Staying Madly in Love During the Holidays

By Romance Recovery's Johanna Lyman for

Baby, it's cold outside....
Baby, it's cold outside....

It's no secret that the holidays are a stressful time of the year. It always feels like we have too much to do and too little time and money to accomplish everything on our list.

This year seems to be particularly intense, and I'm not even buying into all that "end of the world" talk.

To counter all that craziness, here are my favorite ideas for staying in love -- or at least minimizing the fighting, during stressful times like these.

1. Set aside daily time for extreme self-care. This advice is important not only for the holidays, but during any stressful time. When I get busier, the first thing that usually falls apart is my self care routine, and I know I'm not the only one. This year, make it your top priority to eat in moderation and exercise regularly, and watch how much easier it is to stay balanced, sane, and happy.

2. Get out of the house every night. My friend Alyson swears by this routine: "Evening walks are so key! It gives us time to get away from the home distractions and allows us time to connect, talk, walk, hold hands and focus on each other." She's on to something important here: couples who connect via non-sexual touch like hand holding report much higher levels of happiness due to the increased levels of oxytocin, the "cuddle hormone."

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3. Sync up your calendars. Joann Babiak, an attorney and mediator, has this advice for blended families: "At holiday time, often conflicts arise over where children are going to be spending time, who else will be at family events (if there are dinners and the new love of your ex-husband or ex-wife is involved in the festivities, for example) and the disruption of routines. Keeping the lines of communication open between parents is desired. Advance planning and discussion is advised. Flexibility is needed, and co-operation."

4. Steal some time away together. If you're in a second (or third) marriage, it helps to remember that even though you and your new love are as happy as newlyweds, it's likely that not everyone will share in your bliss. Do your best to insulate your relationship from OPE (other people's emotions) by carving out time for yourselves as a couple before you carve the turkey.

5. Simmer down. When a fight is brewing, try to de-escalate it. One powerful way to de-escalate a fight is this technique: notice when you're blaming your partner, and ask for a time-out. Key words that let you know you're in blaming or attack mode include the words you (instead of I), always, never and should. These are fighting words. They'll put your partner on the defense, and he'll either fight back or run away or withdraw emotionally. You can try saying something like this, "I'm noticing that I'm in attack mode, and I'd really rather work together to solve this problem/back up and start again/listen to what you have to say first. Can we take a few minutes to calm down?" It might take a little practice to interrupt the fight pattern, but with just a little effort you can dramatically change the dynamics of your relationship using this technique.

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6. Make an effort to give your sweetie a really thoughtful personal gift. This tip requires some pre-planning. You have to pay careful attention to what he's trolling for on eBay or remember his favorite sports team match up or vintage movie. Some people are naturally better at this than others, but you can do it even if it's not your forte. If you opt for a romantic getaway, be sure it will appeal to him at least as much as it appeals to you.

7. Don't forget to put your sexy on! Holidays are a great excuse to dress up. When we put our play clothes on, it gives us permission to let loose a little (or a lot, just watch the eggnog!). Sneak away at a party for a hot make-out session, or play a little naughty elf. It's your fantasy, but it will be a great gift for you both.

What's your advice for staying happy in love at the holidays?

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