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Top 10 Issues that Can Make or Break Your Holiday Season
Get started early and make your holiday season a smooth one with these great tips.

Wear a smile this holiday season by ditching what hasn't worked in the past.

Take what hasnít worked in the past and use it to create a better situation for this season.”
The holidays are here once again, as well as the anticipation, excitement, and sometimes dread. Itís wise to plan ahead, not just for the menu or the presents or the guests, but more importantly, for you. How can you make this a truly happy, healthy, fun holiday season for you, your spouse, and your family? Here are the top 10 issues that usually make or break the holiday season:

1. Traditions. Even traditions that we once loved can become old habits that just donít work anymore; so review your traditions. Does the family look forward to them? Do they need revamping? Donít assume that just because youíve been doing them forever that theyíre still working. If they are, great, if not, change them!

2. Cooking and Preparing. If you feel youíre the one stuck doing all the planning, cooking, and cleaning, speak up if youíre unhappy with your role. Donít expect your spouse or family to read your mind, and donít carry the resentment into the holiday season. Thereís really no reason to be a holiday martyr.

3. Presents and Finances. Discuss the holiday budget with your spouse ahead of time and stick to it. If thereís a conflict about the amount of the budget, figure out a compromise. It needs to be a win/win situation. Check in with each other halfway into the holidays and see where youíre at to see if the budget needs amending. If youíre off track, look at the numbers again and redo a more realistic budget. If youíre right where you should be, keep doing what youíre doing and congratulate yourselves!

4. Stress. Discuss the holiday stressors from past seasons and do something different this year. Make a point of relieving the stress with a massage, a movie, an evening without phone calls or commitments, etc. Listen to each other and hear each other out. No problem is too small or too big to address.

5. Juggling. There are a lot of events and parties that you may want to attend this holiday season, but you probably canít do them all! Discuss and coordinate your schedules ahead of time and decide what your priorities are. Then, before you RSVP, check again with your spouse to avoid misunderstandings and double scheduling.

6. Families. Most of us have difficult family members and we can usually predict that theyíll be a problem during the holidays. Rather than shudder with dread at the very thought of seeing them (and instead of complaining about the situation) make a plan of action. Maybe you can talk to the family member ahead of time and declare a truce for the holidays; or have a strategy planned in advance to put into action if it gets tense at the holiday dinner table. The main point? Take what hasnít worked in the past and use it to create a better situation for this season.

7. In-Laws. How do you decide whose in-laws to spend the holidays with? How is the time divided up if youíre going to different houses? How do you compromise? Take turns on a yearly basis. It needs to be fair with equal time spent because everyone is counting! If the in-laws complain about the arrangement, the spouse of that particular in-law could call in advance to explain honestly how you came up with the decision: "We decided to make sure it was fair by seeing Stanís family this year, since we didnít see them last year. So, letís talk about how we can still make this holiday fun and enjoyable for everyone."

8. Kids. Blended family issues can be a huge problem during the holidays. Between custody arrangements, problems, jealousy about the ex, and issues that already exist in the family, the holidays can be a nightmare. Put everything out on the table, including past and present issues, and brainstorm about doing it differently this year. Whatever youíve done in the past that didnít work, donít do it again.

9. Conflict. There are so many potential disagreements that can happen during the holidays, so itís essential to start learning and developing good conflict resolution skills. There are excellent sources, but for starters: listen, donít blame and shame, donít name call, take time outs when necessary, stop having the need to be right, and remember that compromise is essential. By exercising fair fighting rules, each partner will learn valuable skills for the future, and feel heard, understood, and connected for the holiday season.

10. Being a Scrooge. If she loves to decorate for Christmas and he wants nothing to do with it, talk about why he/sheís acting like a scrooge! Thereís a good, underlying reason that needs to be examined and understood by both partners. After uncovering the reason, scrooge may be able to take a baby step to begin enjoying the holidays, which may lead to a bigger step next year. Keep expectations reasonable to avoid major disappointments.

The holidays are an excellent opportunity to strengthen your marriage and communicate differently. Change it up this year and revamp the holidays by addressing the issues that have been continuously avoided. Talk about problems with your partner and really listen to each other. Communication can go a long way in making this a joyous seasonÖone that youíll be grateful for!

"What's the big deal? All I said was . . ." Sound familiar? Conflict Resolution/Affairs Expert and Therapist, Sharon M. Rivkin, known as the "last ditch effort therapist," is the author of "Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy" and developer of the First Argument Technique. Sheís helped hundreds of couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured Oprah Magazine, Reader's Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, and DrLaura.com. Sharon has appeared on TV, was quoted on The Insider TV show, appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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