Being in a close relationship where the two partners spend most of their time together, can easily lead to a relationship rut, especially if you don’t take the time to carve out a little fun together. Looking for things to do as a couple to bring adventure and/or romance to your relationship can help strengthen your bond.
In this article, explore ideas for fun activities to help you connect as a couple, share quality time, and create new memories together.
The holidays are a time for joy and togetherness for many people. They’re a time to enjoy good company, celebrate, rest, and reconnect. That being said, we all come to the festive season excited — and anxious — about different things. Understanding these differences can help us comfortably accommodate each other, ensuring a better time for all.
Of course, no two families are alike. Five unique things can stress five people sitting at the same dinner table. But there are a few common holiday stressors that worry us all, especially couples. Dealing with holiday stress should be a team effort. Most importantly, couples should use the holidays to strengthen their relationships.
Table of Contents
- 1 Common Holiday Stress For Couples And Families
- 2 Ways In Managing These Stress To Deal With Holiday Stress
- 3 How To Use The Holidays To Strengthen Your Relationship
- 4 Travel
- 5 Get Active Together
- 6 Explore A Hobby Together
- 7 Relax Together
- 8 Focus on Your Relationship
Common Holiday Stress For Couples And Families
Just as the holidays affect us individually, these stressors can take on new meaning in the context of a relationship. Whether that’s the relationship with your partner or a family member, it’s always harder to manage interpersonal tension than internal anxiety.
This isn’t because one is more stressful than the other. Rather, it’s that relationships demand we work together to overcome issues. For most couples, the biggest holiday stressors include:
1. Social And Family Pressure
The holidays give us a chance to socialize with friends, family, and loved ones we may not see often throughout the year. As fun as that can be, it’s not always easy sailing. Hosting a gathering involves a lot of planning, shopping, and organizing a bunch of people who have their plans.
Logistics are tiring at the best of times, but especially when there’s no set routine to work around. Normally, we know people will be busy during the week, so everyone’s more likely to socialize at the same time over the weekend. With no school or work to structure the week, everyone’s plans become more fluid, and aligning them can be tricky.
Couples also have to answer the question of where to spend the holidays. If they have a standing agreement to alternate every year, what happens when they’re asked to make an exception for a special occasion? What if one partner feels far from home when they give up their traditions to embrace their partner? What if a spouse doesn’t get along with their in-laws?
Our own families aren’t always easy to deal with; a partner’s family is even trickier. If left alone, these social pressures can lead to tense standoffs and awkward conversations, even for otherwise healthy couples.
2. Financial Stress
Gifts, large meals, and quality time are synonymous with the festive season — but they come at a cost.
Simply traveling home for the holidays can be expensive for couples who live far away, and families with children. Then there’s the exchanging of gifts. How much do you budget in total? How many gifts will be exchanged? Is there time to find and wrap them all during the chaos?
The big family lunch or dinner often forces us to mix finances and family, something most people try to avoid. Will one person have to buy everything or is everyone expected to contribute money for shopping? Who handles the spreadsheet for ingredients, drinks, snacks, decor, and so on? What happens with last-minute guests that haven’t been accounted for?
These same stressors apply to families planning a holiday away together. Getting it right takes a lot of collaboration, and it needs everyone to do their part.
3. Overwhelming Expectations
Finances aren’t the only burden couples may feel obligated to carry. Unfair expectations tend to creep up most when it comes to traditions, obligations, and labor around the house. This is especially true of gendered expectations like organizing events, childcare, and household chores.
Some cultures expect spouses to perform duties to involve them in family routines. Unfortunately, this can create friction when cultures clash, or when family members use it to alienate new members. Culture shocks are most intense in the initial stages, making this an overwhelming stressor for newlyweds and someone visiting their partner’s home for the first time.
4. Maintaining Your Routine
A good routine helps to regulate our moods, meet our goals and plan more comfortably. While the holidays offer a nice break from monotony, they can also disrupt the sequences that benefit us from day to day.
Routines to boost health, for example, are harder to maintain over the holidays. While some may look forward to eating the best food of the year, others may worry about undoing their progress by indulging.
