No one wants to sleep on the couch come Christmas Eve.
To help you avoid that depressing fate, we asked therapists to share some of the most common arguments couples have around the holidays and how to resolve each. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Fighting at the in-laws.
The holidays can be a tense time for couples and in-laws, even when they like each other. When you have a rocky history with your S.O.’s family, almost any comment can be interpreted as a putdown, said Becky Whetstone, a marriage and family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“If a negative comment is made, stick up for your spouse,” she said. “Showing definitive support for your spouse in front of others, especially your family, is the only right thing to do.”
2. Lazy gift giving.
You anxiously anticipate the gift your spouse gets you… only to open it and find a Target gift card. Not to be a grinch, but the lack of effort involved makes you feel a little under-appreciated.
To end the cycle of lazy gift giving, address the disappointment you feel now so it’s not a repeated scenario next year, Anne Crowley, an Austin, Texas-based psychologist, told HuffPost.
“You should know your spouse well enough to realize he procrastinates or gets anxiety about buying gifts ― but he should know you well enough to know you love the excitement of gift-giving,” she said.
Explain to your spouse that it’s more than just a gift to you ― it’s a token of affection. Hopefully he knocks it out of the park next year.
Be mindful of overspending or your credit card bills could come back to haunt you in the new year, said Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling for men.
“Relationships can get really strained as differences in how to handle money become glaring from the holiday spending,” he said. “Avoid the problem by talking to your partner now about holiday expenses and agree on a spending plan you both will follow.”
4. Let-down expectations.
There’s a reason for the uptick in divorce filings in January: Things can get especially heated on the home front come the holidays, with things like scheduling, spending and high expectations getting couples down. Those negative experiences may highlight bigger cracks in your marriage.
“The opportunities for hurt feelings are almost endless,” Smith said. “But these kinds of problems can be prevented if you make the effort to communicate expectations you have in your marriage all year round.”
5. Different holiday traditions.
Her family picks up Chinese takeout every Christmas but you’re used to a big, extravagant meal and massive gift exchange. Everyone has long-held traditions they’re attached to, but we sacrifice and make compromises for the well-being of our relationships, said Elisabeth J. LaMotte, a psychotherapist and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center.
“Inflexibility about embracing each other’s traditions can run the risk of spoiling the holidays and damaging or demising relationships,” she said. “Instead, consider that new experiences may feel uncomfortable at first, but they usually generate emotional growth. Have some curiosity about new things.”
6. Holiday party burnout.
Self-care is especially important during the holidays. If you start to feel burnt out after the umpteenth holiday party or family gathering, tell your spouse you may need to sit the next one out. The key is not to let your holiday-related angst build up, said Alicia H. Clark, a psychologist in Washington, D.C.
“You don’t have to volunteer to go to every event or host your out-of-town families for two weeks,” she said. “The trick is to plan a compromise, in advance ideally, for what will work for you both.”
Ultimately, Clark said strategizing will help you create and feel the partnership you both need during the holidays.