Navigating the holiday season in a way that feels good to all takes clear communication, lots of understanding and possibly a big chart. How it goes for you depends on a few things:
1. With step and half families, there can be quite a few dinners people are hoping you get to. Making it even more difficult, these families may be exerting pressure on your and/or your significant other to ‘show up this year’.
2. You might have your favorite places and people to be with…or maybe some people are better cooks than others.
3. How does your significant other fit in with your family and vice versa.
I encourage you to begin this conversation earlier in the year than you might imagine. If there is tension and, or disagreement, give yourself plenty of time to consider all the options available to you. Make agreements with your partner first, then have the conversations with your families to let them know the challenges you face and invite them to help you get to everyone that matters.
Some couples have more, and challenging matters to navigate.
1. Do you have different faiths/holidays you want to celebrate?
2. Are there kids in the mix? Are you having the conversation about which faith tradition to raise your children?
3. Finances, aka the hardest and worst topic of all for most.
It will be helpful to remember the need behind all these conversations. (Have I said this before? ;) Many of these conversations are really diving into the needs of purpose and meaning, a deep sense of belonging and sustenance. Super-core needs.
Conversations can get scary very quickly if you don’t recognize the cause of the stressful feelings that might be associated with these needs —especially if you think your significant other doesn’t care as much as you might like.
As usual, I encourage you to offer empathy to your significant other. Holidays may have (and continue to be) a challenge for them, while they are super delightful for you. Make space for the difference.
Get Creative and Check your Demands at the Door.
Do you have a tradition that you just adore and your partner just does not? Are you requiring them to participate?
Are you making demands on your significant other that has a high cost to your actual connection?
Before you insist they participate in everything you do (even if they hate it), please consider why (what need it meets to have them there). Before you say, “If they loved me, they would [fill in the blank]. Before you say, “it is what families/husbands/partners/wives do”, please consider making a plan that be enjoyable for both of you. Your partner can love you even if they don’t want to go caroling and you do. Possibly they can (and do) demonstrate their love for you in other ways?
Bottom line this holiday season:
Time and empathy are your best bets for a wonderful holiday season. Talk often, talk early and listen to each other well.