Pinings — Advice by Sherry Hughes

Annual tips for avoiding the holiday fight

By Sherry Hughes

Itís that time of year again.

Itís time to start fighting about the holidays with your significant other. There are oh so many different issues to fight about. Donít worry, youíll surely get them all in if you try hard. Be sure to be as snide and sarcastic as possible and, by all means, slam every family member who comes to mind, zoning in on particularly weak and vulnerable areas.

Does your life sound like that? Year after year? Well, if the definition of insanity (at least one of them) is doing something the same way over and over expecting different results, itís time to make some changes in your insane behavior.

I donít need to tell you that the holiday season is a stressful time. And itís stressful because we have so many expectations about what itís going to be like. Itís supposed to be a time where we have a good time with friends and family; we exchange gifts; we go out for cocktails to relax; we get involved in holiday projects, maybe baking or making some gifts; we travel; we go skiing or skatingóand on and on the list goes. Itís roughly a five week period between Thanksgiving and New Yearís. Thatís a lot of stuff to cram into that amount of time.

Whatís more of a stressor than the list of things we hope to do is that we plan to enjoy it all with tons of holiday spirit and boundless energy. To me, this is where things start to hit the fan. We turn on those we love, jumping in with both feet, and fight like the dickens to make those holidays happy, damnit.

Of course, most of us have to work during the holidays, so itís not like we get month off to make holiday magic happen. And there typically isnít a whole lot more money floating around (thereís no holiday fairy dropping off checks at the beginning of December in my life, anyway) so we are spending more money on gifts and travel and social activities, but there isnít necessarily anymore money coming in.

The bottom line is that there is a lot to do, not much time to do it, and most of it will cost some money.

Here are some suggestions that have helped me avoid the petty fights with those I love around this, my favorite time of the year.

1. Always remember that itís more important to be kind than it is to be right.

2. Itís never a good idea to criticize your partnerís family members or close friends. You can criticize yours all you want, and you donít need to embrace everyone related to your partner, but itís not nice to get bitchy about Aunt Ednaís penny-pinching ways or friend Philís drinking habits.

3. Draw up a budget for spending and stick to it as closely as possible. Include how much you might spend on gifts, travel, and entertaining. It might sound stringent and well, like itís not much fun, but it may just keep you sane during the holidays.

4. Donít stop doing the things you normally do that help you feel good: eating healthy food, getting enough sleep, exercise, etc. Whatever it is you do, meditating, yoga, going to the gym, sleeping in on Saturdays, keep doing it.

These are all suggestions that youíve probably heard before. But for some reason, good sense can go out the window during the holidays. We party too much, sleep too little and overspend like crazy Ė and sadly, those become the things we remember, rather than the joy we experience.

One more suggestion: If you and your significant other canít ever seem to decide where to spend the holidays, if you always seem to end up arguing about it, year after year, consider doing things differently. Sit down and brainstorm for new ideas that might make things different this year. Maybe you skip the travel on Thanksgiving and Christmas and you take an extended vacation to visit everyone in January. Maybe the whole family rents a cabin somewhere and everyone meets there instead of at one personís home. Perhaps rather than hosting the whole family on the first night of Hanukkah, you all go out to dinner somewhere and exchange gifts.

One year I skipped Thanksgiving with my family in order to deliver meals to shut ins. It was a truly rewarding experience. I went to visit everyone late in the day, just in time for pie.

Try to remember that the holidays are supposed to be fun and relaxing Ė but sometimes it takes a lot of planning to make them turn out that way.

Sherry Hughes welcomes letters from readers. Reach her at

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