Coordinating holiday celebrations with your significant other can be a logistical nightmare. Too often we assume the holiday season is going to be spent a certain way, and when things don’t pan out, we’re left feeling shortchanged.
The trouble is, these expectations, if left unexamined, can lead to resentment, especially when you believe that you are pouring more into the relationship than your significant other. If you are already feeling like the holidays are more on his terms than yours (whether due to him or his mother), there are five things you should do now to fix the problem before it’s too late.
01. Challenge Your Own Perspective
Before you bring your concerns to your significant other, first ask yourself if you are really giving more or if you are looking for your significant other’s contributions to the relationship in the wrong places. The five love languages are a helpful tool when it comes to identifying the ways he is showing you that he cares. Sometimes, we expect someone to show that they care in a way that isn’t their first choice.
For example, psychologist Meg Jay shares in her book The Defining Decade the story of one of her clients, Courtney. Jay writes that Courtney expressed dissatisfaction with current boyfriend, Matt, and would spend her session listing how Matt wasn’t measuring up to her expectations. But, then Courtney recalled how once when she suffered a knee injury, Matt took off from work to bring her to appointments and take care of her, while her best friend sent flowers but never paid a visit. Courtney realized that her boyfriend showed his love for her in a way she wasn’t expecting. And when she realized this, she felt much less resentful toward him.
02. Get Rid of the 50/50 Myth
As you prepare to bring up your concerns to your significant other, don’t think of your relationship as one where each should be equally contributing, as if in a 50/50 split. According to The Gottman Institute, this type of unspoken contract turns the relationship from one of unconditional love and support to one of keeping score. Instead, think of your relationship as one with some flexibility where you might need to offer more support at some points and your significant other will need to offer more support at other times. What’s more important than 50/50 give and take is clear expectations that you both agree on. Likewise, time with each family might not always be 50/50, but it's important to come to an agreement about what works best for both of you.
03. Verbalize It
As much as we’d like to, no one has the superpower to read minds. If you have a strong sense that you are doing more in the relationship and that it isn’t a temporary phase, it’s time to bring it up to your significant other.
Let him know that you’ve been feeling overwhelmed recently by all that you have been doing to support your relationship. Give specific examples to help him understand what has happened and why it bothers you. For example, “We’ve been spending a lot of time with your family this holiday. I really enjoy spending time with them, but I miss spending time with my family too. Can we talk about how to better balance time with our families?” Being specific will help the both of you problem solve more effectively and will keep you from launching into critical generalizations that can sidetrack the discussion (e.g. “You never care about my family” or “We always have to do what you want”).
04. Emphasize Togetherness
It’s helpful to talk about the imbalance in your relationship as something that you need to change together as a couple. When you are united as a team, it will be easier to find a solution than if one (or both) individuals feel attacked and singled out. Working together as a team will also help strengthen your relationship and help you see that you can work through these issues successfully.
05. Offer Concrete Solutions
Once you’ve brought up your concerns, be prepared to offer some concrete solutions. This can help to turn the conversations from what isn’t going well to a constructive, problem-solving mode. And take it from Verily contributor Justin Petrisek: For men, “problem solving is one of the things we love the most; it gives us wonderful feelings of accomplishment and peace once a problem is fixed." He says, “Just as a woman often needs to off-load her feelings and talk about them, sometimes a man prefers to talk about facts and practical steps rather than how he is feeling. If you don’t believe me, just watch one of my all-time favorite YouTube videos, ‘It’s Not About the Nail.’ Plus, identifying concrete solutions will help you both make sure you are making progress toward your goal."
Don’t let your tendency to go the extra mile for the sake of love get in the way of your relationship. Embrace the seasonal give and take that relationships bring, and support each other. Then, watch your relationship grow.
Photo Credit: Horn Photography