Let’s Lighten the Load this Holiday Season

Let’s make a change!

In the past, I have felt like the holidays were a time of looming stress rather than a restful time to relax and enjoy my friends and family. It was a time where I felt like “I have to do it all.” A time where I felt disconnected from my partner or like I was “barking orders at him, regularly.” This led to more distance and fell flat of those joyful holiday moments we see in Hallmark movies. Holidays can be a time of true memory making or a whirlwind of hugs, handshakes, cookies and eggnog. Then, before we know it we are ringing in the new year feeling exhausted and out of touch from our partner. Here are some ways to safeguard your relationship over the next couple months so we can ring in the new year already off to a great start.

Listening for Understanding

Listening with the goal to understand instead of waiting for your own turn to talk is always helpful. This can work especially well during the holidays. This will help when the two of you need to decide on priorities of different events coming up, travel plans or even gift giving. When we make space to really understand what our partner is thinking and feeling we can make decisions where each of us feels heard and our expectations are more likely to be met.

Flexibility and Letting Go

This is a time of year when so many little things get added to our daily lives and schedules. Having flexibility around those can reduce our stress-load. We might not be able to do it all or get to everything that needs done but being able to choose what feels most important will free us up and give us the capacity to be more present where we are. Talking about this with our partner can also help us to be on the same page and maybe even free up some time to focus on each other.

Taking Things Personally

What is going on for me? What is going on for my partner? Taking a step back and considering what all we have on our plates can help us to not take things too personally. Personalizing what is going on with our partner can also be a dangerous route to take. If they arrive home and are feeling some sort of way, it might not have anything to do with us. Maybe my partner is feeling sad or overwhelmed or stressed. Instead of taking it on as my responsibility or perceiving it as “they are upset with me or our relationship,” I encourage you to get curious. See what is going on for them. Ask what they need and figure out how to be supportive in that. Remember, our partner’s mood is not our responsibility. We can be there to help them carry their load or lighten their mood but it’s theirs and we are responsible for ours. Avoid taking it personally so it doesn’t lead to further misunderstandings.

Share Feelings and Needs

What about when emotions rear their head during the holidays? It almost feels like “I don’t have time for this…” Taking a break to acknowledge when hard feelings come up for us can help give them space. Emotions remind us of our humanity and help us move forward with a better understanding of ourselves and what feels important. Sharing these moments with our loved one can be a place to feel supported, grow and share intimacy. Maybe not all of our loved ones will be around the dinner table this year and we want to give that some space. Maybe, we struggle with making the most of our time and wanting the memories to be just so….This is a time to step back, gain perspective and slow down to really enjoy those moments. Breathe in that sweet and sour smell of cinnamon and cranberries. Let if remind you of all the things you have to be grateful for right now. Sharing these small gratitudes will bring you closer with your partner.

Prioritizing Your Relationship

Prioritizing ourselves and adding relax-time into our schedule gives us that bit of a respite that we need to recharge and be ready to face the aunts, uncles and grandparents at the next event.

When the stress of holiday parties, cooking, baking, decorating, present wrapping and carol singing is too much, look around and see what your partner is doing and reach for that connection to slow down and enjoy these moments. Use this time to work as a team and find some semblance of balance among the busy schedules. Connection can be little things such as:

  • holding hands during parts of the movie
  • having planning conversations together
  • appreciating what you see the other doing to help
  • noticing the effort put forth to make this time special
  • acknowledging the work needed to make it all happen
  • kissing under the mistletoe
  • joking with buddy the elf


Do things differently this year. Ask yourself and your partner, “what did we love most about this time of year growing up? What feels most important? What traditions do we want to carry on with our own family?”

And also, “what do we want to do together to foster our own closeness and traditions?”

Ways to plan and prepare:

  • Make a list of what need done
  • Make a list of things we want done
  • Discuss these with my partner and divvy them out the best we can
  • Prioritize what feels most important to us
  • Schedule-in DOWN time
  • Give ourselves grace when things aren’t perfect
  • Hugs all around
  • Plan time to do something festive just the two of us
  • Leave the kiddo home to walk amongst the lights together
  • Plan some couch time to watch a favorite holiday film with hot mugs in our hands

These are just some ideas and I know you can come up with your own 😊

And finally,

Seek a Professional

When all of this feels like too much or you are wanting guidance on how to have these types of conversations, reach out to a professional. They can be there in support and offer ways to approach each other to build that intimacy and connection. Don’t feel the need to wait until the holidays are over or when things aren’t feeling great. You can seek that help today.

To stick to my vow that this year will not look like those previous I invite you to join me as I slow down and drink it all in, literally and figuratively. Grateful Holidays to you 😊

-Katheryn Barton