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Toronto, Canada

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Toronto, Ontario - M5V 1R2
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How To Deal With Relationship Strains Over The Holidays

Written by Christine Rees

Relationship strains can develop when we stretch ourselves too thin to make everyone happy. Family expectations, gift exchanges, and necessary one-on-one time together can turn the joy of the holidays (no matter the time of year) into an overwhelming anxiety-attack-waiting-to-happen.

I feel like holidays are a true test of your relationship with someone. If you can last through a holiday, you can probably take on anything. However, sometimes battling through this with your partner or family requires a little pro-active, defensive planning. So, let’s see if you can prepare for the holiday battle.

Talk About Everything (Before Relationship Strains Take Over):

The holidays tend to be a loaded topic, but when it comes to your relationship, discussing each other’s expectations early on can lower the risk of a massive blow out later on. Open up the conversation by saying what you want, your budget for gifts, and family traditions. Relationship expectations can cause problems during the holidays if your expectations are:

  1. Just plain unreasonable
  2. Not voiced
  3. Unrealized

No matter how long you’ve been together, you don’t become a mind-reader because you’re in a relationship. So, it stands to reason that there will be tension and confusion when it comes to gifts and expectations unless you actually talk about them. Our expectations may be based on unrealistic aspirations inspired by movies and TV. Maybe we choose not to speak about them out of fear of being too pushy. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have expectations until we’re disappointed. Opening this conversation can alleviate stress from your relationship over the holidays, so reality doesn’t crush your cheerful spirits.

Family Traditions:

Expectations can be deeply rooted in our upbringing and family traditions. There will also be your family’s expectations and what they expect of you and your partner over the holidays… oh, joy. Everyone’s family has their own way of doing things and this can magnify pre-existing relationship strains. Find a way to make everyone mildly happy. Split your time as best you can, but remember that not everyone will be wholly satisfied with their side of the deal. Everyone needs to compromise during the holidays, even you.

One-On-One Time:

hand holding

It’s important to carve out some one-on-one time with your partner. After hopping from party to party, it’s time to unwind and r e l a x together. This will offer you both a chance to bond and reconnect in a calm environment, away from the excitement. We love our family but sometimes alone time is essential for recuperating.

Relationship strains are normal over the holidays. Everyone gets tugged in different directions due to commitments and expectations. All we can do is try to make everyone happy. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we don’t. At times, focusing on our relationship will help us to stay sane during the chaos. Find something that works for you and your partner, and face the holidays as a team.


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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.