A couple’s guide to handling holiday conflict

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. From now on, your troubles will be out of sight.

Initially composed in 1943 for the film Meet Me in St Louis, the song was sung by Judy Garland as a lyrical reply to a little girl’s misgivings about moving to another city before Christmas and leaving loved ones behind. It has been re-recorded several times, most notably by Frank Sinatra in 1957 and Sam Smith in 2014. So what has musical trivia got to do with our relationship woes, I hear you ask; this a relationship blog, not a quizzing one, after all.

 Well, for one, it has been an earworm of many since early November when Christmas Carols took over from the soft 70’s ballads music usually played in malls and supermarkets. But also because the lyrics could easily be used as a mantra for surviving all the stress and tension that the holiday season often creates in relationships.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Couples often fall out when planning their Christmas and summer holidays because their expectations cannot match reality, i.e. budget vs bank account balance, time planned vs time available, social obligations vs social limits. Trying to live up to expectations creates stress. And when people are stressed, they are more likely to feel and express the negative emotions of anger and frustration. As a result, miscommunication between partners can quickly escalate into resentment and discontent. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and other anxieties are heightened during stressful times, especially when couples are bombarded with advertising showing a “perfect family” life that rarely exists offline. You can help take the pressure off your relationship and keep life merry, however, by taking some time to:

  • Work through budgets together, agreeing and sticking to spending limits.  
  • Make a list of what you want to do in order of priority/need to do, and cut back or cut out what you can live without this year.
  • Compromise when a clear decision isn’t apparent or works for both of you.
  • Know that it is okay to say no to invitations. There are still 11 other months of the year to spend time with friends and family. 
  • Try incorporating healthy food and minimising sweet treats and alcohol before Christmas/your holiday. Your brain and body will thank you for not completely overloading your system for days on end.  

Let your heart be light.

Summer celebrations and holidays are traditionally a time for recharging the batteries and taking a break from everyday life. However, this may only be possible for some couples this year due to work, financial or family circumstances. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas or If you cannot take a break this year, you can still do some things to lighten the emotional load you may be carrying and recharge your batteries in many small ways. These include:

  • Setting aside time as a couple to focus on your relationship. Even a few moments of talking about/showing your love for each other before the lights go out for the night can help ease tension.
  • Spending part of any day off you have out of the house; it doesn’t have to be far away, just somewhere different from your usual routine. New experiences can be good for mental well-being, and doing something with your partner can help to keep your bond strong.
  • Listening to music that brings you joy. It doesn’t have to be for long, as any exposure can have a positive effect. Even better, dance or sing along as if no one is watching.    
  • Take a moment to watch something together that makes you laugh. The internet has a few to choose from. Laughter increases oxygen intake, releases endorphins, and relieves feelings of stress and anxiety. It is the quickest and easiest way to reduce tension and lighten the heart.   

Putting troubles out of sight – figuratively, not literally.

If there are issues you need to solve with your partner, and they are minor, Christmas day or just as you are about to go on holiday is not the time to bring them up. Focus instead on what is good about your relationship/partner. Draw upon your emotional bank account until neither of you is distracted by the stresses of the “silly season.” Live in the moment, enjoying whatever you have planned for the day/your holiday. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, know that it is okay to take a moment for yourself by:

  • going for a walk
  • reading a couple of chapters of your favourite book
  • listening to a podcast or music
  • taking a nap
  • whatever helps restore your calmness  
  • accept that there are things that you cannot control, but you are always in control of your reaction, including your response to your partner’s annoying habits.  

Remember that this time will pass quickly, and the easier you can make it on yourselves, the more fun it will be for you both.

Wishing my clients and anyone reading this blog many moments of joy and stress-free living this Christmas; however, you spend the day and those that follow.

I am on leave from the office during December, but you will still be able to book appointments for January onwards here. I wish you the best of times for the rest of 2022 and look forward to helping you continue to create the relationship you desire in 2023.


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If something in this blog has brought up some issues for you, book a free inquiry call with Ann Jay.

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Ann Jay

Ann Jay is a Wellington Relationship Counselor who provides marriage counselling, couple's counselling, and relationship coaching for couples and women either in a relationship or single. Her goal is to help people create healthy, loving and fulfilling relationships and experience the love they deserve.