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High hopes of spending quality time with family, staying within budget and building lasting memories are what couples yearn for most around the holidays. But what often occurs instead is heightened conflict, family pressure and emotional letdown.

It’s inevitable that tensions will arise as research from several studies using the Centers of Disease Control found that physical and mental health issues spikes during the holidays than any other time of year. This, coupled with big expectations, leaves couples scrambling to fill a tall order of needs from their significant others.

Amidst the hustle and bustle, the holidays are an important time to create family rituals, reconnect with loved ones and reminisce on the past year all the while looking forward to the New Year.

Here’s 25 foolproof ways to make sure you don’t overlook your relationship over the pending holiday season.

1.     Have a conversation ahead of time about the holidays. What’s your budget? Travel plans? Will you be spending time with both families or just one? How can you coordinate vacation time? What are some stressors that you anticipate? Making little room for surprises is essential for having a stress-free holiday season.

2.     Create rituals of connection– traditions and shared meaning- that shape and define your growing marriage.

3.     Dedicate the month of November to “random acts of kindness month.” Do one small thing daily to seal connection and show gratitude to one  another.

4.     Send your loved one a virtual Starbucks gift card with a note. “Sneak away and grab a latte to get through the afternoon slump.

5.     Write a “sticky love note” and put it in their lunchbox or wallet for them to find later.

6.     Make their favorite dessert. Don’t forget to do the dishes!

7.     Recreate the “25 days of Christmas” with “25 days of Connection.” Countdown to the most wonderful time of the year with a daily phone chat on the way to work, a 15 minute catch up before bed or a sweet “I’m thinking of you text.” A little bit of intention keeps the excitement and anticipation of the holiday season alive.

8.     Decorate the tree while playing your favorite holiday music in the background.

9.     Schedule regular date nights. Complicated and time-consuming activities aren’t necessary. A happy hour, hot chocolate over a burning fire or tackling the Christmas shopping together is a good way to relieve stress and refuel. 

10. Schedule “state of the union” meeting to express concerns, go over budgeting or talk through how to handle difficult family members. Designate the time to a “no conflict” zone.

11.  Watch your favorite Christmas movie with homemade popcorn for an extra dose of “feel good” emotions.

12. Have date night in. Make a special holiday meal just for the two of you.

13. Schedule time for sex. Regular intimacy is a necessary component in romantic relationships and putting it in your shared calendars means you commit- even if you don’t feel like. 

14. Do something active. Balance out the over-indulgence of candied pecans, pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate galore with exercise. Twenty minutes a few times per week boosts your mood and energy levels (not to mention your waistlines).

15. Donate your time to a charity and give back to those in need.

16. Reminisce over the past year hand-written letter or card to express your appreciation for your spouse.

17. Stay current in the everyday. Update your love maps.

18. Surprise your sweetie with a festive plant (I love the thyme Christmas trees) or fresh bouquet of flowers.

19. Physical touch is small but has big meaning. A flirty pat on the backside in passing, a foot rub at the end of the day or a cuddle on the couch is a quick and easy act of love. 

20. Send sexy text messages to one another.

21. Give a compliment.

22. Be on the same page. Don’t take sides with other family members. Ever.

23. Offer to help cook or clean the dishes.

24. When you sense your partner feeling overwhelmed, put a hand on their shoulder, give them a hug and let them know you’re there for them and on their side.

25. Practice empathy during conflict.

Don’t let the holidays get the best of your relationship. Creating memories that you can share for years to come is what really counts.

If you’re anxious about the holiday season and you need help navigating tricky conversations around money, in-laws and household responsibilities, consider couples counseling.