Taking the stress out of holiday preparation

Man rolling huge concrete ball up hill.

Sisyphus from Greek mythology was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, getting close to the top only to see it rolling down again.

Does your holiday preparation feel like a similar fate?

For example, let's say you are hosting the happy event.

Let's assume the lion’s share of preparation has always fallen on you. Perhaps you have functioned like Sisyphus: every year you do most of the work, hoping your partner will step up and initiate more so you can enjoy the gathering. When that doesn’t happen, you feel depleted and angry. Like Sisyphus, you have been condemned to repeat the process. (I further assume it is the wife who does most of the work – an unfortunate but statistically accurate assumption).

But not this year!

You will do something Sisyphus could not do.

Get Help!

Do this for your holiday preparation and you can save a lot of expensive couples therapy.

It’s simple and easy. And perhaps enjoyable.

Here’s the new dialogue you will have with your partner.

You: Honey, I really want a better holiday gathering this year. If it goes better for me it will ultimately be better for everyone. Are you interested in hearing my idea?

Partner: OK. (Surely your partner is more sensitive than a doorknob.)

You: Great. This is all we need to do. Tonight, let’s sit down and create a list of the things that need to be done before the big day and during the big day.

After constructing this list, we’ll make three columns: Yours, Mine, Ours.

Then each of us puts a check in our column for something on the list that can be our responsibility along with the date the task can be done.

Some things on the list might include:

  • Inviting the guests
  • Planning a menu
  • Creating a shopping list
  • Doing the shopping
  • Coordinating with family members who is bringing what and when they will arrive
  • Cleaning clutter in living room, dining room etc.
  • Setting the table
  • Doing the cooking
  • Serving dessert and coffee
  • Washing dishes and cleaning up afterwards
  • And other relevant tasks

Then we post our list on the kitchen wall.

And we agree to do our part.

So, do something Sisyphus could not do: get help. Enjoy the process of collectively moving boulders.

Then during the big day, brag (in front of your partner) how much you enjoyed working as a team to make this holiday the best ever.

This is just one blog in our current holiday series. Make sure you know how to handle those dreaded holiday conversations, get a better way to manage your expectations at the holidays here, and find a great ‘brain hack' to combat several sources of holiday stress here.

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Peter Pearson, Ph.D.

Dr. Peter Pearson, Ph.D., Relationship & Teamwork Expert for Entrepreneur Couples Pete has been training and coaching couples to become a strong team since 1984 when he co-founded The Couples Institute with his psychologist wife, Dr. Ellyn Bader. Their popular book, “Tell Me No Lies,” is about being honest with compassion and growing stronger as a couple. Pete has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including “The Today Show,” "Good Morning America,” and "CBS Early Morning News,” and quoted in major publications including “The New York Times,” “Oprah Magazine,” “Redbook,” “Cosmopolitan,” and “Business Insider.”

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