Sexual affairs aren’t the only way to ruin a relationship. Here’s how to ring in the New Year even stronger.
For romantic couples the holidays are more than walks in a winter wonderland, nights by blazing fires, and pretty packages tied in ribbons and bows. They’re also emotionally charged booby traps studded with opportunities for misunderstandings, petty insults, and outright betrayals.
Whether you’ve been through the holiday madness enough times to be considered seasoned veterans or this is your first year together, there are pitfalls that even the most loving couples can fall into. If you want to be happily ringing in the New Year together, then here are five common relationship betrayals you’ll want to avoid.
#1 – If you blow them off now you’re setting yourselves up for the perfect storm.
Maybe shopping took a little longer than you expected because “that one friend” can never make a decision, or things are crazy at work because, you know, it’s the holidays. Maybe that reunion drink turned into drinks and dinner, or you just decided to run by the store and pick up fresh flowers as a loving surprise. This time of year there are so many demands on our time, often even from people we haven’t seen in forever, it’s easy to forget that we have a lover at home who has every reason to expect that we’ll be walking in the door about NOW.
Then there are all the events that we don’t want to attend alone. So you may both be asking to be escorted to this gathering or that party. If either of you are an introvert this is even more taxing, but the most extroverted of partners can suffer party burnout.
What we’ve learned:
Our lives get crazy sometimes too, and neither one of us always gets this one right. But we try to go by the “better a text than hurt feelings” rule when unforeseen impulses or situations keep us from heading home at the expected time. Even if we didn’t “promise” to be home at a certain time, we try to remember that the other one has every reason to expect us to show up at a reasonable time and if we’re going to be much later we call or text.
And blowing off an event we’ve agreed to attend is a BIG no-no for us. One of us may say “Honey, how important is that event?” Because, you know, we promised to be open with each other. But also because we’ve promised to be open the other one is entitled to say, “SUPER important, please don’t say you won’t go!” Just remember that this season is already emotionally loaded, so it’s extra important to be consistent about promises.
#2 – Fighting about money is a cliché for a reason.
Budgets are emotionally laden and one of the top reasons couples fight any time of year. On top of that, the gifts we give and receive can carry messages of the giver’s generosity, financial standing, and social status as well as the recipient’s value to the giver. And if you’re sharing a budget as we do it’s also about honoring the joint bank account and credit card.
What we’ve learned:
We’re a couple who really values balance and equality. So we found that it caused tension if one of us spent a LOT on the other without warning, especially if it was more than we’d agreed to budget or if it was considerably more than we’d spent on the gift we planned to give. If that’s important to you then talk about it. We’ve kind of settled on choosing one larger item we’ll choose together as a gift to our life. One year it was a schmancy fancy espresso machine. Good thing Starbucks doesn’t need our money because that thing has more than paid for itself.
Buying for family and friends can be tricky too. Neither of us comes from a large family, so it’s a little easier. But we also have lots of friends and clients we buy for. We finally hit on a solution where we just set a general budget for each of us to spend on whomever we choose. We don’t quibble over a few dollars one way or the other, but it keeps the budget in balance and fair.
#3 – If your partner wouldn’t laugh it isn’t funny.
This season brings us back into the circle of the people who knew us “when.” And sometimes that causes us to revert to behaviors we haven’t exhibited since high school. Couples who normally wouldn’t even suggest to anyone else that their lovers were anything but perfect can be heard sharing less than flattering details and laughing at belittling stereotypes about love, genders, and races.
What we’ve learned:
This is one area where we don’t have conflict. Neither of us thought that kind of stuff was nice when we were in High School and we find it less appealing now. But in observing a lot of other couples at gatherings we’ve noticed that while one partner and their friends or family are laughing hysterically the other partner is often forcing a laugh and looking like they would be pleased to be carried off by a rogue eagle. Our conclusion is that it isn’t just us – this kind of making fun isn’t funny unless you’re sure your partner is laughing as hard as everyone else.
#4 – Family rules, but it can’t trump true love.
Your family will always be important to you, no one who loves you would expect it to be otherwise. During the holidays especially. But don’t let that “especially” trap you into letting your family walk all over your lover.
It’s entirely possible that the comment about “a woman’s place” wasn’t directed at her, but when you look the other way and pretend you didn’t hear it you’re sending your family, and her, a message that you tacitly agree. It’s possible that the comment about “men who get manicures” wasn’t aimed at him, but if you watch him slyly tucking his hands in pockets without saying a word you’re betraying his confidence. If you love your partner then these little opportunities to align with them in front of your family are the greatest presents you have to give.
What we’ve learned:
Neither of our families have a culture of cruelty, so we’re fortunate that we can express our support for each other openly. And we do. Sometimes it gets awkward, but we try to speak with grace whenever the need arises to stand united. But whether your family is intentionally cruel, or simply clueless or uncaring, we hope you’ll face the fire and defend the love of your life now, because every time you don’t is a signal to the family you were raised with that they are more important to you than the family you’re creating.
#5 – Don’t forget, you’re on the same side – for life.
The holidays can bring out so much emotion for all of us. You’re either in that emotional tidal wave together or you’re lost at sea. If you aren’t putting each other first, being patient when buttons get pushed, tempers get short, or tears crop up over little nothings that wouldn’t matter any other time of the year, you’re missing out on the sweetest part of being partners.
Whatever comes up, talk it out, listen with your ears and your heart, stay open and vulnerable, hold each other often and long, and never give up on each other. If you’re even considering the possibility of sharing the rest of your life then you owe it to each other, and your self.
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