Holiday's can be stressful, for your partner, and your relationship. Stress can bring out the worst in couples, in communication habits, and in our ability to deal with other people.
There are many ways to relax and enjoy your partner this holiday season, make sure you take time to make time for that. See if you can do something new with your partner, something you have never done before- a new place to visit, a new activity, a seasonal outing that you both might enjoy- get creative. Making time to let your partner know they are important to you will help you handle the overwhelm that can accompany the holidays.
Stress can take us down old roads and toward habits that may distance you from your partner.
When couples come under stress is they tend to fight against each other, to take their agitation and stress out on the other person they are closest to. Instead of fighting against each other, another way to approach problems are to look at the problem as a outside of the relationship and to engage your TEAM approach. "Here is a problem we are having, how can we solve it together". Be together looking at the problem you are having and solve it as a team. Looking at the problem as opposite of your relationship puts you on the same side of the problem, that way they work together against “the problem” not against each other.
Couples need to give each other the benefit of the doubt that each person is doing THE BEST THEY CAN. In the moment, it is easy to judge your partner for doing the wrong thing or acting the wrong way. When couples hit stress or difficult times their coping techniques really come out, which can trigger the each other to feel they’re not being cared for or respected. When you are under stress there are ways to recognize that your partner is overwhelmed, in their survival instincts, not thinking clearly and reacting. First, just notice for yourself if you are able to stay calm and focused during an argument or situation. If you are not able to do that- you are out of the zone. Step away and take time to calm down by yourself or without discussing the argument. Second, notice if your partner is acting out their normal zone of behaviors, then check out their body- are they tense? Can you tell they are holding tight in their fists, there is a distant look in their eye? Can you tell by the tone of their voice that they are under stress? You might be seeing the effects of your partner getting overwhelmed. When we are overwhelmed we are not in the right state of mind to discuss difficult topics or listen to anyone, give your partner an out of the situation, change the subject, ask them to grab something from the basement- give your partner (or yourself) breathing room.
I teach couples to recognize when their partners are in survival mode- fight or flight- and to reframe the experience. You can learn how to recognize when you are out of your “zone of tolerance” and how to communicate that with your partner. And you will learn to watch for their signs when they start to get REALLY stressed. Noticing when your partner is overwhelmed, helps you to react according to your ability- to not REACT to their overwhelm, but to act responsibly to be a good team member in your relationship. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt they are doing their BEST in that moment.
When stress creeps in and one partner starts to cope in a way that is hurtful to the other partner, the hurt partner starts to take that stress and response personal which makes the cycle worse. By giving your partner the benefit of the doubt, you can save yourself a lot of pain and suffering.
By giving your partner space to work out their own issues, gives your relationship space to breathe, space to shift and grown and change. This is so important in the longevity of a relationship, and for each person inside of it. Being able to give your partner the benefit of the doubt creates a space of softness and kindness that gives each of you the ability to relax, take a few breaths. We all go through cycles and seasons of our lives, those changes can sometimes feel unwelcome to partnerships, but in the large scheme of life, change is the only thing we can depend on. We all change as we grow, if your relationship can welcome that change it will last longer and help you feel more connected and loved.
This holiday season try to keep your heart open, and be mindful of your inner landscape. Self-care is so important at this time of year. Take some time to feel good, stay healthy and remember kindness goes a long way. If you can take time for yourself, bring kindness to yourself, you will be doing your relationship a big favor. Self-care is not a luxury, it is a discipline.
I work with couples and individuals to help them strengthen their relationships and skills that help to stabilize their relationship through big changes- check out my Laser Focused Couples Sessions to get you back on track.