Love is all around you this season. And while that’s great, the expectation that every moment will be merry and bright can put a lot of stress on any relationship. Between the nonstop party schedule, awkward conversations with your partner’s family, and gift situations (“Wait, I thought you didn’t want anything!”), there’s a lot to navigate together. It’s true that the holidays might not be perfect, but when you let go of the fantasy in your head and find easy ways to connect with your significant other, they can actually be more fun than you might think.
Here’s how to savor your relationship this holidays season :
1. Unwind When You Can
Home is where the heart is…and where your bickering parents, crazy siblings, and 92-year-old grandmother are, too. You’re probably not used to being around them 24/7. But this is when you can use the hustle and bustle to your advantage and toss in some away time for you and your partner in the name of helping out. Offer to run out and get milk. Or take the dog for a walk. Or buy firewood—so what if you’re celebrating in balmy Florida? The point is to get out of the house for at least 20 minutes, so you two have a chance to bond, laugh about your mom’s penchant for decorating with Kewpie dolls, and catch a breather.
2. Pace Yourselves With Parties
Because you usually won’t end up spending much time with your date. If it’s a work thing, you probably need to schmooze a bit; if it’s a friend’s dinner, you might be seated next to someone random. Still, you can connect in subtle ways. Making eyes at each other across the room can send a look that says, “We’re totally leaving in an hour” or “You’re so sexy over there, drinking a cocktail from a reindeer cup.” And remember, you can say no to invites. At some point, you’ll need (and want) a night in, just the two of you.
3. Relax About The Gifts
If you go in thinking you need to find that amazing sweater or food-of-the-month club that perfectly sums up how much you love your partner, you may drive yourself crazy. Don’t overthink it: Instead, simple, thoughtful gestures often go over best (e.g., upgrade those running shoes he or she wears all the time). And if you’re really stuck, go for something you can experience together (sign up for parkour classes or book a cozy cabin in the woods somewhere).
4. Don’t Force It
Not every holiday has to be spent together. Maybe you’re not ready to take that step in the relationship yet, or it’s too complicated to visit both families. Even if you’re apart, you can create your own traditions, like stringing up lights and sipping hot toddies early in the month. The date isn’t important—having fun is. And if you’re not coupled up? Do the above with friends you love. When you focus on good company and great vibes, you’ll realize it’s not the time of the year but your attitude that makes any season bright.