Even if a person plans on still exercising, traveling means being away from the gym, which limits their options. Working out in someone else’s home or a new environment adds the stress of doing this outside their comfort zone too. This is particularly an issue with families that lack boundaries and anyone prone to commenting on the lifestyle and habits of others.
5. Dietary Concerns
Depending on the family, dietary concerns can be a cultural, medical, or personal issue for people and their spouses. One’s beliefs might prohibit one from eating something considered normal by everyone else. Even when in-laws are happy to accommodate them, educating others on key details or monitoring for cross-contamination is a lot of work.
No one wants to hover in the kitchen or openly reject a plate at the table, either. Unfortunately, a willingness to be inclusive is the only way to avoid an uncomfortable situation, and that’s not a guarantee for every family.
6. Depression And Loneliness
If a highlight of the holidays is coming together, then one of the worst parts is feeling disconnected from the people around you. Broken relationships, estrangement, and generational conflict can trigger painful emotions for a person with a traumatic family history. It doesn’t help that they’re reminded of this history every year.
Depression can rear its head long before the holidays start. Even talking about festive plans is stressful. Someone with strong family bonds may not understand why the idea of going home stresses their partner. Inversely, not feeling understood will only frustrate their partner more. Dealing with this issue takes empathy, communication, and compromise.
Ways In Managing These Stress To Deal With Holiday Stress
Now that we’ve identified the most common stressors, dealing with holiday stress as a couple doesn’t look so bad after all. Here’s how you can manage these stressors.
1. Managing Social Pressure
If you or your partner feel obligated to socialize more than usual, make sure you have plenty of downtime between events. We can’t always control things when interacting with family, but knowing you’ll have time to recharge does offer some comfort. Use this time to do the things you enjoy about the holidays, like reading in a quiet corner or relaxing with a warm drink.
2. Managing Financial Stress
Managing finances is a team effort. The best way to avoid this stressor is for couples to get on the same page early. Drawing up a budget, planning for holiday costs, and saving should happen before the holiday starts. Liaising with family about contributions is never fun, but it removes the risk of disagreements down the line.
3. Managing Family Expectations
When it comes to family traditions and routines, your partner is the best resource on what to expect. They may not get to everything, but they can offer insights into how things normally go. If you sense that you may have a problem with the way things are done, this is when couples can negotiate on what’s reasonable, and how to support each other when dealing with family.
4. Managing Your Routine
You don’t have to give up your routine over the holidays, especially if it helps you cope with stress. If anything, huge changes to your sleeping, eating, and exercise habits are just as disorienting. The downtime you carve out gives you a chance to keep up with the daily tasks that matter most.
5. Managing Dietary Concerns
Communicating your dietary needs ahead of time gives loved ones more room to work with them. If you’re dealing with another family member’s needs, don’t forget to check with caterers, designated shoppers, or anyone in charge of bringing a dish.
6. Managing Loneliness And Depression
As isolating as they are, it’s important to remember that depression and loneliness are normal reactions to the holidays. Recent trauma and unresolved conflict can evoke strong emotions, and it’s okay to feel and express them. You don’t have to fake a positive mood, don’t forget to do the things that bring you joy when you can. After all, the holidays are for everyone to enjoy. It’s just about finding what that means for you as you navigate the season.
How To Use The Holidays To Strengthen Your Relationship
Spend Quality Alone Time Together
When bonding with family, remember to make time for the family you chose. Date nights are great when you need a break from the festivities while connecting with your spouse. Laughter, affection, and emotional intimacy will always lighten stressful moments.
Do The Hard Things Together
When it’s time to roll up your sleeves, sharing the work does two things. One: the burden is lighter when two people carry it. Two: doing the hard things together shows a deep commitment to your partner and the relationship.
Be Proactive With Support
Even couples have a hard time asking for help, so being attentive to each other’s needs is vital. If you notice your partner struggling with the holiday season, being proactive with your support offers comfort when it’s needed most. Sometimes, the question can be as simple as, “How can I make the holidays less stressful and more fun for us?”
Pack your suitcase and get away for the night, a weekend, or a week. A romantic getaway recharges you both and gives you some quality time together away from your normal routine.
