Many people experience stress during the holiday season. Some get the blues, others find that the holidays don't turn out quite they way they had hoped. To make sure your holiday season creates more joy and less stress, have these five conversations with your spouse soon:

Conversation One: Share Expectations
Get clear about what you want from the holidays, and express your wishes to your spouse. Do you know what you want? Are there parts of last year's celebrations you want to change or eliminate? Are there pieces you want to add or embellish?

It is difficult to express your holiday desires until you are clear in your own mind about what they are. Look within yourself. What does your gut tell you about the upcoming holidays? What do you dread? What thoughts put a smile on your face? Do some journaling to get clear about your holiday expectations. Create your personal fantasy of the best holiday season ever.

When you know what you want, share that information with your partner. Chances are, your partner is not a psychic and is not adept at reading your mind. Open up and communicate your holiday desires.

Invest as much time in listening to your partner as you do in sharing your own ideas. Your partner has equally valid desires that need to be addressed if your family is going to experience a joyful holiday season. Arriving at a set of mutual expectations for this special time of year takes a willingness to alternately talk and listen until consensus is achieved.

Conversation Two: Money
Create a holiday financial plan. How much money do you want to budget for gifts, entertainment, and food? Can you agree on how much money to spend on each other? Where will the money come from? Who is going to supply the money and when will that happen? Are you willing to go into debt and if so, how much? Will you borrow or use a credit card?

There are no right or wrong answers to the money questions that arise during this conversation. What is important is that you reach agreement. Also discuss ways to help each other stick to the financial plan. If one person holds the line and the other goes way over budget, resentment can grow along with the size of the bills.

Conversation Three: In-Laws and Other Relatives
Sex, money, and in-laws are the three most often discussed topics during marriage counseling. Best to anticipate the potential in-law problem and head it off at the pass.

Come to an agreement on how you want to handle the in-laws before they call you. Create your plan and propose it to the in-laws rather than being forced to react to their proposal. By discussing plans for how to deal with in-laws (both sets) prior to the holidays, you become proactive rather than reactive.

Keep in mind that you will not be able to make everyone happy. If you attempt to meet everyone's needs, you will over schedule and create stress for yourself and your family. Focus on your family's needs, and celebrate the holidays with your in-laws and other relatives in ways that work foryou.

Conversation Four: Exit Strategy
So you find yourself at a party. One person wants to leave, the other wants to stay. What do you do? If you have engaged in Conversation Four prior to the event, the answer is already in place.

Invest some time in creating an exit strategy for parties and visits to relatives. Your strategy might include taking two cars. Then if one person wants to leave early, he or she can do so without compelling the other to leave also.

Design and agree on an "I'm ready to go" signal. Create a hand signal or verbal cue that informs your partner you have reached your limit. Agree ahead of time how to respond to the signal. The signal might mean, "I'm ready to go. Let's leave in about 15 minutes." This signal gives the other person time to wrap up his or her conversation and say good-bye before you head out the door.

Conversation Five: The Regular Schedule
Agree to stick to your regular schedule as much as possible. This is especially important if you have children. Holiday bedtimes, wake up times, and mealtimes need to conform to your regular schedule as much as possible to prevent stress and fatigue. If you want to add disruptive behavior to your holiday fun, disrupt your children's normal schedule.

Friends and relatives may pressure you to meet on their schedule rather than on one that works best for your family. Decide with your spouse just how far you will stray from the schedule that works for you and your family

Be careful not to over plan. Hectic does not make for happy times. Accept that you cannot do it all. Talk about not doing it all. Keep the pace comfortable, whether unwrapping gifts, visiting relatives, or scheduling appearances at your place of worship.

Holding these five conversations before the holiday season begins will go a long way toward making your November and December joyful and rewarding. Give yourself and your partner the gift of conversation this year. You're worth it.

Author's Bio: 

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of "Couple Talk: How to Talk Your Way to a Great Relationship" (available from Personal Power Press at (toll-free) 877-360-1477). They also publish a FREE email newsletter for couples. Subscribe to it at coupletalk@charter.net. Visit
www.couple-talk.com.