Five Minutes to Thrive - Holiday Relationship Stress

  • Published
  • By Maj. Matthew Clouse
  • 363 ISRW

On the way to the Christmas tree farm, you stop by your family's favorite fast food restaurant. Your temper starts to escalate as you try to place your order through a muffled intercom while your kids fight in the back seat. As you drive away, you realize they got the order wrong, and your partner starts complaining about how expensive Christmas gifts are, especially after losing a job to COVID. At the tree farm, you experinced sticker shock before going to cut your tree, and drag it back to the car through a cold and muddy field. Your family Christmas outing is starting to look like a "Clark Griswold's" story line.

Does this ever happen to you? Are time-honored traditions sabotaged by unwelcomed conflict? Do loved ones end up becoming the enemy during the holidays?

Refocus. It's surprising and disappointing how quickly arguments escalate during holidays, especially when there's an expectation of happiness. Instead of focusing on winning arguments, what if you focused instead on reasons that you are drawn to your partner or family and the challenges you've previously made it through, as a team. Think about the scene Clark is in the attic watching old home movie reels. Refocus.

Determine the real enemy. Yes, "Cousin Eddie's" drinking during family gatherings isn't pleasant to deal with, but your loved ones are not the real enemy. We all wish family members would modify certain behaviors, but focusing on something you can't control is like trying to move an iceberg. Look deeper for the real reason(s) for conflict - is it an unmet expectations, value differences, inconsideration, abusive tendencies, or selfishness? In the long run, it's better to calmly talk about the real reasons for conflict, rather than treat one another as enemies.

Evaluate your contribution. "It's your fault! If you would stop _____, my life would be so much more better!" (Think about Todd and Margot's arguments - Griswold neighbors) You've met people who take little or not personal responsibility for conflict. Before launching into accusations, step back and evaluate what you bring to the conflict. How do you come off? What messages are you sending? What's your history with an issue? Perhaps your own shortcomings caused loved ones to respond strongly.

Set boundaries. Remember the kitchen scene where stressed-out Ellen Griswold lie up a smoke? Just because you've tolerated certain behavior in the past, doesn't mean you must continue today. Change your expectations and ask other to as well. Instead of morphing in conflict, missteps can become opportunities to discussion and growth.

Remember, the ART has yor back and can help you work through relationship stress during the holidays.

Questions, contact the ART @ 363ISRW.ART