With Thanksgiving under our belts, Christmas music blasting in every store and red cups as far as the eye (or Instagram) can see, the holidays are officially here.
It’s a time of celebration, spending time with family and friends, eating a lot of delicious food and putting a ton of unnecessary pressure on our romantic relationships.
Everything seems a bit more elevated and intense this time of year. Combine that with extremely busy social calendars and tapped-out bank accounts, and we're feeling a lot of pressure this holiday season that can wreak havoc on our relationships.
During the holidays, I’m extremely guilty of wanting just about everything in my life to be picture perfect. While that is just not realistic, it is possible to enjoy most of the things this time of year has to offer without your romantic life going up in pumpkin-spice-scented flames.
The goal is to approach the holidays as a team, without driving yourself crazy in the process. I mean, you still want to have your significant other in 2015, and these tips will ensure that your relationship will survive.
Manage Your Expectations
The Internet makes managing our expectations on just about everything nearly impossible.
Everywhere you look, there are top 10 lists of swoon-worthy holiday date ideas you must try, images of couples frolicking through the snow or cozied up by a fire feeding each other homemade apple pie.
Chances are, your holiday date nights don’t look anything like these, and I’m here to tell you it’s totally fine.
In my house, a solid date night this time of year consists of watching "The Holiday," while bribing our German shepherd with cheese to not bite off the reindeer antlers we put him in so we can take cute photos.
Is it picture perfect? No, but it works for us.
Put Your Own Family First
In theory, spending every holiday together with each other’s families sounds festive and fun. You each get to know the other person’s extended family and feel included in traditions, and it seems to prove how “serious” of a couple you are.
However, as a newlywed who is already currently stressed about how we are going to be four places on Christmas Day, I have got to share one piece of advice I wish someone had told me: Put your own family first.
Hang on to spending the holidays with your own family as long as you can. Once you start dividing them up and driving all over God’s green earth on Thanksgiving to see both of your families, there is no going back.
When/if you get married, you’ll have to sacrifice. You’ll have to juggle and you’ll eventually have to miss out on the traditions (and your mom’s delicious food!) that you’ve taken for granted for so many years.
Be Honest About Your Finances
Oh, it’s almost December, you say? Bye, money! Captain Obvious here to tell you this time of year is extremely expensive.
There is traveling to be done, holiday party clothing to buy and gifts to purchase -- and it all adds up fast! Money stress is one of the leading causes of relationship stress, so (if you feel comfortable doing so) get it all out on the table now.
Talk about places you would like to splurge this season as a couple, like the ski trip you’ve been looking forward to all year. Talk about the areas on which you are hoping to focus your spending in general.
Even just communicating to your significant other about your personal money stress will relieve some of the pressure, and remind you that you’re not in it alone.
Get creative thinking of affordable date ideas you can do together, like taking a stroll through an elaborately decorated neighborhood, spiked hot chocolate in hand.
Remember, the Holidays Will Be Over Soon
I just Gchatted my best friend that I’m totally in a holiday mindset, and I don’t see it going anywhere till January 2. I’m already completely caught up in it all, and if you aren’t quite there yet, I’d venture to guess you will be soon.
It’s impossible to escape it this time of year; every store I go into I’m assaulted by pumpkin- and candy-cane-flavored everything. And, of course, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" is always on blast (not complaining).
I love it all, but it won’t last forever. In two short months, we’ll be saying things like, “Can you believe the holidays are already over?” Because, each year I get older, time seems to fly by at an even more alarming rate than the previous year.
If you're not feeling the holiday cheer this year, remember that it might just be starting, but it’s also ending soon -- in 42 days, to be exact -- so eyes on the prize.
Social Media Jealousy
Blog posts written by random strangers on the Internet full of winter wonderland date ideas are one thing. But, when your entire Instagram and Facebook are full of photos of your friends doing things straight out of a romantic comedy, it can lead to a raging case of social media jealousy.
In this day and age, it’s unavoidable and even normal to see a picture perfect (and probably totally staged) snapshot into someone’s life and wonder if your existence even compares.
The key, as always with social media envy, is to remember that one photo never, ever tells the whole story. Double tap (spread that holiday cheer!) and move on with your life.
Plus, don’t forget that for every time you are jealous of something you see online, someone else is probably scrolling through your photos, thinking how cute you and your man are and dealing with envy of their own.
It’s all relative.
Make A Damn Wish List
Maybe you’re thinking, 'What am I, 5?' I don’t need to make a holiday wish list in my 20s, thanks.
Well, I’m here to tell you that it certainly wouldn’t hurt to point your partner in the right direction when it comes to holiday gifts, and vice versa.
Selecting the right gifts for the person you’re dating is very challenging for most people, especially in the early stages. You want to give something meaningful, something he or she actually wants and something that won’t freak him or her out, depending on how serious you are.
Throw your SO a bone. If you don’t feel comfortable sending over a list of things you wouldn’t mind ending up in your stocking, drop some subtle hints. Does it take some of the spontaneity out of the whole gift giving process? Absolutely.
But, we’re talking about relieving holiday stress here, and judging by the amount of holiday gift guides floating around online already, choosing a present your SO will love without any direction is a bit tricky… and stressful, so no thanks.
...But Don't Get All Crazy About Presents
With that said, the gift-giving aspect of the holidays should be the thing you focus on the least.
If the person you’re dating takes time and spends his or her hard-earned cash to buy you a present, the only acceptable response is, “Thank you!”
Seriously, don’t be a brat about it; it’s not a good look. Some people just aren’t great at gift giving. As long as he or she doesn't give you something offensive (i.e. an old sweater that used to belong to an ex), smile and move on.
It's Seriously Okay If You Don't Get Engaged
There is so much pressure to get engaged on Christmas Eve or day, with more than one in four guys dropping on bended knee and popping the question in front of the tree.
Prepare for Facebook to explode with engagement relationship status changes galore. It can feel like everyone gets engaged this time of year, and even if you weren’t hoping for a proposal in September, you certainly might be now.
It makes sense why getting engaged over the holidays seems so awesome. The warm and fuzzy feelings are flowing, and you’re spending time with family and friends, which makes celebrating an engagement that much more special.
Just remember, though, no matter when you do get engaged, it will be just as awesome. And, you won’t have to compete to share your news with the gazillion people who got engaged on Christmas Eve.
Make Time For Your Relationship
Looking at my calendar this time of year makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and not come out until January.
Make it a point to plan dates that have nothing to do with the holidays, and don’t feel like yet another obligation. Dragging your boyfriend to your holiday work party does not count here. Having a beer and watching a game or going to a trivia night together absolutely does.
Catch up on things that will still matter once the holiday decorations have all come down, like how things are going at work or with each other’s family and friends.
You can even start to make plans for fun things you want to do together come spring and summer.
But, Don’t Forget To Make Time For Yourself
Most of us are running close to empty in November and December. If you don’t set aside time to do the things that charge your personal batteries, you’ll not only be a total stress case, but also a pretty crappy partner.
Commit to the most important person in your life this holiday season: yourself. Figure out what it is that brings you back to center, and don’t let it fall to the wayside over the next few months.
Whether it’s your favorite yoga class two times a week, a wine date with a good friends or even just staying in your pajamas one Saturday and watching horribly cheesy yet amazing Lifetime movies, make yourself a top priority.