Bah humbug, for real!
Look, I want to love the holiday season. Truly.
I mean, I already DO love the "spirit" of the season, what it stands for ... in theory.
But the materialistic, consumer-driven aspect of Christmas I can't stand. And I'm not alone in that. It sends many-a-chill down many-a-person's spine.
The pressure of the season is enormous, both externally and internally, for a multitude of reasons.
Studies show that external influences—friends, family, jobs, commutes, living arrangements—can often cause the most turmoil for an otherwise happy couple. Like so:
1. Spending time with the in-laws.
Pressure mounts about saying, doing and wearing the right thing. The silent judgment from family is often deafening on both sides of this relationship, causing arguments that otherwise usually wouldn't exist.
2. Family drama in all of its crazy forms.
Family you usually don't see (or don’t get along with) bring with them a host of social dynamics that many don't want to deal with, even for a short visit. If you haven't seen them or spoken to them since the last family get-together, chances are there is either no real connection with that person … or else there's tension.
Feeling obligated to then sit nicely and make small talk with these people you don't necessarily care for (or with whom you have unresolved issues) creates an atmosphere of tension that's ripe for drama. Even just the time before and after the holidays, anticipating (or, afterwards, processing) spending time with them can stress you out.
3. Friends who don't mix well.
You know them (and love them) individually, but they don't know each other, and during the holidays, everyone is going to cross paths. The mixed personalities, unknown dynamics, and silent jealousies can make things so awkward, you never get to relax and enjoy the party.
4. Tension between "blended" families.
Christmas after divorce includes stepkids, new girlfriends and boyfriends, exes invited by your friends (and they didn't tell you!) … these situations require a whole new set of communication skills (hope Santa left those for you under the tree). Too many unspoken and unresolved situations just create a bad vibe for everyone.
5. Ohmygod ... office parties!
How do you act? Who should you bring with you? How many drinks is it socially acceptable to consume? These are merely the warm-up questions, because the real challenge of the event is putting a smile on your face and pretending to ignore the same giant elephant in the room that everyone else is dodging: office politics.
6. "When are you going to get married?" conversations.
Whether it's family, friends or nosy neighbors scrutinizing ... during the holidays, who is single and who is taken is very apparent. If you're not in a committed relationship — or you don't bring someone to the gathering/party — you know this annoying, intrusive question is coming.
7. The hell that is holiday shopping.
Fights over parking spots, missing that last sale item, pushing past throngs of people in aisle three. Everyone's patience is thinner, their tone a little more curt, and their nerves a little more frazzled. And keep in mind, this effort is all to portray yourself as a warm, generous, thoughtful, giving, and incredibly kind person in the eyes of those you love. (Anyone else see a disconnect here)?
8. Gift-giving competitiveness.
What should I get them? Is it enough? Is it on par with what they're getting me? What if they get me something and I don't get them something? And social media only creates a deeper sense of "I didn't get enough" or "I didn't give enough."
From how many gifts each one of your "friends" received to how beautifully they were wrapped ... it's all going on public display. Let the Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest showdown begin.
9. Being single.
The holiday season is often especially hard for those who are not in a relationship. Feelings of social pressure, inadequacy, loneliness, or bitterness can creep up, distancing the single from the otherwise festive festivities.
And two of the worst aspects of Christmas for couples:
10. Fights and disappointment caused by unspoken expectations.
If you don't tell your partner what you want and expect during this time (not just with gifts, but regarding time spent with family, holiday traditions, time management, attending events, to-do lists, finances, etc.), you will create a mountain of tension where there was none — simply because you didn't speak up honestly.
11. Imposing our own version of "love" on each other.
We're told at a young age to treat others the way we wish to be treated … but that often doesn't work. People crave love and recognition in unique ways. But we often give love and recognition as we hope to receive it, thinking that makes others feel loved, too (when it definitely does not).
If one person values time spent together, they'll want (read: expect) lots of quality time with you creating special holiday memories. But if someone else values effort, they don't want time together, they want a thoughtful gift (homemade or carefully shopped for) that reflects that their wants, needs and interests were noticed all year.
These two people will probably gift to others as they themselves wish to receive love, yet neither will actually feel cared for in the end because neither received love how they want it. So much for "it's the thought that counts."
Can we solve all of these issues? Of course not. ... And THAT is the point!
The holiday season might have its good moments, but it creates a high-pressure atmosphere of You'd-Better-Get-It-Right (via luck or mind-reading). And that pressure often robs Christmas of all the joy, good will, and merriness it's supposed to bring.
Bottom line: Remember that people don't receive love exactly the way you do. Being single is NOT a crime. It's important to speak openly and honestly with those you love (not just during the holidays, but always). And communicate kindly — which means chose your words thoughtfully and listen without judgment.
Maybe it sounds trite, but it shouldn't take a religious/Pagan/commercial holiday to inspire us to treat one another with care. Life is too short not to do these things daily.
Yep, just a few days to go. The big Ho-Ho-Ho Showdown is almost here.
Yes ... you'll still find me waiting for Saint Nick. It's just that, instead of greeting him with cookies ... I'm going with tequila.