12 Common Conflict of Christmas And What To Do
The holidays are almost here and so is the stress that it puts on your relationship. Are YOU ready?
Don’t let your relationship fall prey to being emotionally hijacked by these common couple conflicts. Avoid being blindsided. Skip the crunchiness. Head the arguments off at the pass!
You don’t have to let the minor stresses turn into major arguments. Get PROACTIVE about having a peaceful and pleasurable holiday together - maybe even your best yet.
Check out this list of The 12 Common Conflicts of Christmas and consider what might trip YOU up the most. Don’t be satisfied for just identifying the hurdle though.
Translate the hurdle into a hope and bonus, a new HABIT to make it all happen.
1: Where to Spend your TIME.
The time tug-of-war takes too many couples down over the holidays. Often couples argue about…
- Do we stay home or go visit friends and family?
- How long do we stay?
- Your family or mine?
- Hotel, home rental or at their place?
- NYE right after?
Where to go, (or NOT go), and who to see, (or NOT see) is a conflict so common it’s second only to the cash conflict.
Here are some options to navigate this common “biggie”. Pick from this list or even better, have some fun figuring out what works best for YOU and your beloved.
- Alternate each year who chooses
- Argue each other’s case/perspective (swap for 10 min)
- Score from 1-10 how much you each want to go where you want to go (or not go!) 1-10
- Make a list of pros and cons of each option
- Do paper scissors rocks
- Find a way to do both or a little bit of each - if possible
2: How Much MONEY to Spend (And Who is Doing the Shopping?)
Money is one of the top three stressors for couples in general. Then the holidays certainly turn up the heat on any differences or concerns.
- How much will you spend?
- Who will you give what to/how much will you spend on each person?
- Did they spend more on that person than this person?
- Was it an appropriate present or not?
- What is too much?
Talk to your beloved, (pick a good time), in advance of the start of your holiday shopping. Create an agreed upon budget, a list of people and prioritize it. Bonus list max amounts next to each person.
If you’re going to stray from the co-created plan, communicate first. Hiding out or going behind each other’s backs after making a clear agreement is corrosive to connection and trust.
Intimacy is Into-Me-You-See so no hiding out or keeping secrets IF you want to enjoy deep intimacy.
3: How to Divy Up the TO DOS
Many of us feel like we do so much more than our beloved in general, let alone during the holidays.
It’s easy to see all that WE do and not so simple to know what your beloved is actually doing themselves. We often BOTH feel unappreciated, overwhelmed and irritated we aren’t getting more help from the other person.
Yet if you’re like most couples, you’re just different from each other. You have your own lanes that you tend to stick to. I do the grocery shopping, cooking and putting away of the dishes at our house. My husband washes the dishes. I plan the airline tickets. He packs the car.
To avoid this common conflict over who does what, get clear about first what your areas of responsibility or skill are for each of you and then about any specific tasks that need to be taken care of. Some common tasks to consider for your personalized holiday to do list include:
- Travel planning
- Shopping (groceries and gifts)
- Decor - Put it up and take it down
Personalize your list, update it weekly and check in with each other regularly.
Don’t forget to declare a “by-when” you will get them done. Practice autonomy and have the one DOING the task be the one to say WHEN it will get done.
And if YOU created the task and you want your beloved’s help, inspire them! Don’t blame, shame or complain. It may feel justifiable and even good to vent a little, but it WILL damage your connection, eroding intimacy over time until you start your new year as a victim of “divorce month” (January is the most common time for people to file for divorce!).
As the holidays happen, YOU manage your to do list. Let your beloved manage theirs. Check off, add and update it with new tasks as you go. Use a board in the kitchen or an electronic tool you can share so that you’re on the same page about what is happening, who is coming, where you’re going or what needs to happen next.
ALERT: You’re both human and likely pretty busy during this time of year. Have it be OK when something DOESN’T happen.
It’s the holidays. You’re likely taking on WAY too much anyway. So take another deep breath and let that shit go!
BONUS: Don’t be afraid to jump in and gift your beloved a little holiday love by taking something off their list unexpectedly.
4: Who's COOKING What
Sometimes the conflict about who’s cooking emerges because you’re overwhelmed and want some help. Sometimes it’s because there’s too much “help” and it’s overwhelming you.
You may be hosting and have too much to do or going to your in-laws’ or friends’ home and it’s a little intimidating.
Maybe your beloved is not a fan of your favorite dish or you’ve had it up to HERE with your relatives or friend’s dietary restrictions.
