The holidays are all about love and family, but conflicts tend to arise when families and friends gather together in tight quarters. All the togetherness can also take a toll on our romantic relationships. While many movies have poked fun at this dynamic, the reality is often not so funny. Here are some tips for helping your relationship survive the holiday season.

New and Vulnerable

Are you in the early months, or even weeks, of a new romance? If so, your relationship will be especially vulnerable to scrutiny and stress. You may decide to spend the holidays apart this year, since it’s so early, and celebrate together either before or afterward.  If you do decide to visit family or friends together, give your partner a rundown of what to expect so there are no surprises. Similarly, email or call ahead and let loved ones know some key details about your relationship to avoid awkwardness (for example, if grandma knows your relationship is new, she may refrain from asking about a wedding date, or whether you plan to have children. No guarantees, of course, depending on your grandma!) 

Old and Struggling

Maybe your relationship is well-established but it’s far from stable. Every relationship goes through tough times, and the holidays can add to tensions. If things are rocky, consider confiding in a few family members you trust a head of time, and asking for their support. Take a walk with your sister, or go out for tea with a favorite aunt and talk about what’s going on. These connections will help you feel less alone, and fortify you to get through the holidays and out the other side. Of course, you should consult your partner before sharing intimate or sensitive details, but there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you are not perfect. Then, try to put your problems on hold and enjoy the festivities as much as you can. 

Casual Dating

If you are having fun with someone and are not committed to each other, you may want to skip bringing him or her to family gatherings; you should also be understanding if he or she doesn’t include you in holiday plans. It’s also a good idea to lower your expectations for gift-giving. Keep it light and casual, like your relationship! (Note: if you find this difficult, you may want to examine your expectations for your relationship, and whether it’s time to take it more seriously or to move on.)

Triggers and Pitfalls

Have a plan in place for any triggers or pitfalls you might encounter. This will help you prepare for uncomfortable situations that could arise. For example, if you and your partner are newly separated, come up with a light but definitive reply when well-meaning friends ask about him or her. Being mentally prepared can help you calmly navigate the sometimes treacherous holiday waters!

Your Confidence Matters

At the end of the day, how you feel about your relationship is what really matters. If you aren’t confident about your partner and your bond, you should probably ask yourself why. What is it that is making you feel uncertain? Once you figure it out, address the issue. You (and your relationship) will be stronger as a result!

The holidays can be a stressful time but being prepared for hiccups can help you stay focused on what’s important: gratitude and the people you love.