Accept Conflict Let’s admit it. If there are two or more individuals in the same space during the holiday season conflict is almost inevitable. People will disagree. One will disagree about who does the driving, how your partner drives, where to go for the holidays, how much money to spend on gifts and the list can go on and on. If one can accept the very real possibility that conflict will likely occur you set the stage for lowering your expectations and being more open to listening to different opinions.
Be Willing to Say “Sorry” One of the most important aspects of a relationship is emotional safety. Refusing to say sorry creates an environment where individuals defend turf and avoid, at all costs, any hint of vulnerability. Saying sorry opens the door to allowing the other person to express remorse themselves. Holiday planning can be stressful. An environment of vulnerability and openness can be a great stress reliever. I encourage couples to own up to mistakes quickly. Long drawn-out fights in the middle of the holiday add to stress and create negative memories that one may regret for years to come. Therefore, let it go. Say sorry sincerely and move on.
Steal Moments Together Conflict can be a sign that a couple is not connecting. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday, couples can have their time pulled in many directions. This can put a strain on the quality time spent growing the relationship. It may be unrealistic to go for a walk in the park when family members are visiting but spending a few moments talking in the bed before you get moving in the morning, or stealing a few minutes in the restroom together just for a quick hello, or sending sweet texts to one another just to let the partner know that that they are loved and supported during the stress of the holidays can go a long way to avoid unnecessary conflicts
Fight Fair Let’s face it! During the holidays, conflicts will occur and when they do following a few simple rules will ensure that couples do not create emotional injury with nasty fighting. According to John Gottman, there are four rules to fighting fair. 1. Don’t criticize. This means to not say things like, “how could you be so stupid to spend money on that item.” 2. Don’t use contempt. For example: “you’re stupid,” “you’re lazy.” 3. Avoid defensive behavior (it’s not fair, But…, It is not my fault that…. 4. Don’t stonewall (leaving the room, silent treatment, mumbling under your breath, etc)
Access Your True Feelings Finally, instead of expressing anger express your true emotions. Anger is considered a secondary emotion–meaning that any time one feels anger there is an underlying emotion that is driving that anger. In the case of the holidays feeling of disappointment that one cannot spend time with his/her family; or feeling of inadequacy because there is not enough money to get certain gifts can be expressed as anger. The same is true if there are feelings of grief over relatives that are not around for this holiday. Because of social conditioning, all these underlying emotions can be expressed as anger instead of what are they truly. Expressing your true emotions can bring you closer to family members and reduce the incidences of conflict.