You did it! You survived Thanksgiving! Give yourself a pat on the back before gearing up for the next family gathering.

Not to put a damper on the festivities, but there’s a fact I really wanted to address this week – the fact that divorce filings spike in January. Why is that?

Well, preexisting problems are often exacerbated by the tumultuous holiday season. Holidays take our focus away from our primary partner, and leave us spread thin across the rest of our family. The usual stress cocktail of kids, work, and bills now gets mixed with extended family, gift shopping, cooking, event planning, and playing hostess. We have so many social obligations that we may let our partnerships fall by the wayside.

At the same time, we’re seeing everyone else’s vacation photos, new babies, new outfits, table settings, and gifts. Comparison is inevitable. We may feel less than great about ourselves, we may begin doubting, and we have less time and attention to spend on repairing these insecurities.

If the holidays don’t live up to expectations, that may be the final nail in the coffin for some couples. They may give up and decide they don’t want to go through another holiday cycle in this relationship. They don’t want to deal with putting a smile on their face when they don’t want to. Additionally, some couples may have already decided they’re breaking up, but are staying together through the holidays because they don’t want to “rock the boat” or disrupt family dynamics.

But enough of that melancholy – let’s get some merriment back. Let’s talk solutions. Let’s talk relationship recharge! ⚡️ Here are my top holiday hints for maintaining intimacy between romantic partners:

🎁 Holiday Hint #1: Each week during the holidays, plan for a half hour of time for just the two of you to focus on things other than work, family, chores, or anything except the pleasure of being alone together. Take a walk together in the crisp autumn air. Pop a bottle of champagne the night after Thanksgiving to celebrate surviving the frenzy! Get a massage together, cozy up in a hot tub, play a game of pool at your favorite bar, whatever – there’s no one right solution, all that matters is spending time in a way that nourishes your unique relationship. Scheduling this time and following through with it is key. Let this re-center you and allow you to be an oasis for one another, not an additional stressor.

🦃 Holiday Hint #2: Set yourselves up as heroes! Have a discreet signal or “code word” you can say at family gatherings to let your spouse know you need an exit strategy or rescue. Allow them to swoop in and save you, or vice versa. Feeling supported in stressful situations – whether it’s around your own family or your partner’s – is crucial. Remember that you are on the same team, and stay on the same page.

🎄 Holiday Hint #3: Always find ways to laugh together. That overcooked turkey or spilled cranberry sauce isn’t the end of the world. Levity and humor always keep love alive and flames alight. Dedicate a night just to watching holiday comedies and sipping hot cocoa. (No one will judge you for your movie choices, lol. So whether it’s Elf, Bad Santa, or Krampus – just indulge together and be glad for someone to share your escape with!)

☃️ Holiday Hint  #4:  Use your words, touch, and actions to appreciate the effort that your partner puts in – even if it’s not quite as much or how you want – and notice the sacrifices they might be making this season.  While they are no more perfect than you, recognizing time, trouble, and effort this year (rather than failings and disappointments) will help inspire them to try even harder next year. Plus, don’t forget that they aren’t getting everything they want (because nothing and no one is ever perfect). If you focus on complaints, so will they. But if you focus on positives, it’s more likely they will respond in kind. 

Lastly and most importantly, don’t forget that you can easily buy a tasty turkey or even a ham to serve, but you can’t buy love. And that’s the basis for your romantic relationship (even if it now includes juggling a house, kids, and other stuff). So if you value your partnership, make sure it’s the star atop your tree of priorities. If you focus on authentic, intentional love – including hugs, kisses, compliments, caresses, and intimacy – you’ll create a holiday season that leaves both of you eager to celebrate again together next year.