If your budget is tight, opt for a one-night excursion that’s close to home, and consider booking a home rental through a website such as VRBO, Airbnb, or HomeToGo.
Get Active Together
Engaging in physical activities together can also be a great way to spend time together. Fortunately, there are plenty of great ideas that will help you connect.
The benefits of exercising together are plenty. Not only will you get to spend more time together, but you’ll also improve your overall health, get in better shape, and even enhance your sex life. Exercise has been linked to improved body image, reduced sexual and erectile dysfunction, and short- and long-term arousal in women.
This might mean taking a walk together, going to a yoga class, using an exercise app at home, or playing a fitness game on a video game console. Exercising together can also be in the form of a strenuous activity like painting a room, cleaning out a basement, or planting a garden.
Play those old records (if you still have them) or put them on your favorite playlist. Ask your partner for a dance in the kitchen. Or, take your moves out on the town and hit a dance club.
Explore A Hobby Together
Another way to connect as a couple is to spend time together exploring a hobby. This can be something that you both enjoy doing, or you might enjoy helping each other explore your individual interests.
Start A New Hobby
Find common ground and look for hobbies you would enjoy together. If you can’t agree on an activity you both enjoy, choose to do separate hobbies in the same room or on the same couch. For instance, if one person likes to scrapbook, they can do that while their partner plays video games.
Consider breaking out the measuring cups and cookbooks to spice things up in the kitchen. If you have children, take at least one night a month to eat dinner after the kids go to bed. Cook together and enjoy a nice quiet meal for just the two of you.
If you can get out of the house, taking a cooking class together is a fun way to learn some new recipes and cooking techniques.
Getting active and exploring hobbies can be fun, but sometimes you might want to do something more relaxing or low-key together. This can be a great opportunity to destress and unwind while enjoying each other’s company.
Curl up on the couch or in bed and read a book together. Read out loud or read together quietly. Start your own private book club for the two of you. Discuss the books you’re reading over coffee or your favorite meal.
Listen To A Podcast Or Audiobook
Snuggle on the couch and tune into a podcast or audiobook together. Pick something funny to add a little mood-boosting laughter to your life or something motivational that can strengthen you as individuals and as a couple.
Whether you’re hitting the Xbox together or sitting down with a good card game, board game, or puzzle, games can be a great stress reliever. Playing games with your partner will present you with plenty of moments to laugh and test your competitive spirit. Games can be sexy, too. Think strip poker or Twister. Why not? Game on!
Watch TV And Movies
Watching TV and movies together is one of the simplest activities you can do after a long day of work. But be sure it’s just the two of you, sitting together and holding hands. No gadgets. No status updates or Instagram posts. It’s a great time to snuggle and get closer while doing something as simple as watching a Netflix series or movie.
Try A Couples Massage
Turn on some relaxing music, dim the lights, and take turns giving each other a massage. If you don’t want to commit to a full-body massage, you can try a hand or foot massage, and see where it takes you.
Focus on Your Relationship
Doing things together that are specifically centered on your relationship can also be a great way to improve your bond. Some ideas you might want to explore:
Take a Walk Down Memory Lane
You’ve spent a lot of years together and there are many more to come. Take some time to review your life together. Scroll through your smartphone camera roll, Facebook photos, or Instagram shots, and take a look at your first pictures together.
Reminisce about all of the things you’ve done and places you’ve been together over the years, and keep looking through until you reach your most recent photos together as a couple.
Renew Your Vows
Looking for something to do together that’s a little more elaborate? Renew your vows in front of friends and family or have a private ceremony in your living room. Renewing your vows is a great reminder of the bond you have with each other, If you have kids, it’s a fun way to incorporate them into your ceremony, especially if they missed it the first time around!
Visit Your Partner’s Hometown
Heading to your partner’s hometown is a great way to learn more about their childhood. Even if you feel like you already know everything about your partner, seeing them in their hometown setting will help you connect deeper. Swap embarrassing childhood stories or meaningful family memories as you explore old hangouts together.
Exploring memories together, renewing your commitment, and visiting places that are special and formative to your partner are just a few ways to spend time together and strengthen your relationship at the same time.