4 Steps on How to Handle the Holidays When Your Relationship is Struggling

Family life is full of celebrations and rituals such as birthdays, weddings, and graduations. We’re all required to attend certain events or make appearances during the holidays. But what if your marriage is struggling this holiday season? How do you get through the family holiday party together? With grace is the best choice, of course, but how?

Having to pretend that you are content in your relationship in front of relatives and friends can be very difficult when you can’t stand to be in the same room together at times. Putting on a façade that you are a happy couple when your partnership is very unstable at the moment can be agonizing. Holidays are the toughest! What’s the alternative?

I suppose venting to your family and friends about all your problems is an option, but, let’s be honest, no one really wants to listen to all that at a holiday party. Remember Charlotte in Sex and the City?

Woman: Oh, what a beautiful wedding ring! Where’s your husband?

Charlotte: Oh, um, he’s not here. We’re actually taking some time apart. We’re separated – not legally separated, nothing legal, oh God no! We’re just taking some time to figure things out. We got married really fast – love at first sight, didn’t think it through. So now we’re talking and trying to figure out what he – actually, we, he and I – really want. We love each other so much but that doesn’t always mean a marriage is working does it? No, it does not. We had some problems. In the bedroom. but it was more about the fact that we got married so fast. So, now we’re just talking and trying to figure things out – just talking, nothing physical. I think it’s better if we just talk. So we are talking until we figure it all out. So, no, he’s not here.

Woman: Oh, okay. I have to…

Woman: [to friend] Don’t talk to her.

So here you are. Your marriage is in trouble. You’re not getting along. And the holidays are upon you. You want to enjoy the time with your friends and family, but the stress of putting on a “happy couple show” is overwhelming. Time to make a plan. Here’s what you do…

1. When you and your partner are invited to an event or have to host a celebration for family or friends, you can plan together in a concrete way. Talk to each other about what you will expect from the day and what kinds of challenges you will need to overcome.

2. Talk about where you are in your relationship this holiday season. It is often the case that you will compare your relationship this year to last year. For instance, “Last Christmas, we were so happy, and this holiday season is so awful. I feel like everything is falling apart!” You may feel resentful because the troubles you are having have “destroyed” your celebration. This is understandable. Talk about these feelings and expectations together. This way, you and your partner can arrive at a compromise about what you both need to do while you both express your feelings about the upcoming event.

3. You and your partner may need to limit the guest list or use a code word when one of you needs a timeout during a party or other special event you attend. Uncle Harry may bring up an uncomfortable topic that hits a tender spot for you both:

“So when are you having a baby already?!!”
“When my husband gets over the fear of having one and just commits to having a family already.”

Yeah, avoid that. Have a game plan to handle these potential hazards.

4. Before attending or hosting the event, talk about certain triggers that may come up, and how you will handle those triggers. Think about the potential challenges, talk about your feelings, and work together towards a concrete plan for the upcoming event.

And remember, all relationships go through ups and downs. A holiday may hit one of your downs. Work together as a team to get through it. Just that teamwork alone will make your relationship stronger. How about that?