prevents making you or your partner the “bad guy” or the “resentful guy” if one of you decides to stay or leave, but the other one doesn’t want to.
    4. Don’t neglect your “couple time.” Schedule dates when it’s just the two of you… and don’t try to finish your shopping list on the date. Go out for a cup of coffee or a long walk. It doesn’t have to be expensive.
    5. Allow for extra time everywhere you go. Traffic and crowds are always heavy in the holiday season, so don’t cram your schedule full. You will be less prone to argue over “nothing” if you aren’t stressed by time.
    6. Agree on off limit topics, especially religion and politics, with family members or at social events. And be sure NEVER to agree publicly with someone who disagrees with your mate. There is a time and place for such discussions, but holiday gatherings are not the time or place.
    7. Have a game plan for how to manage difficult people at family or social gatherings. Maybe it’s the family member that wants to monopolize all your time. Perhaps it is the person who wants to drag you into their emotional drama. Or it could be the one that comes on to you or becomes obnoxious after a few drinks. With some forethought and creativity, you can work as a team to deal with difficult people and have a more enjoyable time.
    8. And speaking of a few drinks… decide on your limit and agree to let your mate help you hold the line. Another relationship-honoring idea is to engage in social drinking only if your spouse is attending the same mixed-sex event.
    9. The last two are “obvious.” Carefully schedule your family, social, religious and work-related holiday events on a shared calendar. Discuss and agree upon how to handle conflicts in schedules. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to an invitation. Again, make time for your relationship and shared couple experiences.
  1. And last, but not least – budget your holiday expenses and stick to the budget. The beauty of an agreed upon budget is that it’s then the budget that says, “yes” or “no”, and not one of you. Who wants to be the Grinch at Christmas? Let the budget be the Grinch. You will be so glad you did in February when there is not a huge balance due from Christmas and you can enjoy a romantic Valentine’s getaway!