I look at Janissa and Karla on my screen. Their mouths are tense, they avoid eye contact, and when I ask what is causing their distress they say “We ‘re dreading the holidays. We end up bickering at best and not speaking to each other at worst”. The other couples in the group nod in agreement. Turns out it’s the most wonderful time of the year (cue the jingle bells and singing elves) – except for the potential negative impact on your relationship.
When I ask the couples in my online program how they bring romance, togetherness and even spice to their holiday season, it becomes a silent night. And this holiday distress is commonly reported – no matter what you celebrate or how you celebrate it.
In this video, I talk about the common stresses and disappointments that can occur during this busy time and what to do about it. Plus, I share some romantic date ideas to help you create some new rituals of connection and make this holiday season sexy.
I’ve always loved the story How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch is an angry, isolated misanthrope who hates all the fuss, decorations, family and feasting that come with the holidays. Most of all, he hates the noise. So he vows to steal the gifts, the lights, and even the feast – so he can have some peace and quiet.
Does this sound a little bit familiar?
Now while you may not be ready to wipe out the holiday season altogether, there are some common complaints couples report.
Common Stressors During the Holiday Season
- Issues with extended family Holiday commercials show happy, loving, multigenerational families gathered around a perfectly laid table. In reality, we know that families come with histories. All too often a lovely night is strained – or worse – by old unresolved issues. This can create problems between you and your partner – particularly when the issue is about the in-laws.
- Issues around money Several couples in my group admitted they fight about finances this time of year. Genoa says “I love to find special gifts for our family and friends, host our neighbors for a cocktail and appetizer party and rent the skating rink for my kids elementary class. But since I’ve married Pierre I feel like he nickel and dimes my traditions to death” Her partner shares “For the rest of the year, we respect the budget we’ve co-created. But in December? She spends three times what we can afford. And then I am the bad guy for suggesting we scale back this year”
- Issues with doing too much and unrealistic expectations Another theme that emerges in the group is exhaustion and anxiety. Terry says “Every year my wife exhausts herself and I end up with the grumpy shell of the woman I love. I’ve begged her to start saying no, but she wants everyone to be happy. It sometimes feels like everyone else is happy, but we are not”. Others share how they often feel sad and disappointed that the holidays do not live up to their expectations.
All too often couples neglect their romantic relationship over the holidays. But I aim to turn that unwholesome pattern on its head. I encourage couples to use the holidays as a beautiful reminder to show up with love for their partner, to cherish them and find ways to light them up. So to prevent you from being a relationship Grinch, here are some ideas to help you put some romance, and spice into your holiday celebrations this year.
Create New Rituals of Connection to Make This Holiday Season Sexy
The Story of Us
Take a trip down memory lane. Share memories of your first holiday season together – did you meet your sweetie’s family for the first time? Did you agonize over the perfect gift or celebration? Then share memories from your best holiday season, your worst, your most busy and your most quiet …you get the idea. Use your smartphone and old-fashioned photo albums to help you remember.
Holiday Movie Night
Whether it’s the Grinch stealing Christmas, Bruce Willis kicking butt in Die Hard, or Love Actually, choose a holiday movie you will both enjoy. Or, make it two movies – one choice each. Prepare holiday snacks and beverages, turn off all distractions, and cuddle while you watch. Bonus points? Give each other a foot massage.
Attend a Live Holiday Performance
Perhaps a choir, a play, a holiday themed live band show, or even your granddaughters school holiday concert? This year, my hubby and I have tickets to a holiday performance of the Vancouver gay men’s chorus and to a puppet interpretation of The Christmas Carol. Bonus points? Hold hands, kiss during intermission, and go for dessert afterwards and talk about some of the highlights of this last year together.
The Sexy Stocking Challenge
Create a romantic and sexy stocking or gift bag. Then over the next few weeks, each of you “secretly” slip little notes, gifts, memories, special words or secrets you share, gratitude’s, old photos or memorabilia – anything that reminds you of the love you have shared over the years. Make sure to include a sexy element – perhaps a spicy game (I love truth or dare cards), some high quality lubricant, or a special toy from Santa’s adult workshop. Open these together on Christmas morning or Hannukah or at a time that has meaning to you.
Say What You Mean
Write a love letter. It does not have to be long, and it does not have to be Shakespeare. But the power of the written word is hard to beat. Tell your beloved what they mean to you, what you appreciate, and why you choose them all over again. You can pop it into your sexy stocking or share at any time you choose… Bonus Points for going on a date and sharing your letters over a romantic meal – or sharing it while naked in bed.
Give the Gift of Giving
The most beautiful part of the holiday season is practicing generosity for others – not just those we hold dear, but those who perhaps have no-one holding them dear. Some ideas – Your local church, synagogue, mosque or non profit group likely have names of families in need. Create a food and gifts hamper. Volunteer together at fundraiser or serving a holiday meal. Gather up your extra coats and take them to those in need. Choose a cause you have not supported before and give a donation.
Prioritize Your Relationship
In the end, how we feel during the holidays is up to you. I encourage you to examine what is serving you well and what is not – and to redesign the next few weeks so they align with your top priorities. And I know your romantic relationship is a big priority. So don’t take your partner for granted.
Remember how much effort you put into romancing and wooing them during your first holiday season together. And then vow to do it again this year. Perhaps, just like the Grinch, you will see through all the fancy trappings and discover that true joy lies in simply having a hand to hold. When we remember what really matters, our hearts can grow three sizes. And so can our love.