Recently Good Housekeeping asked us for some tips on how to keep a relationship from suffering too much from holiday stress. At first we thought it was kind of funny that they would ask us that question, since one of the things we’re best known for is, well, not always getting along.
But then we thought: maybe that’s why they’re asking us that question. We’ve had a lot of stressful changes in our lives over the last few years, and even though we can bicker with the best of ’em, we also know how to muddle through intact. And there are times during each holiday season that we all think: how will I get through this?
So, from our dysfunctional happy home to yours, here’s our tips for keeping a relationship intact through the holidays. Use them at your own risk.
1. Remember that it’s your holiday too. Too often couples feel they need to continue the longtime holiday rituals of their respective families. They run from Aunt Mabel’s Christmas Eve Brunch, to Grandma-in-law’s Holiday Dinner, to Cousin Sue’s Menorah Lighting. By the time everyone on both sides of the family have been paid their respects, there’s no time left to start your own holiday traditions. Take a year off from Aunt Mabel. Remember something goofy you and your partner did during your first few holidays together. Now do it again. See? It’s already your own tradition.
2. Don’t fight. Sometimes it’s that simple. After ten years together, Brent and I found ourselves in the situation of living apart again. He had to stay at the farm, and I needed to work in the city. Weekends were the only time we saw each other. Too often I’d get on the train to come back to NYC and realize that we’d wasted our precious time bickering. We’re the first to say that there’s a healthy amount of nagging, but we’ve also learned to set aside days where we wake up and promise each other that we won’t fight for the next 24 hours. It works. You’ll be surprised at how generous you can be to your partner when you’re simply reminded to be.
3. Think small. Too often we wrack our brains trying to think of the Mother-Of-All-Holiday-Presents to bestow upon our betrothed. It usually ends in disappointment and hurt feelings. Love is sometimes best shown in little ways. Does your partner always run out of his favorite deodorant? Buy him a year’s supply to put in his stocking. Does she complain about dull kitchen knives? Get her an electric sharpener. It’s these little things that show how much you really know each other. And that you care enough to make their life just a little bit better every day, not just on holidays.
4. Split up. Yep. Sometimes “divided you’ll stand.” There’s no earthly reason for both of you to attend every single holiday party and gathering together. I hate work parties. They remind me of, well, work. Especially when they’re not my own. So back when Brent worked in an office, I simply didn’t go. And there’s a few friends of mine that he’s not all that fond of, so he skips their parties. Guess what? No one misses the missing half. And there were a lot less silent cab rides home.
5. Cut corners. Holidays aren’t sporting events. As far as we know, no one hands out a prize on January 2nd to the couple who had the most impressive holiday season. If you don’t feel like putting up the tree this year, don’t. Spend the time going to a movie instead. Do you really need to bake a dozen cookies for everyone in your neighborhood? Trust us, their waistlines will be happier with holiday note telling them how thankful you are to have them as a neighbor. Cutting back this year won’t hurt anyone. Because guess what? The holidays will be right back again this time next year.