While the holidays are supposed to be an exciting time of light and laughter — perhaps even an extra romantic time of year — it can be anything but that for some people. The traveling, the pressure to find the right gift, the lack of time/money to find the right gift — it's totally understandable to feel stress around the holidays. But you may also feel extra stress on your relationship during this time of year.
"For some people, the holidays are something that they look forward to year-round, and go all out with decorations, parties, and holiday music. For others, the holidays are just something to get through, and their negativity about the season may put a damper on the other person's excitement," April Davis, a dating and relationship expert and founder of LUMA tells Bustle. "A disconnect on why the holidays are important may lead to a breakup this time of year."
Sometimes feeling weird about your relationship during the holidays is totally fine — it's just a side effect of the season. But sometimes, it can say something bigger about the relationship, and it can be difficult to tell the difference.
Here's what to keep in mind if the holidays are making you you question your relationship, because sometimes you just need take a step back and wait for the New Year.
1. Make Sure You're Not Looking For The Unobtainable
Even though the holidays can leave you feeling a little odd, It's important to make sure that you were being realistic about your holiday expectations. "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."
That being said, it may be that the issues are legitimate. "However, the holidays can also make you dissatisfied with your relationship for very legitimate reasons," Hartstein says. "Perhaps you find that your partner isn’t really enthused to be with you or spend time with you. Or maybe you find out that they are rude to your family. The holidays can be a great testing ground to see whether or not your relationship can go the distance!"
2. Think About Whether It Could Be Short-Term Stress
Think about how stressful your holidays are. Sometimes, it's just the pressure of family obligations or not liking each other's families that can leave a bad taste in your mouth. Remember that the holidays are not representative of your entire relationship.
"The holidays are wonderful and not at all a routine time of the year," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "From the messages we see from retailers, to the music to the shows, movies, video — everything is about festivities, love, togetherness, the most joyous time of the year. Our personal routines are also for the most part very different." It can feel like nothing fits into the typical mold.
Because it's such an unusual time of year, it may be a bit confusing to try to measure your relationship based off of this period. "Our lives are not the holidays," Klapow says. "Our emotions and thoughts are not holiday thoughts. This is a time out from everything that is normal and routine." As stressful as it may be, if this is something that only happens once a year then it is likely manageable.
3. Look At Your Strategies For Handling Stress
Although the stress of the holidays is natural, how you deal with that stress is important. Relationship coach Chris Armstrong tells Bustle that when both people want the relationship to work, they'll do their best to handle a stressful situation constructively, but if there are bigger relationship issues they might not. If this is your first holiday season together, maybe you've discovered that you handle stress so differently there isn't any room for a middle ground. If you're incompatible on that big of an issue, it could be a sign of bigger problems.
If you find it difficult to tell if this is a bigger problem or a short-term one, give it some time. "Let the holidays pass — let things go back to normal and routine," Klapow says. "Take your holiday experience and your questioning and see if it sticks. Do you feel the same about the relationship four to six weeks after the holidays? Are your concerns still there? Or has some of the conflict faded? Is back to normal in your life, back to normal in your partner’s life mean back to normal for the relationship?" Sometimes, you just need to sit with it and see what happens.
The holidays can be an incredibly stressful time for a relationship, but that doesn't mean that you're with the wrong person. Take the unusual nature of the holidays into account and give yourself some time to think about it. If the problems linger, you may need to take a closer look at the relationship.