Christmas and new years are a time when families get together. It is seen as a time of joy and giving. People connect and spend time with their loved ones and have an expectationof what the holidays should look like for them. It may come as a surprise that Christmas is one of the most depressing times of the year for many families. There are several reasons that stress and unhappiness accumulate over the holidays but one of the biggest is unmetexpectations. People have ideals in their mind of what the holidays and time spent with their family should look like. When those ideals or expectations don’t turn out according to plan, it causes conflict.
Having made it through the holidays and into a new year, some have been left feeling disappointed about their marriages and family situations. When making new years resolutions people often don’t focus on bettering their marriage or their family. Instead they focus on the same goals they set for themselves every year, lose weight, go to the gym, make more money, etc. Improving relationships is rarely ever on that list. Perhaps this is because they don’t realistically think that there could be substantial change or that the conflict they experience is even a problem. Every marriage and family has the ability and room to grow and change with a few key ingredients.
1. Focus on changing yourself and not the other person(s)
Change begins with taking responsibility and working to change your own behaviour. Everyone has been at fault in a marriage or family at one point or another, so stop pointing fingers and take responsibility for your mistakes.
2. Examine your expectations of those around you
Expecting too much from your spouse or family member sets them up for failure before they even get a chance to try. When talking about expectations I am referring to ideals and standards that we have in our minds and anticipate people to live up to. Work on allowing the people to be themselves, so they can surprise you rather then leave you disappointed.
3. Read between the lines
In order for families and marriages to change, their communication needs to lead to resolution. It is so common for people to get caught up arguing about the details of a situation and who is right or wrong. If you really want to see your family begin to transform, begin to read between the lines. Listen to what the person is saying, not necessarily how they are saying it. Often there are reoccurring themes in arguments between couples and families. Work on identifying what the person is really trying to communicate instead of battling over whose perspective is right—arguing about differences in perspective is a circular argument that is endless!
4. Be willing to compromise
When it comes to relationships you have to be able to compromise. This is true when sustaining a marriage and when raising children. When deciding who’s house to spend that holidays at for example, takes compromise and coming to an agreement. We are faced with these types of compromises every day when living in a family and can choose to consider others perspectives and come to agreements that are pleasing to everyone.
5. Seek advice from a neutral party
If you are finding that you and your spouse can never come to resolutions or that your family is struggling through a particular transition/situation, it can be very helpful to sit down with a marriage and family therapist or other professional. Such professionals are able to see the situation more objectively and can help to mediate conflict. They have no bias perception of the argument/situation and can therefore be a catalyst for insight and change.
It is never too late for change to occur in a family. One person changing their behaviour can spark a chain of events completely transforming how a family functions. Make a commitment at the beginning of this New Year to make your relational interactions (whether they are with spouses, siblings or close friends) positive and rewarding for everyone involved. At the end of the year you will gather with your closest friends and loved ones once again to celebrate Christmas and another New Year. You will recount the successes and failures of the past year and hopefully you can take joy in knowing that your relationships and friendships have flourished.
This article was originally written for and posted on Liveabundantly.ca