Five tips for making the holiday season more enjoyable for you and your partner.

For many people, the holiday season brings both excitement and anxiety. As a kid, you get to experience the food and fun without the obligations of planning, spending, and talks about politics. Now that you’re an adult, you not only have to worry about yourself, but also the added dynamic of your partner.

It’s not unusual for couples to have added conflict and stress during the holiday season, but there are things you can do to prepare. Sitting down with your partner to come up with a plan can not only relieve stress, but it can make you feel more connected to one another. Knowing you are on the same team and having a game plan you both agree with allow more space for you to enjoy one another and your families.

1.Talk out the Details
Oftentimes, sitting down and communicating expectations and desires will alleviate stress and anxiety. Does your partner know that you want to split time equally between your families? Tell them. Do they expect you to take care of the shopping or cooking on your own? Communicate how you feel about that. Together, make a list of all the responsibilities and obligations you have and decide how to tackle them fairly. This will give you relief to know that everything will not fall on just one of you, and that you’re on the same page with what needs to happen.

2. Set Boundaries
Part of holiday stress can come from the anticipation of your boundaries being broken. Sit down with your partner and discuss where you want to draw the lines. This can be about the amount of time spent with family and friends, what conversation topics to avoid, or how to deal with unpleasant family dynamics. For example, if you know your uncle likes to talk about politics and you’d rather not get into it, you can set your boundary by saying, “I appreciate your passion about “x,” however I’d rather not talk about that right now.” Your partner can then back you up and help divert the conversation to something else.

3. Create a Spending Budget
According to the National Retail Federation, the average American spent $1007.00 last year during the holidays on gifts. Even with a high-paying job, this amount is difficult to stomach. The solution is to sit down with your partner and write a list of the people you need to get gifts for. Then, decide on a total budget and break up the amount you’d like to spend per person. Once you agree on a budget, take advantage of holiday sales like Black Friday and get your shopping done early.

4. Eat Healthy in Preparation
The connection between what you eat and your mental health is significant. Eating healthy during the holidays is hard, but it will make your body and mind feel better if you switch to healthier habits in preparation. Do some research and find a healthy eating challenge that you and your partner can do together to alleviate stress and work together towards a goal. This will also help you feel less guilty when you eat a few extra slices of pie.

5. Make Time for Connection a Priority
Even though the holidays will provide many times to be together, it’s usually with other people. Take some intentional time to do date nights, holiday shopping together, and other festive things you enjoy just as a couple. This will help you feel more connected to one another which makes a big difference when you’re stressed out.

Following these tips should allow you and your partner to have a more enjoyable holiday season because you will feel more in tune with one another and you’ll have a game plan. While sitting down and having these conversations may not sound as fun as baking cookies or watching football, it will pay off in the long-run.

If you’d like help having these conversations with your partner or if you just want someone to teach you ways to manage the stress of the holidays on your own, please contact me at or (312) 625-8556.

Jeannie Sytsma, MA, MFT