Newlyweds, don’t relax just yet. You are still in for a ride after the wedding day! As you start on the delicate, sometimes frustrating, task of combining you lives, there will be many “firsts” and decisions to make. That includes the sensitive topic of where to spend the first holiday. Yikes! Now, this might be something you may have already discussed during your engagement. The decision will be influenced by your own personal circumstances, the geographical location of your parents, and the quality of your relationship with your parents. For some couples, this will be an easy decision, but others may need to think through their options. Here are some useful tools to handle conflict and keep your holidays happy.
Accept Your Partner’s Influence.
Accepting your partner’s influence will help to avoid escalating conflict. Research has shown that women tend to be better at accepting influence than men. However, men who learn how to listen and respond to their partner’s influence stand to benefit with a happier and longer-lasting marriage. A couple who listens to each other and takes each other into account when making decisions will have much happier holidays. Look for the parts of your partner’s point of view that make sense to you, even if you disagree. This is a very sensitive topic in itself. The least you can do is consider each option from their perspective and validate their emotions.
Solve Your Solvable Problems.
Sometimes the problems newlyweds face around the holidays can create situational problems that are solvable. I encourage you to implement the following when attempting to solve these problems.
- Soften how you bring up the discussion
- Learn to make and receive repair attempts
- Soothe yourself and each other
- Process any grievances so that they don’t linger
Communicate About Your Unsolvable Problems.
Unfortunately, some holiday conflicts aren’t solvable. These perpetual problems may result from religious practices, beliefs, or family traditions. For example, conflict may arise over whether to celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas when one partner is Jewish and the other Christian.
When a couple isn’t able to find a way to accommodate the differences that arise, they fall into “gridlock.” Relationship gridlock can evoke feelings of dread, frustration, anger, and panic. If not addressed, it may fester into contempt for each other.
The technique I implement to help couples get passed gridlock is two-fold. In the first phase, each partner gets 10 minutes to speak about the issue without criticizing or blaming the other partner. The speaker expresses their needs, wants, and feelings while their partner carefully listens. In the second phase, each partner takes 5 to 10 minutes alone to identify their individual core needs that are not negotiable and positions on which they can be flexible. It helps to draw on a piece of paper a small circle (Core Needs) within a larger circle (Flexible), which gives each partner a place to begin negotiating a compromise. This phase is completed by the couple sharing their core needs and areas of flexibility to identify where they can compromise.
Reach a Compromise.
Through this work, my hope is that you will find a compromise. Once the tension is reduced by seeing the problem from each other’s perspective, you are more willing to accept each other’s influence and overcome the conflict. One typical compromise is splitting the holiday between your two families.
By working through your holiday conflicts together, you can cultivate mutual understanding and a sense of “we-ness,” thus improving your marriage. Having reconciled your differences, you can savor the opportunity to celebrate, give thanks, and enjoy peace in your home.