​​Surviving The Holidays With Your Partner


The holidays though they are a celebration of friends and family and generosity can be a taxing event at best and brutal menagerie at the worst. Relationships can take quite a toll during these intense family get-togethers. Add up the travel, time off work, the barrage of family and, any compulsory gifts needed to be given and this can be a rocky road for any intimate relationship. I find that so many people lunge headfirst into the holidays with little-to-no planning, expecting for the best, only to find themselves in a train wreck at the end, full of crushed expectations, upsets and, hurt feelings.  

Why were there no compassionate conversations with your partner about how to navigate your stodgy grandmother or what to avoid saying around pervie uncle John, let alone proper social distancing? Why did you think it was a good idea to buy gifts for all your nieces and nephews 1 day before you have to travel to them? And then there was the brilliant idea to stay at mom’s house brimming with people only to have to sleep on a blowup mattress in the basement. Sounds like a weekend at Bernie’s, sans the dead guy.  Your relationship is going to take the brunt of it. If you only took a moment to plan your holidays, say in early November, which might only take you 1 hour, you could turn this three-ring circus into a holiday to remember.  

I often hear that life gets busy and there was no time to plan to not have a shit-show on your hands. And you know what I say to that, “BULLSHIT!” You may think it was just one holiday gone wrong but if you add up all the other slight misses, and small catastrophes in your relationship you would notice that the foundation of your relationship is starting to have slight to medium cracks starting to show. It’s this brazen attitude followed up with the white lie of “we just simply didn’t have time to plan” that may cause you to want to be dragging a dead guy around because it would be more interesting than the catastrophe of the holiday nightmare you are currently in.   

So step one, take some time to ask yourself what kind of holiday season would you like to have? Note: I am not asking you who you want to be around, I am asking what type of experience you want to have with your partner. It may not be with your parents or your friends. 

It may be on a beach in Maui or skiing in Banff Canada but it doesn’t have to default to being with family if that does feel congruent to either of you. You just may need a break from family this year.  If you do decide to be with your parents, you both have to figure out which parents to spend time with and for how long. For most couples feelings about in-laws can be mixed. This is where I am going to suggest that you both get really honest about how you feel about each other’s parents. Hold space for each other’s feelings and please for goodness sake hear your partner and allow how they feel to penetrate into your resistant crablike shell, they are true for your partner. I find that so many partners immediately start to defend their parents, and in doing so eclipse their partner’s feelings and shut them down, furthering resentment and increasing resistance to wanting to be around said parents. Listening to how your partner feels and validating that their feelings are true allows them to be heard and seen and opens space for a conversation about how they want to participate with your family. It is a powerful and simple form of healing to allow your partner’s feelings without immediately wanting to change them because you don’t agree.  

My mom would always say that her husband was her best friend, her confidant. I have his back and he has mine and that is what makes our relationship resilient and healthy. I often check my own intimate relationships to this wisdom to see if my relationship will stand the test of time. I do feel that if you have decided to be in a relationship where you spend a majority of your time together, even live together, you might want to have each other’s backs and this means defending and protecting your partner to your family when needed. It also means that you hear your partner’s feelings and truth especially when it challenges you and that you first take them in and then speak your truth and work it out together. Intimate relationships are about compromise, finding the grey zones of the overlap of your relationship. The grey zone is where you have worked out your own challenges together and found beautiful compromises where both of you are seen and heard. So find your grey zones with your families. Have each other’s backs and plan the holiday season around what you both want and if it doesn’t match your family’s expectations, oh well, that is tough cookies for your family. Remember when you are done with the holidays, you have to return home with your partner, not with your family!