Whatever it is, get ahead of it in advance. Don’t wait for the conflict to creep in. Create a menu. Even better, crowdsource the menu with who is coming. Alert anyone coming of what is being provided and what is not, what they are welcome to bring and what you wish they did not. OK, maybe with the in-laws, leave that last bit off.
Aim for being inclusive of BOTH of yours and your beloved’s wishes. Tis the season of giving right?!
5: To HOST or not to HOST
For some, hosting is heaven, for some, it’s a hassle and others absolutely hate it. So how can you have the right amount of fun with loved ones at home and still have it work for everyone?
- Have it be OK if your beloved wants to bow out early and do their own thing.
- Have it be OK if your beloved wants to stay up and connect with loved ones.
- Have it be OK.
One year I was upset that my husband was “hiding out” in his office at his computer while we had a bunch of guests in the living room.
A few hours later he came out and shared this amazing song he had written. He got his needs for solo time met AND created a beautiful song out of it. He’s just a happier, more helpful, fun and sexy man when I release my need to manage his time and how much he shows up at events. It’s taken a while to learn this, yet I now see the results so I RARELY resist his desire for alone time.
If you’re at odds over hosting, focus on what the actual concerns are and how to address them. More importantly, identify the core NEEDS that want to be met.
EX If we’re having guests stay more than a night, my husband needs a three hour stretch each day of us not asking him to do anything with us. He may get up in the morning and go for a long bike ride or in a pinch just sneak away for a bit to take a soothing hot shower to decompress from all the activity.
You might consider the seven core human needs as outlined by Marshall Rosenberg in his Non Violent Communication model, aka NVC. Connection, Honesty/Trust, Autonomy, Meaning, Play, Peace and Physical Well Being
- Pick your top 3 needs you want to bring attention to.
- Score how you think you are doing in each area.
- Ask your beloved how they are doing in each area.
- Then co-create a list of ideas that might work well to increase any areas with low numbers.
- Seek out ideas that might work well specifically for you and your beloved.
Assume that each other’s needs and desires are worthy and worth exploring. From THAT perspective, how can you BOTH get your needs met?
Another good NEEDS CHECK option is to scan yourself in the moment, score from 1-10 how you’re doing and share the numbers only or you can add in a few sentences to each area… How are you doing BODY, MIND, HEART and SPIRIT? 10 is awesome. 0 is sooooo not.
Remember that YOU are responsible for getting your needs met. Yet you an make your beloved your partner and playmate in meeting your own and each other’s needs.
Avoid any adversarial dynamics such as blaming, shaming or complaining. Even if you’re right, it NEVER helps. It may be human. It’s just not helpful.
6: How Much time with Your HOSTS/GUESTS
As an extrovert, I get energized by being around people. My husband likes people and gathering sometimes, but he needs A LOT more alone time than I do to feel peaceful and happy.
Whether hosting or being hosted, I’m game for spending every second I can with my family or friends. I get mad I need to sleep. I’m like a little kid who doesn’t want to go to bed. Yet my beloved MUCH prefers to see people, enjoy them, then retreat to his own space and time.
I have learned that it’s important to honor each other's time and timing. We ARE different. And not only is that OK, it’s a GOOD thing!
If you are visiting family or friends or have guests staying with you, make time, even a few stolen minutes here and there to connect with your relationship Home Base. Make eye contact. Take a few deep breaths. Worlds can be bridged in seconds.
Before you go there or the guests arrive, discuss the plan, your time commitments and any down time you’ll need together or on your own.
- Do you stay at their house or get your own place to stay?
- How much time does your host expect you to engage?
- What are the minimum, must do, mandatory activities?
- What would a successful visit look like?
- What windows of time are important to have alone?
Find the synergy and balance between your needs, honoring both equally and be sure to inform others so they’re not surprised.
There will likely be surprise demands on your time and attention. Have a plan, yet be prepared to be flexible, while still honoring the bare minimums you each need to stay sane and hopefully even centered when company is around or you’re being hosted.
7: Which TRADITIONS to Celebrate
Whether it’s different family traditions, favorite food dishes or deeply held religious beliefs, embrace BOTH people’s traditions wherever possible. Embrace the best of both worlds of each other’s desires. Find something that is important to your beloved that you can embrace or at least engage in.
