Around this time of year, people start preparing to think about their holidays. For many, it is a time of excitement and anticipation whether it is watching their children’s faces light up after they get their gifts, or it is a chance to visit with Aunt Mary or Grandpa Joe, who they haven’t seen in a while.

For others, however, it can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Couples, who have not been connecting lately, can find this time of year even more tense and frustrating. They need to agree on how to budget for gifts, decide who to invite over and negotiate family visits, children’s schedules and meal preparations. These tasks are challenging enough when everything is going well and you feel your partner is an important contributor to the process. What happens, however, if things are not going well? If the two of you have barely spoken over the past few weeks and you’re not even sure if you will be together for New Year’s Eve. How much more stressed will you feel dealing with all these challenges?

When there is tension in the home, the smallest decision can seem overwhelming
and exhausting. When you are unsure of your future, even going to your in-laws for dinner might be more than you can handle. When your partner is feeling hurt or resentful; cooperation and negotiation can be strained if not impossible. You still have to get through the holidays, so how can you handle it best during this time of year?

Since the next several weeks may be spent planning the holidays, if you want to get through it as smoothly as possible, it may be a good time to let go of past resentments for now and just focus on the tasks at hand. No discussions will go well if you are feeling resentful and frustrated. Focus on what needs to be accomplished and make suggestions in a calm and positive manner. This will encourage a higher level of cooperation and willingness to negotiate than listing all the things that your partner has done to irritate or disappoint you in the past. Timing is everything, and if you want this to be a pleasant holiday, emphasize the positive events coming up without dredging up past hurts and complaints. It doesn’t mean these issues shouldn’t be addressed, it just might mean leaving them for after the holidays.

- The budget for buying toys for the kids and gifts for family and friends
- How you will make sure the children are fed so they won’t be cranky when visiting family
- How to make sure the children get their naps before going out for long shopping trips
- Bring toys when taking your children shopping. They will be less likely to get into trouble if they are not bored, hungry or tired
- Let your teens know, in advance, what nights you expect them to be present, so that they won’t be making other plans and then resent being told at the last minute to change them.
- Negotiate whose family you will visit this year and how you will divide up the holidays between in-laws.
- Accept that when you are visiting in-laws, they may not respect your choice of food or sweets for your children. You have no control over this and accepting it rather than getting angry will make the visit a more positive event.
- Discuss before hand how to deal with “difficult” relatives. Check with your partner some subtle signs you can give him or her to let them know it’s time to leave or change the subject. It’s easier to handle unpleasant conversations when you know you partner has your back

The holiday can bring up wonderful memories, times of re-connection, reminding you why you chose your partner and feeling closer than ever. It can also be a time of feeling stressed, frustrated and alone. You can always find a reason to justify whatever you are experiencing, but an open, calm discussion and clear expectations will go far to tip you in the more positive direction. What kind of memories do you want for your 2011 holiday album?

Happy Holidays.

Author's Bio: 

Rhonda Rabow, M.A.

Author's Bio Rhonda Rabow is an author and a psychotherapist living in Montreal, Quebec Canada. She has over 25 years experience counseling individuals, couples and families facing a variety of life challenges; from parenting, grief, depression, and self-esteem issues, to conflict resolution and marriage counseling. Her approach is empowerment and she accomplishes this by helping her clients find solutions to their problems and teaching them the skills and tools they need to feel back in control of their lives. She has also recently published an e-book called, "Discover the 3 secrets to living happily ever after".