Surviving The Holidays - Couples Edition

November 23, 2016

The holidays are right around the corner: leaves are changing color; nights are getting longer; and relationships are growing colder. Yes, you read that right. ‘Tis the season for relationship problems!

This time of year is filled with plenty of joyous occasions, but for many couples, the holidays can be a major source of stress. More often than not, holiday stress centers on finances, traditions, and family. Here’s how to prevent your relationship from cracking under holiday pressure.


Squabbling over money is commonplace within relationships, old and new. It’s normal to have these small disputes, but it’s important to keep them healthy. So, if you don’t have a rock-solid financial plan prepared for the holidays, consider developing one with your partner.

First, make a list of which holidays you both plan on celebrating. Attending holiday functions may feel obligatory, but politely declining an invitation to a Thanksgiving dinner or that rather pricey New Year’s Eve party downtown is always an option. Selecting which events to attend and which to skip is the first step to lowering expenses and setting expectations for how much time you both are willing to set aside for the holidays.

Next, discuss a reasonable budget for each event. Reflect on past year’s spending and discuss ways to save if expenses were too high for your liking, and brainstorm compromises for areas you feel were neglected.

For example, maybe you love hosting Thanksgiving dinner but your partner isn’t as committed to the idea of footing such a large grocery bill. A pot-luck dinner is a great compromise to entertain for less!

Or maybe you and your partner have different gift-giving traditions. Your family buys presents for just the kiddos, but his spreads the holiday wealth across the family tree. Too expensive, you say! Get creative here. Discuss doing a Secret-Santa, an option that can save you big bucks but maintains your partner’s idea of quality gift-giving. Or try giving meaningful homemade gifts if you can’t cross a few names off your Christmas list.


Traditions, like gift-giving, can be a sore spot for many couples. Sometimes traditions stem from family customs passed down through generations. Other times we acquire them through religious practices or cultural rituals. However we’ve come to know them, they are habits we often find difficult to compromise. However, couples with substantially different customs should discuss how to blend their respective traditions together to prevent conflict.

Start the conversation by sharing childhood stories.

  • What was your childhood like during the holiday season?
  • How did you celebrate and what was it that you appreciated most about your specific traditions that you would like to carry over? Maybe a late night church service is especially important to you, and you’d like to continue that with your partner.
  • What drove you absolutely insane that you want to avoid when establishing new holiday customs? Maybe you hated flying all over the country to visit family, and want to stay home for the holidays instead.

Lastly, how will your significant other need to support you during the season? This last one is important, because breaking with the old and starting with the new can sometimes be hurtful to other family members. Share your new and blended ideas with your extended family, and invite them to celebrate with you.


Family gatherings can bring us together just as easily as they can bring us down. A common dispute between couples during the holidays is how to manage family relationships during get-togethers. Usually, it’s not so much that you can’t get along with your sister, it’s that your partner can’t. Here’s how to avoid feeling hurt or upset when you’re dealing with a clash of personalities or a toxic family pairing.

Discussing negative feelings towards a member of your significant other’s family can feel like disabling a bomb – any moment you could touch the wrong wire and KABOOM! You’ve really ticked someone off. It’s because we’re naturally protective of our families. The best way to express your feelings without your partner feeling like you’re being critical is to use I-statements.  I-statements allows couples to work through disagreements without placing blame on any one person.

Take for example a healthy exchange of feelings regarding in-laws who are eager for grandchildren: Instead of saying “I hate when your parents bug us about babies all the time. Can’t they leave us alone?” Try, “I feel frustrated and annoyed whenever I’m reminded over and over that we don’t have kids.” This communication method allows for open and honest conversation about feelings without making an already touchy subject worse.  

Finally, remember to focus on what’s important during the holidays, spending time with those you care about most and doing the things you love together.

Surviving the Holidays as a Couple