During a recent solo night of Netflix and chill I stumbled upon a movie called November Rule. For those who are unfamiliar with this movie (which is probably most!) it is about a couple who are currently in dating bliss, they just may be each other’s ”the one”…BUT, the guy has a rule that every November 1st he dumps his current girlfriend. Why you may ask?? In order to avoid the holiday stress that stretches from Thanksgiving allllll the way until Valentines day.
While this plot may be a bit extreme and hopefully unrealistic, with Thanksgiving just a week away and the kickoff of the busy holiday season right around the corner, it really is hard to deny that this time of year doesn’t add pressure to any relationship. With extra stress and busier than ever schedules, even the most solid union can use some tips of how to escape unscathed. Here are a few pointers to help navigate the most common holidays stress:
Between office parties, secret Santa wine nights with the girls, pub nights with the boys and family commitments, it is easy for your respective schedules to become completely packed before you realize you haven’t fit in a moment to spend quality time together. Make a game plan of what holiday events you will attend together, where you’ll each be riding solo, but most importantly, where is there an opportunity to spend some quiet time just with each other without the pressure of having to impress friends and colleagues.
If you aren’t hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas this may be the time where you have to determine whose family to go to for what, or what holidays or traditions you are willing to miss with each other. Maybe you spend Thanksgiving with one and Christmas with the other? The most important thing to remember is to not “keep score” per se but rather to use this as an opportunity to communicate and compromise. This is a great time to share stories with your partner of your families’ holiday traditions and ones you may want to share with them. Is trimming the tree a family affair? A secret family recipe that is only made for Thanksgiving? Choose how you will split your time based on what will bring you closest and give you each best the opportunity to share more of your families’ traditions, personalities and special moments.
Meeting the Family
Thanksgiving and Christmas is often a time when we introduce our new partner to our family or longer term and married couples make the rounds to their respective partners’ families. Whether trying to make a good first impression or maintain a positive relationship there are a few things to remember:
Host gift: Especially when meeting your significant others family for the first time, it is important you make a good first impression and that starts by showing appreciation for being invited and welcomed into your partners family home. Talk to your partner beforehand to find out some likes or taboo areas (like bringing a bottle of wine to a recovering alcoholic, welp!) and make sure to have something in hand. It could be something as simple as a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers. The point here is to show appreciation, not break the bank.
Offer a helping hand: Following the theme of appreciation, make sure to offer a helping hand while you are there. Whether that is setting the table, offering to help in preparing the meal or just cleaning up after, the offer, while it may not be accepted, will make a good impression and will make the hosts efforts feel appreciated.
Be yourself: Most importantly, Be Yourself!! ….your SO is obviously with you for a reason so let your best qualities shine when you meet the fam. Your great sense of humour, strong family values, intelligence or work ethic will all be evident when you show up genuinely (and once you get past the first initial moments of awkwardness and break the ice)! BUT, make sure to not work through the awkward moments by over-indulging in liquor! You wouldn’t want to risk getting a little too loose and letting THAT be the first impression you make. Just remember that your SO family just wants the best for them, so while the pressure may be on or you may feel like you are walking in front of the firing squad, you both want the same thing: to make your partner happy. Once the fam sees that they will welcome you with open arms.
Especially if this is your first holiday together, there is often that moment of what is too much? What isn’t enough? You don’t want to go overboard but you also don’t want to choose a gift that belongs better in the friend zone. Focus on gifting something that is meaningful and creative. Cost isn’t necessarily a defining factor but it does have its place. You don’t want to give your SO socks and they gift you expensive jewelry as that is a recipe for hard feelings. (I once had a boyfriend give me a rock…yes, a rock, because he said he thought of me while walking on the beach in Barbados….) If funds are low, put deep emphasis into the sentiment (I wasn’t sold on the rock…) and how much effort you put into creating the gift. Perhaps you write poetry, create a scrapbook of memories, or plan an extravagant date night at home where you cook their favorite meals; whatever you do, your effort should match your intention.
If you have been together a little longer, I feel like this is a disclaimer I always need to share: do not, I repeat, DO NOT buy your significant other a “gift” that is just a tool for them to do chores. Unless your partner has specifically asked for it (and even then I’d say they are just trying to be nice, ignore them and try to plan a surprise!) a broom, iron, vacuum or rake are probably not something they really want.
The holidays should be about spreading love, joy, gratitude and appreciation so if you do a gift exchange, use this as an opportunity to show them these things.
Whatever stress and pressure, nervousness or embarrassing moments you endure this coming holiday season, just remember the true meaning of these busy weeks ahead, take a breath, and know it will all be alright. Keep calm and don’t overthink it! Use the tips above to help you prepare and most importantly focus on your love to keep you focused on why you are stressing out in the first place.