Whether it’s decking out the house to win the neighborhood lighting competition, begging your kids to put on that starched collared shirt for a “make-believe perfect family” Christmas card, or seeking an ideal gift for every person on that ever-growing wish-list, the holidays aren’t always “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
Between work, family, kids, and activities, life is already busy. Then we throw in a crazy 5 week period of chaos, fun, stress, and adventure, and yet, somehow we think this is the year that we aren’t going to stress and we’ll always speak kindly to our spouse or significant other.
But it’s inevitable.
At some point, you’re going to be on the brink of losing it.
So how do you manage to show kindness when you’re stressed to the max?
First off, realize that the goal is not to eliminate conflict but to effectively deal with it.
Dr. John Gottman, one of the leading psychological researchers who studies what makes couples stay married versus divorce, found that relationships with a ratio of 5 positive interactions to each negative interaction had a much better success rate than couples who only had 1 positive interaction to each negative interaction.
Gottman says there are four types of negative interactions: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
Criticism is when we attack a person rather than communicating how we feel about what they said or did.
Defensiveness is when we are in the midst of a tough conversation and instead of actually taking the time to listen and consider their point of view, we are focused on how we will respond and argue our point.
Contempt is when we are simply disrespectful and shows up various ways: eye rolling, sarcasm, using the word “whatever” to show that we don’t care about their feelings/opinions.
Stonewalling is when we will not engage with our partner as they attempt to communicate their feelings and we put on that blank face and tune out their words.
We all have innate tendencies in how we respond to our partner and sometimes we either don’t have the energy/desire to work on responding with kindness or perhaps it seems too difficult to change your behavior. Maybe your parents always fought a certain way and using negative reactions is your default.
We understand it isn’t easy! But it is worth it!
Your marriage, your relationship is worth the work. It’s worth choosing a kind word, giving a listening ear, taking the time to truly hear what they are saying. Simply smiling, showing that you care that they had a hard day, not expecting them to want to talk about Christmas presents just because there is a perfect gift that Must Be Purchased NOW. Give space, Be Present, Speak Softly, Have a Gentle Posture Toward the One You Love Most.
No holiday season is perfect.
But when we respond with kindness & grace to one another we end up with less stress than we began with.