November and December are a time when we come together to catch up with loved ones, enact family traditions and celebrate life. But the season of good cheer is not always cheerful. Between selecting the perfect gift, booking expensive flights and dealing with the in-laws, people get stressed and, unfortunately, the closest vent for those frustrations is typically one’s partner. Here are ten common holiday fights couples have during the holidays and how to avoid them.
1. The mother-in-law fight. His mom hates your cooking—he says she’s just being helpful.
How to fix it: Address her directly, with this non-threatening formula: “I feel [insert your feeling here] when you [her action here]. Please [what you want her to do].” Example: “I feel bad when you criticize my cooking. Please don’t tell me my food is awful, even if you don’t like it.”
2. The money fight: You want to throw a holiday party; he says you can’t afford it.
How to fix it: Create a budget in advance that takes into account all holiday-related expenses including gifts, travel and entertaining. Decide how much you’ll spend on each category and don’t deviate.
3. The travel fight: You missed your flight—because he couldn’t find his scarf.
How to fix it: Travel is stressful for everyone, and in frustration we lash out at the nearest person—usually our spouse. Try to avoid placing blame and, remember, he’s upset about missing the flight, too.
4. The location fight: He wants to spend the holidays with his family, you want to spend it with yours.
How to fix it: Find a compromise—which means both of you have to give a little. “Understand that blending two families isn’t going to happen overnight,” YourTango Expert Lisa Steadman says. “You may still want to maintain your own family traditions separately at first, for example Thanksgiving Eve or Christmas Eve with one family, the next day with the other. This is healthy and normal.”
5. The gifts fight: You got him an iPad and he got you… a $25 Amazon.com gift card.
How to fix it: “Discuss what holiday gift-giving means to you within your budget,” says YourTango Expert Julie Spira. Agree ahead of time on a ballpark amount of what you’ll spend and on the nature of your gifts.
6. The family fight: You feel smothered by his family; he doesn’t understand what your “deal” is.
How to fix it: Take some time for yourself. Exercise, offer to walk the dog or volunteer at a soup kitchen. He can’t be mad at you for doing good!
7. The kids fight: You want to buy the kids the gifts they want. He says you’re spoiling them.
How to fix it: Create a gift list together. Limit yourself to one or two fancy gifts, and let him buy the inexpensive ones. Don’t buy anything that’s not on the list.
8. The traditions fight: He wants to skip the Christmas carols this year, you don’t.
How to fix it: Explain why this tradition is important to you and try to understand why he wants to skip it. This two-way empathy should help you discuss without arguing and, hopefully, find a middle ground.
9. The time fight: He says you’re working too much; you say you’re trying to earn a big bonus to pay for all your holiday expenses.
How to fix it: Plan some family- or couple-oriented activities and put them on your calendar—in red ink. He’ll feel good knowing you’ve committed time to him, and you’ll feel good knowing you can work the rest of the time.
10. The exhaustion fight. One or both of you is exhausted—and you take it out on each other.
How to fix it: When you feel yourself getting angry, ask yourself, “Am I really mad at him, or am I just stressed in general?” To help alleviate stress, YourTango Expert Dr. Carolyn Daitch recommends this breathing exercise: “Take five deep breaths, inhaling to the count of five and exhaling to the count of eight.”
YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.