When it comes to dealing with holiday stress, you might think about the shopping, the cooking, and the travel. But there's another kind of stress that can rear its ugly head over the holiday season — and that's relationship stress. With the pressure, the expectations, and the chaos of the holidays, it makes sense that this time of year could take its toll on you and your partner.
"I have seen way too many relationships head into the holidays strong, and come out of them as if they had never met," Nora Dekeyser, a matchmaker at personalized dating and matchmaking service, Three Day Rule, tells Bustle. So if you feel like your relationship is suffering this holiday season, you are not alone.
Sometimes the holidays will shine a new light on your relationship and make you think your partner may not be right for you. But a lot of the time, holiday-related disagreements are just short-term stress issues, not relationship-defining incompatibility. Of course, if something feels really wrong it's important to pay attention to that — but you probably don't need to sweat the small stuff over a holiday spat.
So here are the holiday disagreements that are totally NBD, according to experts.
Wondering Where The Relationship Is Going
If you and your partner aren't on the same page about the relationship, there's a good chance it will show this time of year. "During the holidays, everyone begins to feel like they’re in a romantic movie — the smells, the lights, family gatherings, and the wine," Dekeyser says. "But don't let the heightened feeling of romance make you assume your new relationship is more serious than it really is."
If you feel like you need to touch base about how serious things are, that's totally understandable. Take it as an opportunity to open up the conversation.
Questioning Whether Your Relationship Is Good Enough
If you just don't feel like the holiday spirit is as joyful and warm as it should be, that's OK. "The holidays are a very idealized time," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "There’s a lot of pressure to have our lives live up to some perfect Instagram story which is never really attainable. It’s easy to blame your relationship because it doesn’t look like the pretty pictures you are seeing in your friends’ or celebrities’ feeds and posts."
It's not unusual to feel like you're not happy enough, celebratory enough, or Instagram-y enough this time of year. Try to remember that most people don't feel that way either, despite what you see on Instagram.
This time of year is so busy, it's easy to feel like you and your partner are existing in separate worlds — especially if you don't spend the holidays together. "Make them feel special during the holidays by staying in touch and asking questions about their personal life," Dekeyser says. "If you take a genuine interest, it will go a long way and you'll start to get to know them that much better."
Try to find ways to show the other person you care, even if you're not going to be together.
If you are spending the holidays together, the stress of traveling can build up very quickly. In fact, it can help to do a trial run — especially that involves spending time with each other's families — before you jump right into a holiday-a-thon. "You may want to start off with a shorter trip first, say a long weekend instead of a seven-day vacation, in case things should happen to go south for whatever reason," David Bakke, travel expert at Money Crashers, tells Bustle. "That way, you can get back on your home turf and figure out what went wrong before lasting damage is done to the relationship." Try to own when you're being grouchy and move on before it affects your relationship.
A Credit Karma survey of 1,000 people found that 82 percent of us are stressed by holiday spending. If you're feeling anxious about money, talk to your partner and try to make sure you're seeing eye-to-eye about spending — or at least that they understand where your stress is coming from.
The Sex Issue
According to the American Psychological Association, 25 percent of people are often fatigued in the holidays — and additional 68 percent are fatigued some of the time. They also found that people are irritable, sad, and angry. So it may not be a surprise if your sex life takes a backseat.
In fact, one online study conducted by BBC 5 Live found that 45 percent of people said that their sex lives were affected by stress. If this is something you're experiencing, don't panic. Our sex lives (and drives) fluctuate all the time. Just remember this isn't your usual routine — and take the time to take care of yourself.
The holidays are a stressful time, and unfortunately, that can affect your relationship. But a little bit of bickering and disagreement is normal, so remember that the holiday season doesn't last forever. January is almost here.