How to make Christmas work as a couple

By Caroline Butterwick,
updated on Dec 3, 2023

How to make Christmas work as a couple

From respecting conflicting traditions to figuring out how to navigate finances, follow our guide to making this Christmas a conflict-free zone

Whether it’s deciding whose family you spend Christmas with, debates about long-held traditions (are we rushing downstairs in our pyjamas, or do we have to wait?), or different expectations about how much money to spend, navigating Christmas when you have a partner can bring lots of questions and complications.

Celebrating special occasions together can be wonderful, so figuring out how to navigate it with your other half is important, not only so you have a lovely holiday season, but also to help your relationship.

With the help of counsellor Laura Wood, we’ve got some tips to help make Christmas work for those in a relationship.

Understand your Christmas traditions

Christmas conjures different things for each of us. For some, it’ll be curling up eating mince pies and watching The Snowman on Christmas Eve. Maybe it’s about a big family gathering with lots of food, or perhaps it’s a quieter day, with a gentle start and then moving on to open presents around the tree.

“Take the time to reflect and review your own traditions,” advises Laura. “Perhaps they bring up memories or emotions that you hope to experience, while their absence would lead to discomfort.

“By establishing the true importance of your own traditions, you’ll be more open and empathic to why your partner’s are important to them. Creating the space for both of your traditions to be heard and valued is key.”

Have honest conversations

Communication is such an important part of any relationship. Laura recommends building the space for the conversation about what you want to do this Christmas before going straight in.

“Explain to your partner that discussing Christmas is important to you, and that you’d like to have a conversation with them about it soon,” Laura adds. “This gives your partner the opportunity to also consider their own wants and needs, and creates a conversation that is mutual and balanced. This reduces the chance of defensiveness, and the conversation is likely to be more progressive and constructive.”


Create a budget together

Money can be a sensitive topic. And, of course, Christmas often comes with expenses, whether it’s meals out, festive drinks, decorations, or present buying.

Financial decisions can be motivated by hopes or fears,” Laura says. “Respectfully listen to each other’s motivations, as you may find some common ground. If your partner’s budget is making you feel uncomfortable, it’s important to reflect and explore that too. If you have greater clarity, you’ll be able to communicate clearly with your partner. This opens a discussion rather than the conversation being shut down.”

Deciding on a budget between you is a good way of making sure you are both comfortable and that neither of you will be frustrated by sudden extra costs. “Crucially, once a financial budget has been decided, respect each other by sticking to it,” adds Laura.

Sometimes, something simple like alternating whose family or friends you spend Christmas with can work well. “But fitting into a pre-made combination, such as alternating years, might not work for you as, like all couples, you are unique,” says Laura.

“It’s important to find a combination that works for you both – if you want to see your family at all! You’ll likely hear external expectations that you feel pressured to meet. Notice that pressure, and where it’s coming from. Take the time to hear what both of your needs are in relation to socialising with family. This will make it easier to create a combination that works best for both of you.”

Create your own traditions together

“Christmas comes with lots of external expectations, but try to focus on one another,” Laura says. “Create the time for you and your partner to decide how you can create a valuable Christmas together. You’re likely aware of the things that you both value in everyday life, and it’s possible that Christmas will simply be an extension of this. Be proactive and mindful by prioritising the time to share and listen.”

You can create new traditions that are special to you as a couple. Would you like to make the time to visit a festive market together, or spend the afternoon decorating the tree while listening to Christmas songs? Maybe you actually love the idea of having Christmas Day for just the two of you, or going for a frosty walk through the quiet streets. You can make Christmas a time that’s really magical and meaningful, and brings you closer.

Join 100,000+ subscribers

Stay in the loop with everything Happiful

We care about your data, read our privacy policy
Our Vision

We’re on a mission to create a healthier, happier, more sustainable society.