Simultaneously, honor, respect and support each other's desires, boundaries and autonomous choices about how, when and with whom you celebrate. Avoid blaming, shaming or complaining to get your beloved to do something. Share your feelings and needs. Ask about theirs. Nurture choice and freedom while also cultivating a Couple Culture where you both WANT to meet each other’s needs and desires.
If your desires seem at conflict, ask yourselves - where might the SYNERGY be in this situation? How is a COMBO of what we each want actually better than either alone?
My husband and I have a mantra we will call out when we hit the wall of disagreement or seemingly opposite wishes. B.I.B.T.O. - Both Is Better Than One.
It isn’t always clear or easy to find the chocolate and peanut butter combo, but it IS so worth it so if it’s not obvious, keep looking!
8: The When, Who and How Much of holiday DECORATIONS
Many couples experience differing levels of enthusiasm for the holidays. Getting “into the spirit” and doing it up with seasonal decor is a joy to some and a drag to others. Some are super into decking the halls and others wish it would just go away. Some are going for “BAM!” and others are a bit more “Bah humbug”. One of you may want a lot of holiday decor. You want it up early and to stay up late, but your beloved thinks it’s a waste of time or money, unnecessary or even ugly.
It’s all good! To each his own.
If one beloved isn’t into the decor, ask them which parts that they like the most and which they like the least. Then factor in as many of their desires as you can.
My husband is into the holidays and even the decor, but A LOT simpler and a more minimal look. I’m a little more over the top. We find our inbetween, goldilocks, just-right space, because we CARE about each other’s happiness.
Whether you or your beloved are more like Santa or Scrooge doesn’t matter. What matters is that you show each other that your happiness matters. Neither of you cow-tie to the other, but you stretch to meet each other’s needs as best you can. Because you WANT to. Be partners in getting BOTH your needs met.
And if you can't agree, alternate and take turns having it your way. Do it your way one year and their way the next.
9: ATTENTION/Connection at a Party
Some of us are social butterflies and some of us struggle with social anxiety and a lot in between. You or your beloved might be the life of the party or you may be itching to escape the whole time.
Be sensitive to how comfortable your beloved is at any given event and for any given reason. Resist rationalizing away their concerns. Who is there and what the circumstances are will factor into how you show up at an event.
You want to be yourself and enjoy yourself AND do unto your beloved as you would have them do unto you. If YOU felt uncomfortable at an event or in certain circumstances, don’t you want your beloved to consider YOUR feelings then, REGARDLESS if they agree with you or not?
Be thoughtful and generous. It’s Christmas so consider it a gift.
Sometimes needing your beloved’s attention has roots in insecurities or jealousy - romantic OR otherwise. It can be romantic jealousy, friends or even family based. Jealousy with the in-laws is a REAL thing!
- Does one or both of you get jealous or feel insecure?
- Is there someone there that you or your beloved doesn’t feel good around?
- Do you need a united front, safe word or plan of any sort?
- What assurances or soothing might be supportive?
- How can you come back to the Home Base of your relationship when feeling insecure?
- What is a Soothing Mantra you can say to yourself or each other if jealousy emerges?
Talk about it before you go (or they arrive). Ask for support. Build trust by declaring who you are for each other and how much you care about each other’s experience.
Consider making your own “soothing mantra” that you can whisper to each other when you could use a little comfort in the moment. EX: “This is a dark moment. But it is only a moment and we WILL get through it TOGETHER.”
Maybe opt for a single word as your “safe word” or even a hand signal so they can see you from across the room. Set this up in advance rather than waiting for it to happen and feeling stuck or triggered.
You can also set an alert on vibrate to remind you every hour. You look up, look around and make eye contact. Use the hand signal if it is time to connect with the Home Base that your relationship is. .
10: Who’s Staying SOBER
There’s a lot of toasting during the holiday season. That can be fun and festive or it can lead to tiny triggers causing big blow ups. Plus other dangerous practices like drinking and driving.
Overdoing it with alcohol can be an automatic shit-show for your holidays. Alcohol is a little like tree tinsel. Sprinkle some here and there and it’s fun, but too much and it’s embarrassing and ugly.
- What’s too much for you and your beloved?
- What safe word can you use to alert your beloved about any concerns around drinking that needs to be taken seriously?
- If you’re going out, who is driving?
- What will you do if one of you or both end up drinking too much?
During the winter holidays, 40% of highway deaths are alcohol related. It’s just not worth it. Have a conversation. Create your plan. Stick to it. And have a back up plan too!
