It’s the most wonderful time of the year to share with your family and loved ones, and your partner is no exception. Spending the holiday season with those you love should be an enjoyable experience and not a stressful one, especially when navigating your first holiday season with a new partner. During this season, your bond could either grow stronger or the stress can wear your relationship down. Whether it’s deciding on the best gift for your partner or navigating how to respect their family traditions and practices, give yourself grace when identifying the best ways to share this time with your significant other. If this is your first holiday season with your partner, here are a few ways you can make it memorable, special, and drama-free.
1. Establish rules for gift giving
One of the best parts about the holidays is the gifts we give to the people we love (and receive!). If you are spending your first holiday season with your partner, make sure to establish a few rules around what gift giving looks like for both of you. Casually discussing how (and if) you will give each other gifts may not feel spontaneous or romantic, but it can help you avoid common issues when figuring out what to give your partner and how much to spend (including that uncomfortable I-got-them-something-expensive-and-they-got-me-nothing situation or vice versa). Gift giving can go unintentionally wrong if rules about spending limits and expectations aren’t laid out on the table, and your partner might have totally different expectations from you.
If you and your partner do want to exchange gifts, talk about what those gifts look like. Are you planning to exchange gifts at the same time? Does your partner love more sentimental, heartfelt gifts or prefer a more expensive, useful gift? Do they know what your budget looks like? These are all important questions to ask when deciding how and what you and your partner plan to give to each other this holiday season.
2. Respect each other’s traditions and create your own
Holiday traditions are an important part of the season, as it brings them back to nostalgic times with family and loved ones. No matter how much time you spend with your partner this season, respect each other’s traditions and preferences—especially around religious and cultural holidays. Holiday traditions should be honored and respected, as it helps create a bond between you and your partner and helps them feel loved and valued. Maybe your partner is used to putting up Christmas decorations or the tree the second Thanksgiving is over, or maybe they celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanza instead of observing Christmas during the holiday season.
However you and your partner traditionally celebrate the season, make sure to honor and make room for special traditions. The beauty of the holidays is the chance to make it your own. Create new traditions with your partner to add to both of your childhood customs. Give each other the freedom to establish new “rules” for the holidays, whether it’s ordering takeout instead of cooking a big meal or combining traditions. This is a great way to have something that you two share and can enjoy each year together. Have a conversation with your significant other about the right balance between giving each other space to see family and keep traditions and making new traditions and memories together.
3. Use the holidays to reconnect with each other
This season is not just about packed schedules and busy calendars—vacation time is maximized for travel and we typically have more downtime than other times of year. Use this opportunity to reconnect with your partner, spend more time together, and enjoy each other’s company. If you have time to spare away from work and other obligations, make it a priority to spend some of that time with your partner. The holidays are a great time to put aside your normal obligations to make time for those who are most important to you. Whether it’s lounging around the house, spending time enjoying each other’s hobbies, or planning an impromptu trip or staycation, use the holiday season to rediscover and strengthen your relationship.
4. Incorporate each other’s family and friends
Make time for each other’s family and friends this time of the year and show your partner how important their loved ones are to you during the holidays. If your partner comes from a family that celebrates the holidays with gift giving, Secret Santa traditions, holiday decorating, or religious practices, make sure to support their traditions with their family and encourage your partner to embrace and enjoy their childhood practices. Make sure your partner actively participates in the holiday season with your family and friends as well and feels integrated into your traditions. This helps create a bond between you and your partner by incorporating those who are important to each of you.
5. Plan goals for the new year together
Celebrating the New Year can be a fun time to plan out the next year together with shared goals and aspirations. Spending time going over your goals and plans while creating others reinforces the relationship you share with your partner. It also keeps your relationship a priority for the upcoming year. Sit down together and have a lighthearted, enjoyable discussion about what next year looks like for each of you individually and together. Set goals to keep in mind as the year goes on, make room for each other’s individual goals, and hold each other accountable to reach them. The new year can bring on new and exciting aspirations as a couple; make it a point to share goals and hopes.
6. Keep the holidays light and fun
The holidays should be a time to celebrate and have fun with your partner. Keep the pressure off and relax so you can actually enjoy them and grow closer instead of letting the pressure of seeing families, giving gifts, or getting more serious make it feel stressful. Spend quality time together to make your first holiday season memorable and relaxing. Maybe you and your partner want to outfit the house full of Christmas decorations or skip the decor and just watch holiday movies while ordering from your favorite restaurant. Whatever your holiday season celebrations look like this year, keep it fun and enjoyable. The holidays are meant to be spent however you and your family see fit, so fill your time together just enjoying each other’s company.