Most of us greet the holidays with excitement. Even so, the season can be decked with stress and tension. Thanksgiving through New Years' is an ongoing bustle of planning, financial acrobatics, and lots and lots of family time. Being surrounded by the immediate and extended family of both partners (not to mention the accompanying opinions and not-so-subtle, prying questions) is…not exactly conducive to working on your marriage.
Even the firmest marriage can experience some difficulties making it through the holidays with a holly, jolly spirit. Couples who are already facing a rough patch or looking for ways to renew the relationship spark may be clawing at the door to escape.
A lack of intimacy in a marriage on the rocks can make the most wonderful time of the year frustrating. There are ways to get through it though, even over the holidays, even when your marriage is shaky. Seeking a Little Rock, Arkansas marriage counselor is a good place to start. If you need help now, before the public appearances start, check out these five tips for making it through to the new year.
Fight Productively, Not Cruelly
Arguing is a normal part of relationships; fighting is one of the ways couples can communicate. When those fights get mean and unproductive, however, that is a problem.
An unproductive fight is one in which one partner uses the opportunity to hurl insults and fight for the sake of fighting — not for a resolution to the problem at hand. Emotions run high and opportunities for intimacy are rare during the holidays. If a fight is inevitable, make it productive. Fight for a solution, not just to fight.
Take a few minutes apart when a fight is brewing; at the very least press the pause button. A pre-argument breather provides an opportunity to collect your separate thoughts, think about what is really bothering you, and decide what you would like the outcome of the fight to be.
The way you communicate is also an important aspect of fighting productively. Communicate feelings, not accusations. For example: “You never do the dishes, and you know I hate that!” Your partner may not actually be intentionally avoiding dishes to infuriate you, but you certainly may feel like they do. Try saying “I feel like some things that are important to me are not important to you,” or, “Sometimes I feel like you don’t care if something really bothers me.”
Setting boundaries is helpful for any relationship. It can be especially helpful for partnerships with an emotionally reactive partner. Set boundaries when you are not in the middle of the fight and when you can both engage in creating those boundaries with a clear, helpful, and communicative mindset.
These rules or boundaries can help prevent the relationship from turning toxic. Maybe your relationship contains a hot button issue that turns any spat into a raging battle. Set a boundary agreeing neither of you will broach the subject in an unrelated argument. Set another that ensures you will discuss it instead of bottling it up and think of ways you can have that talk without going nuclear (for example, writing notes back and forth over several days or limiting discussions to 20 minute periods).
Ideally, you might create shared boundaries and individual boundaries, then share your individual boundaries with each other. Do not expect your partner to know your boundaries without being told. This is also a great way to promote self-awareness and include your partner in your personal growth.
Boundaries should not be a list on the fridge you ignore. Speak up when the boundaries are being violated. Vocalizing helps ensure the boundaries are in effect; it also helps partners understand how the way they act affects each other.
Keep Your Family and Friends Out of It
Being surrounded by family and friends over the holidays creates a feeling of being on display. When what you are displaying is a marriage on the rocks, you are likely to feel more sensitive about how your relationship is perceived.
If your marriage is going through a difficult phase, try not to involve other people, especially during gatherings. Other people’s opinions can distance you even more from your spouse. Using your family as witnesses (i.e. “Do you see how he talks to me?!” or, “Can you believe she did that? It’s so humiliating!”) creates an “us versus them” atmosphere — and you and your partner are not the “us” in that equation.
Marriage is a partnership. Talking to one friend or close family member in confidence when you need help figuring out how to do or how to respond to your spouse’s actions is one thing. Creating a public exhibition is completely different. If you feel like you need an impartial third party to help you communicate or renew that spark in your relationship, that is a good sign for when to see a marriage counselor.
Make Time for Your Marriage
A holiday tendency to have a packed schedule does not mean you have to relinquish all your private moments of intimacy. Even if you are staying with family or have frequent visitors, you can make time to be alone. In fact, that may be the one good thing the coronavirus brought to 2020: Fewer and smaller holiday gatherings — which means more opportunities to make time for your marriage.
Sit down with a calendar, a list of events, and any travel plans. If you are so booked up you cannot enjoy the season, consider sending out a few, “Thanks, but no thanks!” responses. Find time to be together, just the two of you. An hour a day for dinner, a weekly date, or just a little time between holiday requirements to touch base and work on renewing the relationship spark.
Use that time to talk and listen. You can talk about the important things or just about what you have each been doing. Even such small things can help decrease the lack of intimacy in marriage. If you have children, find a babysitter for those times for just the two of you. However, having a few dates that include the whole family can be meaningful, too.
Find Time for Yourself
Now you have holiday events, holiday planning, and a couple of date nights…But what about you? Find a half hour a day or a couple of hours a couple of times a week to take time for yourself. Even the best relationships struggle when you spend all your time together.
Self-care is right at the top of the list of essential things for a healthy marriage. If you love being around your spouse all the time, that is fantastic. However, everyone needs a little bit of time to decompress, to not have to worry about everything they say, and to practice a little TLC for one. Relax, regroup, and let some of it go.
Removing yourself from the situation for a few quiet minutes can also give you time and space to figure out what you want to see changing, what you love about your partnership, and what you would like the ultimate outcome of this rough patch to be. While you should not focus exclusively on how you can make things better, it is also a good time to think about how you could handle situations differently and what you, personally, might do to make your partnership stronger.
When to see a Marriage Counselor
Many couples find marriage counseling a successful, meaningful experience. There is no one right time for when to see a marriage counselor. However, if you are having ongoing marital issues that no amount of talking or fighting seems to solve, that might be the sign to call a marriage counselor in Little Rock like the Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center.
Marriage counseling might be right for you if you and your spouse are:
- Having trouble getting along,
- Having frequent arguments,
- Not communicating well,
- Want to renew your relationship’s spark but do not know how, or
- Experiencing any of the other dozens of reasons couples seek marriage counseling every day.
What happens if you are considering therapy but your spouse has absolutely no interest in it? Individual counseling can be very helpful as well. Although you may not work on communication together, individual counseling can help you find ways to communicate better in general and to figure out a variety of other concerns.
Marriage Counseling in Little Rock, AR
Wondering when to see a marriage counselor and if it could help your marriage? There’s only one way to find out. The marriage counselors at Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center focus on helping you and your spouse find emotionally healthy ways to work through your differences in order to build a stronger marriage. Individual and family counseling sessions are also available. Schedule your free consultation today by calling (501) 222-3463 or contacting us online.