Going to multiple events and both want to drink? Alternate who drives each event or find other ways of taking turns.
Even if you’re not driving - how many holiday arguments are alcohol related? Plenty and FAR too many for sure. Lips get loose. Things get said. Little things easily become big deals and big deals quickly devolve into blow ups.
Consider and then declare clearly any limits you set for yourself. EX I KNOW that I LOVE good champagne, yet if I drink more than a two glasses, my night will get messy and my morning will be rough. The impact can be on my body or on my relationship or worse both! I know that if I want to enjoy the next day at all, I better stop at two and drink a glass of water for every glass of champagne.
Maybe you don’t drink alcohol at all and you don’t want to stand out amongst all the drinkers? Why not make or bring your own fun virgin holiday drink that someone can put alcohol in if they wanted to you, but others don’t need to. Delight your hosts or guests by creating your own Christmas cocktail or punch. Take a sometimes awkward interaction of offering drinks to a non drinker and bring some fun, generosity and joy to it.
To drink or not to drink? How much? When or when not to? These are critical questions to consider for yourself and as a couple to avoid one of the most common and cutting conflicts between couples over Christmas. It isn’t easy to talk about, but it’s way better than not talking about it.
Save yourself the literal and figurative headache. Get intentional about how and when you’ll imbibe this holiday season.
11: You Can’t Stand Their FRIENDS or FAMILY
Sometimes, some people just rub you the wrong way for no reason at all. Or you may have VERY good reason to not like a friend or family member of your beloved. Deserved or not, sometimes we just don’t want to be around certain people or at least limit contact as much as possible.
If your beloved’s bestie is a nightmare for you or your mother-in-law is beyond a drag, keep in mind, it’s often a package deal. So here are some ways you can mitigate and minimize any feelings of drinking glass when you have to interact with people you do not want to be around.
- Set your boundaries in advance. Let your beloved know.
- Give up it has to be any way, you have to be friends/like each other.
- Rise above it and be the observer
- Be polite, model good manners, yet stand your ground
- Stay positive, go with the flow, take one for the team.
- Have a safe place you can go to if you need to calm or center yourself.
- If you need to vent or complain, do it in private and preferably not to your beloved. Avoid putting your beloved in the middle of it
- Debrief with your beloved afterward (maybe the next day when you’re both better resourced). What worked? What could be even better next time?
They may not be your cup of tea. You may not be theirs. Have that be OK. Your beloved’s bestie or brother doesn’t have to be your favorite person. Still, it’s Christmas, be generous. Stretch into loving your beloved’s loved ones as your own, while honoring your boundaries for what feels right.
12: INTIMACY is Absent
You’re so swept up in the cooking, shopping, wrapping, gatherings and ALL there is to do during the holidays that intimacy and sexy-time are all but absent.
Putting your relationship and sex life on the back burner during the holidays is quite common yet can be catastrophic. Divorce IS seasonal and just after Christmas is a peak time for it.
Don’t get so distracted with all the holiday happenings that you lose sight of your fundamental connection.
- Go for the Booty Before Breki.
- Say goodnight to your guests or hosts a little earlier.
- Create a spontaneous time for a quality quickie.
- Or if you’ve got kids the in-laws are visiting or hosting, see if you can get away for a night out or even a 24 adventure together as their present to you.
Even if you don’t have the time or energy to go for fully getting it on, invest in intimacy - even if it’s in micro moments.
- Take a shower together
- Share an inside joke
- Use loving nicknames
- Do an errand together
- Steal 30 seconds of eye gazing
- Flash your smile from across the room
Find YOUR way to engage in intimacy. Make time for your relationship, even in micro moments, or it will demand it of you. Often at the worst time possible.
PAINT a PICTURE / PURSUE the PATH
You can’t control how your holidays will go, but you can paint a picture then pursue it as your path. Get proactive about enjoying your best holiday season yet. Head these common conflicts off at the pass by creating your own personalized plan now.
Which of The 12 Common Couple Conflicts of Christmas will trip YOU up the most?
- Pick your top three conflicts now
- Write them down
- Brainstorm how you can set yourself and your beloved up for success.
- Select your favorite actions to take.
- Put your list you where you can see it or schedule the tasks in your calendar or even better, BOTH!
The holidays can be heavenly or they can be hellish. It’s up to YOU. Yet you’re here NOW. So bravo for leaning into loving better.
Here’s to having your best holiday yet!
Your Ally in Aiming for Awesome,
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