Written by Writer’s Corps member Julie Oltman
The holiday season can be a joyous time of celebration with family and friends – but it can also be a source of stress in a relationship. Between school, work, and quality time with family and friends, it’s no wonder the holiday season can feel especially overwhelming when you’re trying to fit in time with your SO. Together these competing responsibilities may make us act out our frustrations in our relationship. Sigh. Tis the season of relationship drama. That’s why it’s super important to recognize healthy and unhealthy behaviors we’re all guilty of.
Below, are 3 unhealthy behaviors to avoid this holiday season.
1. Not Compromising on Holiday Plans
We all have our own special traditions. Whether it be an annual dinner at a relative’s house, a secret family cookie recipe, or participating in a 5K race each year – unique customs are a great way to bring people together and create memories.
While you may have traditions that you hold close to your heart, your partner likely has them too; it’s not healthy to consider your holiday rituals more important than your partner’s.
Respect and equality are two key characteristics of healthy relationships, and they are a vital part of making holiday plans with your partner. A mutual agreement is made much easier when you respect each other’s beliefs and opinions and have the same say in the relationship. Compromise isn’t always easy, but working together as equals on a decision is essential to getting through a difference of opinion.
2. Unrealistic Expectations For Gifts
When we are motivated by the right reasons, presents can be a wonderful way to express your affection to your partner.
We all have different gift-giving strategies that can vary widely. Some spend more time on the process than others; some prefer practical items, while others like profound, significant gifts. But gift-giving should not be something that causes stress in a relationship.
The financial strain of gift-giving during the holidays may be a source of tension, as well. Because you likely aren’t the only person your partner is buying a gift for, differing ideas about how much to spend on gifts can cause discomfort or embarrassment.
It is important to make sure both partners are on the same page when it comes to gifts – if unrealistic expectations are set, one person may end up feeling disappointed or unhappy. It can be helpful to set out ground rules before a holiday, or even create a fun game, such as agreeing to hand-make gifts or stick to a specific theme.
3. Staying in a Relationship to Avoid Being Single
There can be a tremendous amount of pressure surrounding the holiday season especially since social media causes unnecessary anxiety around the idea of being single. Having a constant eye on the lives of friends and their relationship can make it seem as though we would all be happier with a partner during the holidays. Likewise, nagging questions about relationships at holiday gatherings can be uncomfortable. To avoid feeling like we’re missing out, we might dive headfirst into cuffing season with a new partner or stay in an unhealthy relationship for the sake of not being alone.
While the holidays can intensify feelings of inadequacy, we need to keep in mind that being in a relationship simply to avoid being alone is not fair to either partner. It is never a good idea to start or continue a relationship because of pressure from others. Strong relationships need trust, honesty, and compassion, and it is important to build them upon a healthy foundation.
Avoiding these stressors
Stress can be hard to avoid during the holidays, but as always, we can strive to build stronger relationships by understanding the signs of healthy and unhealthy behaviors. And while no relationship is perfect, the unhealthy behaviors outlined above can be detrimental to a partnership. Learning is an important first step, and you can use this information to help recognize these unhealthy relationship stessors during the holiday season.