It’s easy to make sweeping generalizations about relationships and the holidays. I could go on and on about how to navigate love and family, how to divide time so you show your partner you care, how to manage holiday hookups, etc. The holidays are perfect fodder for a relationship blog.
But I think it’s so much more important to talk about the larger trend emerging beyond all the fodder.
The holidays magnetize whatever is going on in your relationship. For some people it’s a process that speeds up relationships that are growing and spins them out of control. For others, a slowly unraveling relationship will crash and burn under the pressures of the holidays.
It’s not hard to understand why. In the concentration of two months, we are forced to make dozens of decisions that propel relationships forward or stall them out completely. There is no in-between. Each small logistical decision forces us into black and white commitments that often have long-term implications on a partnership. Are you introducing each other to your families? Should you propose on Christmas Eve? Do you show up to parties together? Who do you kiss at midnight on New Years Eve? Because everyone knows, a NYE kiss means real commitment… (dripping with sarcasm).
We project so much unnecessary importance on these situational decisions that there is no way to avoid making major relationship decisions along with them. But I am begging you. PLEASE! Chill the eff out. Take a deep breathe. Don’t fall for the holiday hype. It will save you your sanity, and could save your relationship.
Here are a few minor guidelines to help your relationship survive the holidays:
Even if you are a solid couple and are moving steadily towards an awesome partnership, spending too much time together during the most stressful time of year will cause issues. Have an honest conversation about what your expectations are. Is Christmas a big deal in your family? Do you have insecurities around being left alone on New Year’s Eve? What moments are important for your relationship and where can you find time and space to relax as a couple. Can you carve out some time to be alone? Distance and time apart makes all relationships better. That is always true.
Did you forget to break up with your summer fling? Do it now. For the love of god. If you don’t, the next few months are going to be absolute torture as you avoid awkward moments with family, constantly disappoint each other and argue your way through the rest of the year. If you break up now, it will be a bummer. If you wait, it will be a disaster. You will have an over-dramatized and highly public falling out. And just consider the timing. If you break up in early December, you’ll have the time and space to have a good cry, move on and settle in with a new lovah before February. They will keep you warm during the long, cold Maine winter. If you wait until January, you’ll spend February through May crying in front of your Netflix account. That’s the worst.
December is the best month to be single. There are dozens of holiday parties, get-togethers, galas and other opportunities to meet new and amazing people that you would never normally run into. Floods of single people who live in NYC but grew up in Maine will be back to visit their families and will be eager to make out. And of course, there are fancy parties (which really needs no explanation). You get to leave the bean boots at home and wear sequins and bow-ties. And when everyone looks smokin’ hot, you might start to see old friends in a new light. Maybe the love of your life has been sitting near you at work and you didn’t realize how awesome they were until they put on a nice suit and got hammered at the company party.
This is easier said than done. With new relationships, you run the risk of getting swept up in the romance of a relationship during the holidays. The snow is the perfect backdrop for long, intimate kisses, and it’s so nice to snuggle in with a new lover watching A Muppet Family Christmas. A relationship that would be casual during any other time of year seems so much more serious in December. Make sure you’re on the same page. It’s easy to misinterpret someone’s kind actions during the holidays as commitments. It is possible to have a casual relationship as long as you’re open and honest about expectations. We are so scared of being alone during the holidays that we often fake a solid relationship to ensure we have someone to cozy in with after Thanksgiving and someone to kiss on NYE. This comes back to haunt you when you find yourself three months into a bad relationship in the depths of a February depression. No amount of Vitamin D can save a bad relationship. Sorry if that’s a bit harsh, but I see it happen so often.
My advice for all relationships during the holidays: Give each other some room. Literally. Give each other physical space and time to spend with other friends and family. And also emotionally, give each other room to screw up. Be quick to forgive. I wish you the best of luck and will see you on the other side.