It’s almost Thanksgiving, and for many couples, the holidays bring opportunities to nurture family harmony.
It’s common for couples to experience family conflict during the holiday season, especially since there are so many events and gatherings to attend. You’re likely spending more time together than usual. There are also traditions to consider – and traditions tend to carry a lot of emotion for those who hold them dear.
However, it’s possible to emphasize harmony over conflict when you gather with family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year.
When you approach family gatherings in a loving way – even difficult ones – you create opportunities for peacemaking. At its heart, this season is truly all about love and peace.
Holiday Harmony Starts at Home
Often, we focus only on extended family when we talk about holiday conflict. But creating a harmonious dynamic during the holidays actually starts at home with your immediate family.
If you, your spouse, and your children (if you have them) tend to bicker and argue often, it’s time to start making changes for the better. First, focus on being peacemakers in your own home. When you do, it will be easier for you to lead the way at extended family gatherings.
You and your spouse may want to start by setting new ground rules for yourselves. Being intentional about how you treat one another is key. Once you’ve established a healthier baseline, talk to your kids about the new rules.
When you celebrate the holidays in peace within your own four walls, you’ll create opportunities to bring that peace to others. You’ll also notice when situations and gatherings might not be unfolding in a harmonious way. While you can’t necessarily control the environment of a family event, you’ll be able to set more effective boundaries for yourselves.
Extended Family: Planning Ahead
Now, let’s talk about extended family gatherings. If you want to prioritize harmony, then you may need to plan ahead.
For your family, this time of year might mean traveling to visit extended relatives. On the other hand, your relatives might come to you. However you celebrate, it’s important to create peace and joy along the way.
Planning ahead for holiday travel and potentially challenging scenarios will help you and your spouse respond in a healthier way. While every variable can’t be predicted, there are certain family dynamics that you can navigate with a little forethought.
For example, you have probably observed behavior patterns and repeating conflicts in your extended family over the years. This year, why not plan how you’re going to respond? Setting healthy boundaries ahead of time could help you mitigate conflict.
If you encounter conflict at your family gatherings this holiday season, think about what your options might be. You might be able to do something as simple as change the subject in a conversation you’d rather not have. Maybe you choose not to directly engage in conflict. Whatever the case, have a strategy in mind so you can be more responsive, rather than reactive.
Enjoy the Season Intentionally
It’s possible for you and your spouse to intentionally enjoy the holidays together. Creating a harmonious family environment will help you to do that. When you have a plan in place and are determined to show love in all situations, you can’t go wrong.
Need help navigating challenging relationships? Our book, High-Maintenance Relationships, could help – especially if you have “difficult” personalities in your extended family. Take a look and pick up your copy here.
Have you successfully navigated challenging family dynamics during the holidays? How do you and your spouse work together to prioritize harmony? Leave us a comment and let us know.