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How the Holidays Can Wreak Havoc on Your Relationship

Whether you've been together for years or two months, the stress of the holiday season can take a toll on your relationship. 'Tis the season to be jolly, not fighting in your boss's coat closet, so here are 11 seasonal relationship pitfalls and how to avoid them.

You’re thinking the new iPad; he’s thinking a candle.

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Especially for newer relationships, holiday gift-giving is a minefield of potential misinterpretation. Try to gauge the situation (and budget) by asking your SO (significant other) what he wants for Christmas. Or suggest the two of you do something special together instead of exchanging gifts. You can also set a spending limit—and actually stick to it.

You introduce him to your family too soon.

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Whether the pressure is internal (you can’t handle sitting at the kids’ table one more year) or external (your mother thinks your boyfriend is a figment of your imagination), ask yourself, would you be introducing your SO to your family if it wasn’t the holidays? If the answer is no, hold off. _Photo source: "thecia.com":http://thecia.com.au/reviews/f/family-stone.shtml_

You and your SO have different ideas about holiday fun.

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You imagine a holiday season like a Norman Rockwell painting or a scene from _Love Actually_, but your SO seems more interested in watching football or cursing the long lines at department stores. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect your loved one to fulfill some of your dreams of say ice skating hand-in-hand, sharing a hot cocoa, making paper snowflakes or whatever tradition you’ve exalted in your head. Just don’t expect him to read your mind, especially if he’s a little more Scrooge and a little less Jimmy Stewart in _It’s a Wonderful Life_. And don’t forget to compromise. If he’s not the cheery elf that you are, maybe cut back on the Christmas music a bit when he’s around.

You irrationally expect relationship milestones.

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The holidays can be romantic, but just because there’s mistletoe and cozy days spent gazing into each other’s faces lit up by a roaring fire, doesn’t mean your relationship is going to progress leaps and bounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Check yourself for inflated expectations or general delusional thinking. Do you really want him to propose, invite you to meet his family, or say “I love you” for the first time? Or have you just watched _Serendipity_ too many times? Sure the holidays can enhance romantic feelings and proposals tend to increase around this time, but beware if you find yourself thinking, _does this manicure match an engagement ring?_

You prematurely send joint holiday cards.

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Sending a joint holiday card sends a message: we’re together forever. Like meeting family, don’t rush it. The photo of the two of you dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus can be awkward down the road if things don’t work out.

Photo source: hohumcards.com

You have to juggle family visits.

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If your families don’t live in or near the same town, the fairest recourse is the trade off: your family for Thanksgiving this year, your SO’s next year; or your family for Thanksgiving, his for Christmas. Brave souls whose families live close together may try to cram two (or more) celebrations into one day. Don’t do it. It’s exhausting, and chances are both families will end up feeling shorted. Plus, can you really eat tomato aspic three times in one day?

There is family drama at said visits.

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Whether you don’t like his family, he doesn’t like your family, your family doesn’t like him, or nobody really likes anybody, part of the strain of the holiday season comes from forced family bonding time. If you are required to be in close proximity with anyone you don’t get along with (including your SO’s family), this is the time to pull up your big girl panties, pour yourself a second cup of eggnog, and fake it till you make it.

Just one of you is doing all the work.

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Holidays don’t just happen on their own. It takes time and energy to clean the house, put up 40 strings of lights, wait in line for the new must-have toy, wrap presents from you and from Santa, decorate trees, bake cookies, address cards, cook a 20-pound turkey, and knit a hat for your SO’s sister. As the holidays gear up, discuss who gets what job. If possible, eliminate unnecessary responsibilities and obligations.

You’re stressed about money.

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The money monster loves to rear its ugly head around holiday time. You might argue over how much disposable income you have (or don’t have) to spend, or how to allot end-of-year bonuses. Perhaps one of you came from a family that gave handmade gifts and the other is accustomed to avalanches of expensive presents. Talk about your holiday budget _before_ the holidays arrive, so you have time to save and/or plan. And no matter how tempting, if you have a shared income, don’t make big purchases without the knowledge of your mate.

You have conflicting schedules.

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In a perfect world (or Europe), we’d all get the time between Thanksgiving and New Years Day off work. Unfortunately, for most of us, that’s not the case. Discuss work schedules and social commitments ahead of time so there are no surprises when you or your partner can’t make it to a holiday party or gathering.

You’re indulging a little too much.

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Holiday festivities tend to revolve around overindulgence, of both the solid and liquid sort, which can lead to less-than-sober squabbles or tension over derailed fitness goals. If you’re an emotional drunk, take it easy during major events, when emotions are probably running high anyway. If you or your SO are worried about weight gain, set aside time to exercise together. (Endorphins help regulate emotions!) And remember guilt and deprivation are what January was invented for.

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