10 Tips for a Thriving Relationship This Christmas

Christmas can look different for everyone for many different reasons. For some, it has been a year marked by grief and loss, and for others, it has been a season of growth. Many of our closest relationships have taken strain. Whether you’re married, engaged, or dating, it’s likely you’ve faced some difficulties in caring for your most intimate relationship. Instead of succumbing to the chaos, Christmas can be an excellent time to experience joy together.

Refresh your focus and connection with your significant other with these ten simple tips.

1. Make gifts more personal

For many of us, budgets this year are tight. Instead of opting for extravagance, go the extra mile with a thoughtful gift that shows you truly know your loved one. A few ideas might be:

– A map of the place where you met or had your first date
– A book or course related to one of their hobbies
– Frame a handwritten love letter

2. Start a new tradition together

Find a celebration that fits with your current lifestyle adjustments, which may include social distancing or fewer events outside of the home. Then establish a new tradition that fits those requirements, but can also be enjoyed in years to come. This can be a way to reflect back on how you chose to flourish during a challenging season, and something that proves your relationship can withstand any challenge.

3. Change up your chore schedule

If you usually cook and your loved one usually cleans up after, switch it up! As they say, a change is as good as a holiday, and if an actual holiday isn’t in the books this year, refreshing your weekly routine can give you new appreciation for all the ways your loved one contributes to your home. Doing different household chores than usual can also help cut through the burnout.

4. Go back to childhood

When the world feels heavy and tumultuous, it can be great to act like kids again, even if it’s just for an evening. Think about a fond Christmas memory you had growing up, and introduce the activity to your loved one. Did you decorate sugar cookies? Hang popcorn around the tree? Build a gingerbread house? Forget the weight of adulthood for a moment and choose a date night that helps you be playful, youthful, and nostalgic together.

5. Do a childcare swap

Consider an affordable babysitting option and do a childcare swap with friends. Offer to watch their kids for an evening in exchange for a night when they watch yours. Saving money on babysitting can help overcome a major date night hurdle. During the chaos of the Christmas season, an evening of concentrated time with your loved one will help you sustain the health and vibrance of your relationship.

6. Lower your expectations

If you’re usually the Martha Stewart or Gordon Ramsey of Christmas, consider that this might be a year to scale back your perfectionistic tendencies. Instead of flawless centerpieces or a gourmet meal, focus on the simple things and let go of disappointments. When you’re faced with a Christmas decision, whether it’s purchasing a gift or a time commitment, ask yourself “Will this matter in 5 years? Does it deepen my relationships, or detract from them?” Let the small things be small things. We could all use a little grace and rest this year.

7. Set clear budgets and stick to them

Money is one of the most common reasons couples fight, and this year, committing to a budget might be more important than ever. Sit down with your loved one and agree to limits for every category of spending, from gifts to meals to decorations. Preventing money fights now can do wonders for your relationship later, and ease some of the emotional burden unclear boundaries often cause. Communicating clearly, kindly, and honestly about money is one of the greatest ways we can improve our relationship.

8. Get endorphins, together!

Christmas is notoriously a time for overindulgence, from cookies to eggnog! This year, as many of us are spending more time inside than usual, we may experience the energy slump that comes with heavier food and fewer active excursions. Make it a goal to be consistently active together, whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood, a couch-to-5k running challenge, or even an exercise video you can do from the comfort of your own living room. Adding activity to your routine will help you carve out consistent time together as well as enjoy the boost of endorphins we need so desperately as the daylight gets shorter and the weather gets colder.

9. Create opportunities for light and laughter

For many of us, this has been a heavy year. While it’s important to openly talk with each other about the difficulties we’re facing, it can be easy to let our relationship be our only sounding board. One antidote can be creating joyful moments together. Watch a funny Christmas movie, drive around and look at lights, enjoy dessert after the kids go to bed. By intentionally sprinkling laughter, beauty, and enjoyment back into your week, you can keep your relationship from getting bogged down.

10. Pause and appreciate each other along the way

Before we know it, the plates will be cleared, the last present will be opened, and the tree will be hauled out back. Although this time of year can feel like a flurry of commitments, events, expenses, and chaos, it’s also a time for great joy and celebration. When you find yourself being overcome by it all, take a moment to mentally pause and appreciate your significant other. Thank them for clearing the dishes or doing the laundry. Compliment the way they soothed your distressed child, or how they established a clear boundary with a family member. A little appreciation can help you transform your mindset from “Is it over yet?” to “I can’t believe it’s already over!”