holidays and relationships

This week in the United States many families will gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving. And Christmas is just a few weeks away. For all the hopes and expectations around the holidays, people make the difference. But holidays and relationships; it’s complicated.

Healthy connections with family and friends, or a happy marriage, make this time of year feel wonderful. On the other hand if you feel lonely and isolated, or if your relationships are full of conflict, this season feels even more painful. There is perhaps nothing that impacts your wellbeing more than the quality of your closest personal relationships, and that’s especially so during the holiday season.

The holiday blues are real. I’ve had some wonderful Christmases. But I’ve had holidays where I felt I had to pretend things were great while I was dying inside. And I’ve also lived through the pain of the first Christmas as a widow, while trying to glue the pieces of my life back together.

Our emotional state during the holiday season is even more vulnerable. Memories of holidays past – both good and bad, expectations or hopes for something good, feeling overworked and overwhelmed – they all add up. And spiritual factors play a role as well.

How can you navigate complicated relationships during the holiday season? A few thoughts:

  1. Find the Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful. Christmas is a celebration of the greatest Gift humankind has ever received. There is much to be grateful for!

Gratitude doesn’t eliminate problems or deny grief and loss. In itself it doesn’t make broken relationships whole. But gratitude powerfully impacts your wellbeing, and opens the door to whatever good is possible.

I’m grateful for stepsons, their wives, and grandchildren that remind me of how my husband gave me a family. It may not be the holiday experience I would have originally chosen, but it is truly beautiful and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

You too can choose to be grateful for what IS without focusing on what isn’t.

  1. Choose what Fills You Up

You don’t have to attend every holiday event you’re invited to, purchase gifts for everyone you think of, or go all out with decorations, food, etc. You get to choose!

Some holiday traditions are super meaningful. Say NO to those that might be simply busyness so you can truly say YES to those that bring true joy and togetherness. Don’t let your schedule become so full that you miss out on the joy, or on the opportunities for connection. You don’t have to say yes to everything!

Whether you’re married or single, choose some holiday activities that fill you up. Music, lights, candles – those are some of my favorite things. Yours may be baking, hosting a party, or attending a certain concert.

  1. Focus on Relationships

So the holiday season tempts you to feel bad for those relationships you don’t have. Choose to go down a different path. Focus on those you do have.

If you’re married, look for ways to connect with your spouse in a special way. Let him/her know something you are especially grateful for about your relationship. Intentionally schedule some time to be together, just the two of you.

If you’re single, look for someone else who might be lonely this time of year and intentionally reach out. If you’re not otherwise scheduled, invite a couple friends to join you for a pot-luck holiday meal. Volunteer for some organization who needs help.

If you have a relationship that’s broken, let this holiday season stimulate you to make the first move. Apologize. Extend an offer of forgiveness. Invite a conversation.

Regardless of what this holiday season would “naturally” be like for you, make the choice to do something intentionally positive. Connect with others. Choose to be grateful for God’s greatest Gift to us all, and for whatever is good in your world. Find it! There are things to be grateful for.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Your Turn: Do you struggle with the holiday blues? What is the “holidays and relationships” connection like for you? Now, what are you going to do about it? Leave a comment below.

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