- On the drive or plane ride, begin the process of preparation – begin talking about concerns, fears and desires. Look at patterns from the past and adopt a mantra of "no surprises". What has worked in the past? What hasn't? It helps to have realistic expectations!
- Talk about specific behaviors you'll institute this year that will help you cope. Discuss how each of you can offer verbal and nonverbal support to each other.
- Agree on signals you can give each other to mean 1) I've had enough, I've got to get out of here, 2) I need to know I'm more important to you than your parents, 3) family – what're you gonna do?!
- Clarify relational boundaries, those related to your couple relationship and those related to your extended family. Identify and claim what issues are yours, respect and relinquish what issues are your partner's and agree and commit to honor what issues are yours together.
- During your visit, find ways to affirm each other for the competent, well-adjusted adult you've each become.
- Remember that first and foremost you and your partner form a team. Affirm your solidarity. Your partner is not the enemy
- Set in your mind a clear, vivid picture of your current family and home-sweet-home.
- Practice deep breathing and meditation that can levitate you from the dining table into the realm of sanity
- Plant positive messages in your brain such as 1) I am an adult; 2) I am not a victim; 3) I am thankful for my family, such as it is; 4) nobody's perfect; 5) I'll soon be home in my recliner watching the big game.
Conversation to Bring You Closer to Your Partner During the Holidays
Before the hustle and bustle of the season, find a quiet place for the two of you, pour a cup of tea or glass of wine, make eye contact and hold hands. Using your best communication skills, both talking and listening, take turns sharing:
- List the things that would make this a positive holiday experience for you personally.
- List the things that would make it harder for you personally to enjoy the holidays.
- List the things you are personally willing to do to make this a positive holiday experience.
- Agree together on several things you each will do to make this a positive holiday experience.
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