Presence Before Presents: Staying Close During the Holidays

by Kerry Hart, LLMFT

This time of year—and all of the festivities that come with it—can leave us stretched a little thin as we celebrate with friends, family, co-workers and our communities. Prioritizing time to connect with your partner ensures that your romantic relationship doesn’t get lost in the holiday shuffle, and oh, what a season for love! Heed the tips below to strengthen your bond and forge a deeper connection with your partner amid the holiday magic.

Show Interests in Their Interests

Take time to get to know your partners hobbies, and you may be surprised to find you also like these same things! What a remarkable moment to find shared interest with someone you have pledged to love in sickness and in health. Alternatively, you may have to do what we like to call “Taking one for the team.” Perhaps you won’t enjoy your significant other’s favorite past time as much as they do, but you will get to know your partner better and seeing them light up with excitement as they share their passions with you will be enough to make your heart soar.

Make a Mixed Tape

Sharing songs that are meaningful to one or both of you will bring you closer, as you can enjoy the music when you are together or apart. Make a playlist for each other in iTunes or Spotify. Listening to the mix on your daily commute will make you all the more excited to come home to your partner later on.

Plan a Day Trip

Take the opportunity to spend the entire day with your partner like you might have before life took over and responsibilities got in the way. Each of you gets to pick a spot that might be meaningful to you and plan a day trip. Spend a day perusing your city’s museums, stroll through different neighborhoods and take in the sparkling Christmas lights or visit the lakeshore to enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan in the snowfall. Whatever you do, make it a holiday tradition that forces you to get away from it all and revel in each other’s company.

Learn Your Love Languages

Find an online quiz or pick up a copy of the famed The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and take the opportunity to figure each other out. Learning what makes your partner tick will help strengthen your relationship as you effectively express your love for each other. Buying your loved one gifts may not mean as much to them if all they want is for you to do the laundry.

Connect Physically

Studies show that partners who take the time to connect physically increase their emotional intimacy. Don’t worry if it has been awhile; emotionally focused psychology expert Sue Johnson recommends a sexual fast from time to time to make the heart grow fonder. The deeper your emotional connection, the better your physical connection will be as you will be more in tune with your partner’s needs. There is no shame in requesting a refresher course either, so feel free to ask your partner what they might prefer this time around and get to know them all over again.

Drop Them a Line

When you are apart during the day, tending to your kids or focusing on work, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and bustle. Take a time out and send your partner a little love text, let them know you are thinking of them; your partner will appreciate the pleasant surprise that breaks up their own day, be it monotonous or completely chaotic. If you like to kick it old school, send them a letter or a card via snail mail. Have it sent to the house or their place of work as a surprise. This will keep your partner mindful of your love while you are physically separated during the day.

Kerry Hart, LLMFT is a couple and family therapist in private practice. She is located in both East Lansing and Grand Rapids.

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