Africa-Press – Ethiopia. The holiday season, often hailed as a time of joy and togetherness, can sometimes bring unexpected challenges for couples. Whether it is the stress of planning, family dynamics or simply the high expectations that come with the season, maintaining a healthy relationship during this time requires effort.
Josephine Chelengat a life coach, says with proper communication, couples can not only survive but thrive during the holidays.
“Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship, especially during the holiday season. Discuss your expectations openly. Talk about how you both envision spending the holidays, what traditions matter most to each of you and be willing to compromise. Communication helps you set realistic expectations and avoids unnecessary disappointments,” she says.
Chelengat emphasises the importance of joint planning.
Collaboration can range from decorating the house to planning meals and events. This not only distributes the workload but also strengthens the sense of togetherness.
While inter-tribal marriages may flourish, creating new traditions is important to ensure both partners are valued during the holiday. She suggests creating new traditions that resonate with both partners.
“Find common ground and incorporate elements from each of your backgrounds, which will help to foster unity between the partners,” she says.
While preparing for the festive season, family gatherings can be a source of tension for many couples. Michael Lubanga, a family counsellor, suggests setting boundaries and communicating with extended family members about the set plans.
“Ensure you are both on the same page regarding family engagements and be prepared to compromise to accommodate both sets of relatives,” Lubanga tips.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, Lubanga highlights the importance of maintaining intimacy.
“The holidays can be stressful but do not neglect the emotional and physical connection with your partner,” he says, adding that couples can set aside time for each other, whether it is a quiet evening at home or a weekend getaway. Prioritising your relationship amidst the chaos is crucial.
Alice Kebirungi and James Karugaba, who have been married for more than ten years say the key to surviving the holidays is learning to blend their traditions, communicate effectively, and prioritise each other’s needs during festive time. Alice grew up in a family that celebrated Christmas with elaborate decorations and festive meals while James had a more low-key holiday experience. Instead of letting these differences create tension, the couple decided early on to blend their traditions.
“We took the best from both worlds. We have the cozy atmosphere James loves, mixed with the festive decorations I cherish. It has become our unique holiday blend,” she says.
The couple have throughout the years learnt that assumptions can lead to misunderstandings, especially during the holiday. To avoid this, they talk about their expectations, whether it is about gift-giving, travel plans, or spending time with extended family. Being on the same page helps them avoid unnecessary stress.
James acknowledges the challenges that can arise when juggling time between both sides of the family.
“We have had to set boundaries. It is essential to make sure both sets of parents understand our plans and respect the time we allocate for each side of the family. It took some adjusting to but it makes the holidays more enjoyable for everyone,” James adds.
Reflecting on their journey, Sarah and James emphasise the importance of flexibility, compromise and a sense of humour.
“Managing expectations has been a learning process. We had to be realistic about what the holidays meant to each of us and find common ground. This meant setting a budget for gifts, discussing our plans well in advance and being flexible when things did not go according to plan. It is all about compromise and understanding,” James says.
Sarah says quality time has always been a priority for them. Amid the holiday chaos, the couple makes sure they get moments for just them. Whether it is a quiet evening by the fireplace or a walk in the neighbourhood, these moments help them reconnect and remember the true spirit of the season. James, however, emphasises the need for a moment of reflection as individuals to curb stress.
“It is okay to take a step back and recharge individually. We communicate openly about our need for personal space and by respecting each other’s boundaries, we ensure that the holiday season does not become overwhelming,” explains James.
Sarah notes that the journey has not been a walk in the park but what has kept them going is their commitment to making the holidays a special time for them. It requires understanding and the joy of creating a shared experience. Every year, they look forward to the holidays not just as a couple but as a team that has learnt and grown together.
Remember, the whole intention is to spend time with loved ones, enjoy their company and have fun. Keep bringing yourself back to this intent and course correct if needed.
Steal moments of quiet, fun, laughter or connection with your partner. These moments add up and help you maintain connected through visitors, stress and everyone pulling on your time & attention. Do not sweat the small stuff; it is easy to get frustrated when things get stressful; if it is not worth your time, let it go. Deep breath and remind yourself of what is important.
The holiday season is a wonderful time for couples to create lasting memories and strengthen their bond. However, it is essential to approach the holidays with open communication, effective time management, financial planning, and self-care in mind.
By prioritising your relationship and working together as a team, you can navigate the holiday stress and hassles while enjoying the joy and togetherness the season has to offer.
Remember that it is not about perfection; it is about creating meaningful moments and a sense of unity during this special time of year.