Give Each Other The Gift of Stories
(And here's some tips to get started)
If you don’t discuss your holiday expectations as a couple, you may find yourselves arguing over something that each of you thought was a given, because that’s how your family always did it.
By Katharine and Jeff Richman, Dec 2022
Sometimes the end-of-year holiday time of celebration brings conflict along with it. Along with the joy, each of us brings customs from our family of origin and years before we met our partner. Sometimes these are cherished, sometimes just habitual. We may have celebrated different holidays from our partner, or observed the same ones differently.
This season, if your differences begin to cause conflict, give your relationship the gift of sharing your stories. Pay attention to what conversations seem to cause friction, and try sharing the beliefs and expectations you have about the issue. If you don’t discuss your holiday expectations as a couple, you may find yourselves arguing over something that each of you thought was a given, because that’s how your family always did it.
For example, take time to discuss which parts of your extended family you will share the holiday with. Will you divide your time, alternate family visits each year, or celebrate in your own home and get together on a different day with the relatives? What is it that each of you value about time with and without family? Here is a link to an article with videos that deals with this, as well as with other holiday issues: https://www.iecouplescounseling.com/blog/7-common-problems-around-the-holidays
Another common issue is money and gifts. Partners may bring very different expectations of the importance of such things—it’s best to clarify together what each of you thinks is important, and to clarify together what you can afford. This article by Alexandra Solomon (Psychology Today, November 2019) does a good job of posing questions related to these common experiences: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/loving-bravely/201911/how-couples-can-avoid-holiday-conflict-over-money-and-gifts
It is important to share your stories and reach for an understanding of what is valuable to each of you about this time of celebration. Through dialogue, each of you can hear what your beloved finds significant at this time, whether that be religious observance, music, traditional foods, or decorations. You may also come up with some new customs that you would like to make part of your family tradition. And remember, our stories can change, so don’t forget to give the gift of stories next year, too!
Story Conversations Starters:
What traditions have you and your partner created for yourselves and your families? Why are they important?
What stories of gift-giving do you have from childhood? Are there echoes of that story still present today?
What would an ideal New Year’s Eve celebration look like for each of you? What differences and overlaps can you recognize?