Holiday Expectations

Written by Katie Mitchell, M.A., CST-Candidate

For many people, this weekend is the beginning of the holiday craziness, and for some the holiday craziness started weeks ago and is still in full swing.  With so many people having family in visiting or traveling to visit with family over the next couple of weeks, I think it is important for couples to talk about their expectations for the holidays to help remain connected and understanding with one another.  You and your partner might find it helpful to carve out some time to have a conversation about what you both expect from one another over the next couple of weeks.  The following topics are things to consider discussing each of your expectations.

Family expectations.  Do either of you have family that wants to spend a great deal of time together?  Are you each going to be expected to do certain things/activities with family when they are in?  Does either family get up early or stay up late spending time with one another?  Will you be expected to split up and spend time apart from one another, and what would that look like, if so?  In general, take some time to discuss what family activities or traditions (if they exist) will be planned/expected.

Immediate family time.  If you are traveling to spend the holidays with family, talk about what time looks like for you two and your kids (if you have them).  Will there be time for you all by yourselves?  Is this important to either of you?  This might be a bit easier to negotiate if you are staying in a hotel or AirBnB.  Are there activities that either of you would like to do, just as an immediate family or do you mind if others join in on your traditions?

Time as a couple.  Regardless of whether you are traveling as a family or as a couple, is it important for either of you to have some time dedicated to just the two of you?  Would it be possible or desirable for family members to watch kids (if you have them) so that the two of you can have an afternoon/evening to yourselves?  Which of you would approach family about watching kids, if needed?  Also, if you do not have kids, is it still important for either of you to spend some time alone together, and how do the two of you make that a priority with so many other things going on?  Do either of you have expectations for sexual time together over the holidays?  Is it important for the two of you to carve out this time and what would this look like if traveling for the holidays?

Alone time.  Are either of you an introvert, or do either of you expect to want time to yourselves to recharge?  How can you each communicate this need to one another, so that recharge time is not misinterpreted as frustration or stonewalling?  Do either of you have family that can be challenging to be around?  Discussing what exactly alone time would look like would again be very beneficial to keep yourselves connected to each other, rather than assuming that your partner has become frustrated with you.

Time outs.  Is being around your own or your partner’s family triggering for mood changes or frustration?  Here’s to hoping that you both are able to glide through the holidays, but since that is not reality for everyone, what would taking a time look like for each of you?  Are the two of you able to pause during an argument and continue participating in other family activities, or do each of you need some alone time after an argument to refresh?  What might each of you say to ask one another for a time out?  Would it be beneficial to have a sign or signal (like the “T” sign) or a code word that broke the ice for a time out (pineapple)? 

Remember that discussing expectations does not mean that you and your partner are not flexible to change; instead, discussing expectations helps others know their own and their partners’ ideals.  Although it might make things easier, your partner cannot read your mind and discussing expectations helps removes that assumption.  These are not the only topics of discussion when talking about expectations with one another, but they definitely cover a lot of ground.  Here’s to hoping that you and your loved ones have a wonderful and happy holiday!