Ellyn Bader


The holidays all sound good in theory – the gifts you’ll receive, the catching up you’ll do with family, a soft wintry morning snowfall depending on where you land. But sometimes the anticipation and goodness are quickly derailed as you’re even just traveling to get there, be it by a flight delay, a screaming kid, or just a conversation gone wrong.  (Photo credit: Huff Post Travel & Leisure Online Community Members)

Remember these three words: Attitude, Latitude, and Gratitude.



Attitude: Know how you’re going.

Do a quick self-check before you start off – What is your attitude? Are you open-minded about the experiences you’re about to have? Or are you already feeling yourself tense up, with a mindset of ‘let’s just get through this’?  If something went wrong last year, did you learn from it or are you still holding a grudge?

If you are traveling with extended family, remember how rarely they might see you or your partner, and how precious the time together is for them. You’ll earn lots of “family points” if they see you helping to create a good experience!

The higher your expectations are for things to go the ‘right’ way (or ‘your’ way), the more disappointed you’ll be when they don’t. And most certainly, they will not. Most of us can trust we won’t have the same experience Steve Martin did in the 1987 movie great “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” But it still doesn’t hurt to keep a sense of humor about you. (If you get a chance to view that movie trailer, it might just set you in the right mood.)

Latitude: Know where you’re going.

Think about where you’re going and what you’ll need. A good degree of planning can help you to be ready for flight or road delays, and for the ensuing chaos. Will you need snacks and distractions for your kids or yourself? What happens if you need to find a different way to get there?

Assuming that you will encounter some glitch, anticipating issues and planning for them is the best way to handle most things that come your way with the least amount of stress. Even looking ahead to the weather forecast can help you plan for changes, or create activities for everyone accordingly.

Gratitude: Know why you’re going.

There’s no other way to say it. Remember what you’re thankful for. Remember why holiday travel was invented – so that we could eat great food with family, catch up with loved ones, and show off how children have grown. To help, express what you’re grateful to each person for, directly to them. It’s a great conversation starter, and doesn’t have to be obvious, for example, “I love getting to learn new holiday traditions from you.”

When you can get past the hassles of travel and logistics, you might realize that John Candy’s great line in the movie above is true… “Love is not a big enough word.”   And if all else fails, sing. Every great holiday travel movie has people singing in a car together, and they usually look pretty happy doing it.

Attitude, Latitude and Gratitude. Write these three words down on a piece of paper, and put it in your wallet or purse, your car, or just sew it into your favorite sweater. Make sure the words are visible to give you a boost at the moment you may need it.

Finally, guess what?  The concepts behind these three words are exactly what you can apply to your relationship throughout the whole year! Know how you want to go with your partner. Know where you want to go. And know why you want to go. Rely on those shared convictions to guide you over the journey for the long haul.

We’ll be back to you with more insights about the holidays.

Warm regards,

Ellyn, Pete and Shelley

P.S. Make a holiday travel stop to our Facebook page, and post your best memory about holiday travel!

Related Articles from the Couples Institute:

Rapid Fire Tips for Holiday Division of Labor

Does Summer Vacation Planning Raise Problems for You?


Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute and creator of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. Ellyn is widely recognized as an expert in couples therapy, and since 2006 she has led innovative online training programs for therapists. Professionals from around the world connect with her through internet, conference calls and blog discussions to study couples therapy.

Ellyn’s first book, "In Quest of the Mythical Mate," won the Clark Vincent Award by the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists for its outstanding contribution to the field of marital therapy and is now in its 18th printing. She has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including "The Today Show" and "CBS Early Morning News," and she has been quoted in many publications including "The New York Times," "The Oprah Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan."

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A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.