Even though the holiday season can be a magical time of the year, it also has the reputation of being a stressful one. Couples have to fulfill social obligations, shop for presents, and in many occupations there can be increased demands at work. Pile all of that on top of the work of a relationship and it’s no wonder we get into a few scuffles with our significant others.

During the holidays there are three common causes of arguments: money, family commitments, and unfulfilled expectations. But don’t worry, fights are not inevitable! Here are some tips to help you navigate the choppy waters of the holiday season:

1. Money

There’s a lot to spend on this time of the year: gifts, parties, trips, outings…
According to the C.E.O of marriage.com, couples can double their family spending during the holidays. Deciding on what to spend on can put a strain on relationships.

Maybe you don’t agree on who you should buy presents for, maybe one of you feels like hosting a party, and the other considers it a waste of energy and money.

Linda Metcalf, PhD, former president of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, suggests couples nip these problems in the bud. Before the craziness begins, sit down and create a reasonable budget with your partner.

Talk about priorities. Is it more important to spend of travel to visit the in-laws or give a gift to everyone in the office? Should you go see The Nutcracker again or host a dinner party? And of course, creating a budget means you have something solid that you can refer back to, to remind yourselves what you agreed upon.

2. Family Commitments

Couples often find themselves in two positions during the holidays. Either they’re expected to host family members, or visit them. Both of these situations can be wonderful and taxing at the same time. If you find yourselves disagreeing over which side of the family to visit, consider switching between years, or visiting one family during Thanksgiving break instead.

If you’re hosting relatives and have children, consider letting the visitors babysit one evening. They can enjoy spending quality time with the kids and you’ll get to take breather and enjoy your partner. Go out on a date and come back home revitalized.

2. Unfulfilled Expectations

You might not even be aware that you are expecting certain things from your partner during the holidays. Maybe you are imagining that there will be a thoughtful gift, extra help organizing the busy schedule, or a charming attitude with the in-laws. There is a lot of room for being let down precisely because of these high expectations.

Initiate a discussion about how you can help each other to get the most out of the holidays. Don’t give orders but instead ask questions such as: What kind of gifts should we give each other this year? How can we make traveling easier on both of us? What tradition do you value the most? Use this as an opportunity to learn more about each other.

The Take Away

The holidays are an important time for couples. If you’ve been having problems in your relationship they may resurface during this time of year due to external stressors. Don’t expect the holidays to make these problems go away but rather remember to note what issues need attention to and come back to these once things have settled down.

Holidays may also be the perfect time to revitalize your relationship. There are opportunities to be extra thoughtful and show your appreciation with a handmade gift or to spend more time together outside of your regular routines. This time might even help you remember how you got together in the first place!