We spend a lot of time, money, and energy preparing for different holidays throughout the year. It’s easy to forget about what’s truly most important during these times: the relationships with loved ones in our lives. Developing and maintaining healthy relationships is not always easy during the holidays, but here are some ways we can better nurture them.
Be Open Rather Than Judgmental
When everyone comes together for the holidays, it also brings together varying opinions and points of view. You might see cousins or other distant relatives that you only see once a year. You might discover you don’t agree on many things or have strong opposing opinions.
Resist the urge to jump into an argument. Instead, try to have an attitude of openness and understanding. Remember that everyone sees the world differently, and everyone is learning. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t share your feelings, but you’ll get much closer to mutual understanding by being open and accepting of others’ views, too.
Focus on Listening Before Responding
Truly listening to others is harder than you’d think. We all have a lot going on in our minds at one time—especially during the holidays. It’s tempting to think about what we’ll say next or drift off into another thought while someone is talking.
Practice giving others your undivided attention, focusing on listening without the need to respond. Make eye contact, avoid distractions (like your phone or the TV), and ask questions when the other person is finished talking. This is a wonderful way to encourage healthy relationships with your friends and family members.
Try to Let Go of Old Issues
Emotions can easily run high when everyone comes together for holidays. Old wounds may open up, bringing past issues to the table. This is a good time to remember that anger doesn’t solve things.
When the situation is appropriate, it can help to practice forgiveness. That includes forgiving others as well as yourself for past arguments or bad blood. From there, you may be able to explore more positive ways to interact with those you’ve conflicted with before. This is not the way to solve every issue, of course, but it can help in many situations.
Honor Your Differences
Healthy relationships are able to respect differences rather than turning to resentment or grudges. The holidays can bring out differences in relationships more than other times of year. This is true in romantic relationships, as well, since the holidays often require decisions about money, travel and family visits.
Happy couples typically know how to honor differences within the relationship, making it easier to speak honestly and come to decisions that work for everyone. Focus on speaking to each other with the understanding that you are different people. Communicate without judgment or blame as much as possible.
Change Your Idea of “Perfect”
It’s common to build up an idea of how the holidays should look and feel. When the ideal vision strays from that, which is highly likely, it can lead to disappointment and blame in relationships. It’s best to maintain an open view of the holidays.
Have the expectation that even if others don’t respond as you expected or share your same view of how things should go, it’s okay. It’s part of the flow of life, and enjoyment can be found even when situations change. Try to live in the moment and appreciate the positives as they come.
The Bottom Line
Healthy relationships are not always easy to maintain, especially during the holiday season. However, hopefully the above tips will help you manage differences and enjoy this time of year with those you love.