Put aside these "have to's" and obligations and have a truly joyful holiday this year
The holidays bring with them a lot of things: Festive gatherings with family and friends; lights and decorations, presents, meaningful rituals and...
A lot of “have to's.”
Along with the celebrating and fun, many people feel pressure this time of year. You feel like you have to visit your complaining great aunt or you think you have to buy an expensive gift for the cousin you don't really like or spend much time with.
There are also “have to's” at work. You feel pressured to participate in the “Secret Santa” gift exchange when you don't really want to. It seems expected that you'll spend more money than you have on a gift to impress your boss.
So many “have to's” around the holidays can start to pile up. It can add up to annoyance, bitterness, resentment and you feeling like a Scrooge who wants nothing more than to run away and hide during the month of December.
For every action or event you feel obligated to be a part of, your annoyance and bitterness will come through to your relationship. Even if it's a “have to” at work or in your extended family, the more stressed and strained you are, the more disconnection and distance there is in your relationship.
This can lead to a not-so-jolly holiday for you and your partner too.
The whole reason why the “have to's” can be so constricting and can create such misery is because you sincerely believe that you have no choice but to do what you think is expected of you. You want to please or make your partner (or another loved one) happy and so you deny what you really want.
What often happens is that your partner doesn't feel happy either! He or she can tell that you're not being completely honest or authentic and that your efforts are forced. Trust is weakened and passion dwindles.
Watch out for these 6 holiday “have to's” that can wreck your relationship...
#1: You “have to” celebrate the same holidays your partner does.
While you may want to share Christmas with your partner, it could be that he or she celebrates a different holiday in December. Perhaps because your partner follows a different religion than yours or maybe for some other reason, the reality in your relationship might be that you two don't celebrate the same holidays.
That can be okay if you let it.
Stop making your partner (and his or her beliefs) wrong and, instead, start honoring differences. If you're open to it and to the extent that you are comfortable, participate in your partner's holiday AND invite him or her to be with you on the holiday that is special to you. You can both keep your individual commitments to what you believe as you show that you respect one another's different beliefs.
#2: You and your partner “have to” celebrate the holidays in the same way.
Many people were brought up celebrating the holidays in certain ways. Particular time-honored traditions may go back to past generations for your family and you want to continue them.
The trouble is, your partner has his or her own holiday traditions that mean just as much and it seems like you two have to choose-- one of you may feel like you've lost out.
The key here is to NOT make the tradition more important than your relationship. Really listen to your partner and then share about which of the holiday traditions you have “always” done is most important to you. Together make decisions about what you will do-- be willing to create some new traditions of your own too!
#3: You “have to” give each other expensive gifts.
A lot of people have tight budgets these days but they still believe they have to spend a lot of money on holiday gifts. For some couples, the price tag on the gift erroneously gets equated with the level of love and commitment.
Don't attach this kind of meaning to a pricey (or inexpensive) gift.
Relax and focus in on what your partner might appreciate or like that fits your budget. Remember that gifts are often called an “expression” or “token” of how a person feels-- they aren't meant to be a substitute for the feeling itself. You can get creative, crafty or simple and still convey to your partner that he or she means so much to you.
Consciously agree in advance to spending limits and talk about each of your expectations.
#4: You “have to” give gifts to each other for the holidays.
You and your partner might decide not to give one another holiday gifts at all. Maybe you are saving up for a big purchase-- like a new car or a vacation next year-- and you choose to put the money you would spend on gifts for each other toward that financial goal instead.
Maybe you or your partner is difficult to buy for or pretty much already has everything he or she wants. Whatever the situation, be honest with one another and don't take it personally if your partner would prefer not to buy gifts for each other this year. Again, conscious agreements can be key.
#5: You “have to” spend the holidays together.
If you're in a long distance relationship, you might keenly feel this “have to.” You see couples on TV, billboards and walking down the street celebrating the holidays together. Of course, you want to be able to hold hands with your love and kiss under the mistletoe and this might start to feel like something you “have to” make happen even though it's not possible for financial or other reasons.
The call here is to stop blaming your partner for not being with you on the holidays and get creative. How can you two make a special holiday connection-- even if it's via Skype or the telephone? Start thinking of how you can feel a sense of togetherness even if you won't physically be together.
#6: You “have to” be happy around the holidays.
The holidays can be an emotionally triggering time of year for many people because of painful past experiences or other reasons. If you feel compelled to be happy and you're actually not, stop pretending.
You don't have to be a downer to others in the process.
You can carefully choose the holidays events you will attend and those you will skip this year. You can be honest with your partner about how you're feeling and ask for support and space when you need it. You can also talk with a professional counselor or coach who can help you work with the difficult emotions that are coming up which can help immensely.
The holiday “have to's” don't have to stand in the way of you and your partner creating the kind of relationship you want. Learn how to communicate honestly and openly about what's true for you AND keep your connection healthy and strong.