Sophie Watson, 29.11.2016

Love for Christmas: how to navigate the festive season as a new couple

When you have an established pattern for celebrating an occasion like Christmas, it can feel jarring to change any of the little familiar details that make the day feel special. But what happens when you start dating someone whose festive routines are different to your to own? How can you both have a happy Christmas?

Falling in love for Christmas often involves compromise – so we conducted a survey and looked at expert advice to discover the best ways to navigate Christmas as a new couple.

Aussies want love for Christmas - but men are more romantic

People wish for many things at Christmas, and a recent EliteSingles survey has uncovered the one thing bound to be on the wishlists of many Aussie singles: love. The survey asked 200 Australians to name the day of the year when they least wanted to be single, and it seems men and women have different opinions: 52% of men don't want to be alone at christmas wheras only 32% of women find a lonesome yultide upsetting (40% think being single on Valentine's Day is worse).

Aussie men are also more inclined to Christmas romance overall. The singles in the survey were asked who they most wanted to spend time with at Christmas and, while the majority of Aussie women (38%) chose a small family gathering as their preferred way to celebrate, men were more smitten with the idea of celebrating as a couple; 39% want to spend Christmas with a romantic partner.  In comparison, 28% of men pick family and 24% of women prefer romance.    

Furthermore, there wasn't much difference between the sexes when it came to seeing Christmas Day as the perfect occasion for a new partner to meet one’s family; 52% of men agreed that everyone being in one place makes it easier. Women were also divided: 51% agreed with the men while the other 49% believe that there’s too much pressure at Christmas.

So, men and women seem to have a few differences in opinion when it comes to romance during the silly season, a point worth bearing in mind if you want to create feelings of love for Christmas. Happily, it's easy to be thoughtful: if you're dating a man, make sure to take a little time out from the family fun to let him know that he is special to you, while, if you're dating a woman, be aware that she will have a lot to juggle, so see what you can do to help her take it easy.

Australia's most beloved Christmas traditions

Not all festive friction has to involve romance. Indeed, some conflicts can be over simple little details – you might, for instance, have different ideas about how the house should look, what you should eat, and who you should see.  

This is a balancing act for any couple but especially for those newly in love; for Christmas routines are deeply personal and, if you’ve never seen your partner’s before it can be hard to know what they deem important. Happily, our survey gave us some insights into the fun Christmas traditions Aussies hold dear and would find hard to give up, even for love.   

It would seem that two of Australia's most beloved traditions are is having a Christmas tree ahead of having a roast dinner and exchanging presents: 21% of Aussies pick decorating a tree as the one fun festive thing they’d find hardest to give up, while 14% opt for the roast. The third-hardest thing to change is the Christmas present schedule – 13% would hate to change the time of day they open gifts. 

Navigating different beliefs

It can be especially tricky to please everyone when two people’s festive routines are in direct opposition with each other (e.g. wanting to eat turkey with the in-laws vs. wanting to go camping). 

Sometimes this can have its roots in cultural differences, for instance when one partner is Christian and wants to celebrate Christmas, and the other is Jewish, or Muslim, and feels strongly that this is not a part of their culture. So what can a couple do when this the case?  It may sound like a slightly hand-waving answer, but the solution is that there really is no one right answer: couples instead have to talk through their opposing views respectfully and find a solution that works for them both.

For some couples this will involve fully celebrating one partner’s Christmas on the 25th and also fully observing the other partner’s important days when they come around. Others might choose to emphasise the religious aspect of one partner’s celebrations in particular, while still others might opt to mix and match the secular aspects both parties enjoy. There are even couples who choose to both keep to their own traditions and to celebrate their days separately (In fact, 10% of people in the survey chose this as their preferred conflict solution!) 

The most important thing is to talk about it and don’t just assume you know what your partner wants to do. Instead, listen to what they want, let them know your preferences, and work together to find a mutually satisfying solution. As marriage therapist Tom Kersting told CNN ‘’neither party should 'win.' What couples must avoid is trying to force their partner to their way of thinking. It never works and never will. Acceptance is the key term here - accepting that your partner's family and traditions are different than yours, and that this is OK."1

Why traditions are important

So, with all these sources of Christmas conflict, is there any way to keep the peace? The first step is to understand why we hold traditions so dear. Michele L. Brennan Psy.D. sums it up nicely in Psychology Today when she says ‘’holiday traditions are an important part to building a strong bond between family, and our community. They give us a sense of belonging and a way to express what is important to us.’’In other words, whether a tradition is as meaningful as religion or as small as preferring white to multi-coloured fairy lights, it’s can still carry sentiment behind it that symbiotically anchors our traditions to our sense of identity.

Once we understand that tradition and identity can be tied up in one another it can easier to understand why people can be so rigid when it comes to changing their festive routines – and why, if you want love for Christmas, finding a way to compromise is so important.

Solving Christmas conflicts

Happily, this is a lesson understood by our Australian members. The survey asked respondents what they would do if faced with a disagreement over how to spend the holidays. As it turns out, Aussies are all about compromise – 39% would choose to compromise on the day itself, with each person picking a few must-have traditions (and letting go of the rest). A further 26% would choose to take it in turns each year to pick the plans, while 20% want to divvy the silly season up, with one half of the couple making plans for Christmas Day and the other planning Boxing Day or New Year’s Eve.

Paul Bisacre, an expert on remarriage, explains to SheKnows that perfecting this compromise means being prepared to be less rigid about certain aspects of the day: "Concentrate on how the holiday celebration will end up, and let the little things slide. If we don't open gifts after a Christmas Eve dinner taking place on December 24, it will be all right. If December 26 is when everyone can get together, the world will not fall apart. Pay attention to creating a good memory, and not the perfect memory."3

For, in the end it’s these good, shared memories that matter.  So, if you’re newly in love for Christmas, know that the name of the game is compromise. This might require changing up some of your routines and adopting new ones, and yes, this may mean that your identity as a single person might be changing – but it also means your new identity as one part of a loved up couple is just waiting to be written.

EliteSingles editorial November 2016

If you have any questions about finding love for Christmas, let us know in the comments below or email us at editorial@elitesingles.com.au

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