“It’s naturally a time of high stress and high expectations,” says Carol J. Bruess, PhD, the director of family studies at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minn., and coauthor of What Happy Couples Do: Belly Button Fuzz & Bare-Chested HugsThe Loving Little Rituals of Romance. “Our culture creates images of the perfect gathering, the perfect feast, the perfect happy family gathered around the tree, the perfect couple exchanging perfectly thoughtful gifts.”
The reality, of course, is nowhere near perfect.
However, just as much as planning ahead will enable you to handle all the shopping and cookie-making, it can also help you to troubleshoot any potential relationship dramaand nip it in the bud before you’re tempted to put coal in your guy’s stocking. Thanks to this expert advice, the only romantic issue you’ll have this December is where to hang the mistletoe.
The problem: Having expectations that are too high
The solution: Be honest about what you really needbut don’t ask for the moon
The most common mistake people in relationships make around the holidays? Having expectations that are too highand not voicing them. “People often think their significant others should be able to read their minds,” says psychiatrist Mark Goulston, MD, the author of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone. But, as he points out, it’s unreasonable to expect your significant other to automatically know what you want, and that will leave you feeling resentful when he doesn’t live up to your unspoken hopes. Preempt a problem by making an effort to be clear about what you’d like him to do for you this December.
But if it’s your partner who tends to get upset because you can’t guess whether there are visions of sugarplums dancing in his head, ask him, "What can I do to make sure this is a special Christmas for you?" Bruess puts it this way: “If you talk with each other in a frank and honest way about what you do expect, you can help each other bring those high expectations down so the experience can be more positive.”