The holidays are here. Time to spend many joy-filled hours with family and watch their faces beam with appreciation as they unwrap the perfect gift that you found for them. There is nothing but love and laughter in the room…This is the image of the perfect holiday gathering that we have every year that ends up being far from the reality that we experience. This is because the reality is that no one’s family is perfect. This is one of the main contributors to holiday stress – our expectations are too high and unrealistic.It is one thing to have high expectations. It is another to expect perfection. Many people expect their family, partners and loved ones to be at their best behavior even though they have been incapable of doing this all year.It is also unreasonable to expect people to be able to read your mind and see your vision of the ideal holiday season you would like to experience. If you want this holiday season to come close to what you envision, you must communicate this to whoever would be involved in making this vision a reality.
Not expressing your needs is one of the major causes of resentment. When one person is taking on extra responsibilities because of the increased demands that come with the holiday season, that person can easily come to feel unappreciated. They are going along, doing their best to make the holiday season a merry one for everyone, and expect everyone to be appreciative. The problem comes when the merry season they are creating does not match up with the vision their loved ones have in their minds. They do not think to thank you for your efforts because they do not recognize your efforts as fulfilling their vision. This is why it is important to communicate your vision of the holiday season and create a shared vision. Once you have created a shared vision, your efforts to make your vision a reality will be better appreciated.Another reason for the lack of appreciation for one’s efforts during the holiday can be from a build up of resentment from the year. If your partner feels like they have been contributing to the relationship and has not been appreciated for it, it is more difficult for them to appreciate your efforts to liven up the holidays. They may feel like you are finally pitching in.The holidays are not the time to start keeping score on who-owes-who. If your vision of this holiday season is one of joy, love and togetherness, then you may need to put aside the who-does-more and who-owes-who for now. Appreciate even the smallest things that your partner does to make this season a pleasant one. And if you have created a shared vision of the holidays, your appreciation will make it more likely that your partner will express their appreciation of you also.Another important thing about your holiday vision you will want to make sure you agree on is how to handle the party invitations you receive and the holiday gatherings you want to host. Some people enjoy all of the festivities and partying; some people do not mind some parties but do not want to attend others; and some people wish there were no parties at all, only time alone or with close loved ones. If your partner is not like you in terms of tolerance for holiday gatherings, you will need to decide on how to compromise.
One idea is to decide which events you will attend together and which you will attend on your own. Another idea is to go together but take separate forms of transportation so that, if one of you wants to leave earlier than the other, you are able to. Either way, the goal is to agree on something that makes both of you happy while minimizing misery for either one of you. If one of you is unhappy, both of you will end up unhappy.It may not be possible to make the exact vision of your ideal holiday a reality, but you will come closer to it by working with your loved ones than if you just expected it to happen. Happy holidays!
Dr. Sandra Thebaud is a Psychologist, former Navy Lieutenant Commander, and author of The Art of Loving Life. This book tweaks proven techniques to show you how to love life, not just deal with stress. For stress management resources, including books, workshops, and online training, visit web: StressIntel .com. You can also reach Dr. Thebaud at 720-378-8080.