It's the most wonderful time of the year, right? Not always. If you're in a relationship, you know that the stress of the holidays can really take a toll on your love life. Between all of the errands, parties, and the massive amounts of expectation put on the holiday, it doesn't always mean a good time. Everyone deals with the stress differently, and it isn't always in a healthy manner. You might wonder why your signficant other turns into a different person at holiday gatherings, or just over the whole season, and you're not alone.
There are myriad reasons why your normally sweet spouse turns into a raging jacka*s, or why your gregarious hubby might seem introverted amongst his family, and it can be royally confusing when it happens. However, if the behavior is hurting you or your loved ones, it's imperative you let them know, according to Joe Navarro M.A. on Psychology Today, because if you do not, that pattern will continue.
To find out more, I contacted Brian Jory, Ph.D., Director of Family Studies at Berry College, near Atlanta, and author of Cupid on Trial – What We Learn About Love When Loving Gets Tough, and he has a lot to say about our relationships during the holidays.
1. Sometimes, It's Just All Too Much
Dr. Jory says that when you are trying to manage it all, you don't always show your best selves. "Typically, couples also have to manage 'the extended family' over the holidays," he points out. "This can mean dealing with the bossy, arrogant father-in-law or the alcoholic stepsister that pukes on your new Persian rug. Sometimes the joy (and stress) of the holidays is in the anticipation of new and out-of-the-ordinary things happening, but most everyone breathes a sigh of relief when they are over as well."
2. There Might Be Someone Unexpected At The Gathering
I know that there are some family members I simply cannot deal with, and if they show up, my whole attitude changes. I actually feel badly for my husband, because he usually feels the brunt of that stress. And it's totally not his fault. This isn't uncommon, notes Dr Jory. "Holidays are, by their very nature, stressful," he says. "That’s the idea: Get out of your mundane, everyday routine life and celebrate! Of course, celebrations take planning and effort, and there are often surprises by who shows up, whether they’re on good behavior, and whether there’s good cheer or bad blood." That bad blood can really throw a wrench into a good time.
3. Your S.O. May Be In Their Own Head
"The holidays are also a time of reflection and change. We evaluate our lives and consider ways to improve them and this almost always involves reflecting on our closest relationships," says Dr. Jory. "Dwelling on unfulfilled dreams, unexpected character traits, and the realization that your partner isn’t a prince or princess can be a challenge for couples. What we fail to realize is that our partner may carry the same disappointments that we carry."
4. It Might Be Something Physical
Terri Orbuch, a relationship expert and sociology professor at Oakland University, told PopScience, “If you feel anxious, rushed, or pressured, your body changes — your heart rate rises and some people say they feel nauseous," which can be a real wet blanket on a party. Even if it isn't long-lasting, that sense of apprehension and nerves can change the way a person behaves.
5. It Might Be Because Of Their Change In Status
One word: regression. Joseph Cilona, a licensed clinical psychologist and personal coach based in New York, told The Huffington Post that taking your partner back to their family's house for the holidays might have unexpected results because they grew up there, and now that they're no longer a child, it's a bit like Limbo. “Many find themselves regressing to behaviors, feelings and reactions that they’ve outgrown in their adult lives and relationships but were commonplace during their upbringing," he said.
I might, might totally live in my sweats and eat cookie dough from the freezer during the whole of the holidays at my aunt's house. It's possible. I'm not proud.
Cilona continued, “Although these kinds of responses can occur at any time of the year, the holidays often increase both the likelihood and intensity of these types of emotions and reactions.”
6. It Might Be Your Expectations
They might not be all that different, but you might not be managing your expectations as well as you thought. Dr. Jory tells Romper that "When we love someone, truly and deeply, we focus on the best in them. We remember that love means taking the good with the bad and that we have our own good and bad qualities. Nobody is perfect — so we have to fight off the idea that we deserve the perfect person in our life."
7. They Don't Feel As Secure
Barbara Greenberg Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today that there is a simple reason why your S.O. turns into a different person at holiday gatherings — because they're not as comfortable with those people as they are with you. That can cause them to be nicer, or more introverted, or even more extroverted than they normally would be with you.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.