Managing Expectations This Christmas

Laura Mears
Laura Mears
Couple looking grumpy on the sofa, with a Christmas tree in the background.

You are sitting around the Christmas dinner table with the family. Yet again there is a disagreement about when you should pull the crackers. The kids have already started pulling theirs when Great Aunt Jemima pipes up “No, we wait and then pull all our crackers at the same time, after the main course; we don’t want the food to go cold!” And just like that, the atmosphere frosts. You are back wondering, why does the reality of Christmas not live up to the expectations?

Maybe this is not your experience, but it’s very likely there will be at least one moment each Christmas when your reality is not excitement and joy but disappointment and frustration.

Navigating Christmas expectations as a couple

As couples’ coaches, we suggest that you think in advance about when those situations are likely to occur and spend time chatting together about them. We use a GiANT tool called “Know Yourself to Lead Yourself” to help us in our discussions.

The "Know Yourself to Lead Yourself" tool helps us to understand our tendencies - use it to help you manage your Christmas expectations.
Learn more about the “Know Yourself to Lead Yourself” tool here.

All of us, whatever our voice order, have hard-wired tendencies which come to the fore when we are stressed or tired. This can lead us to certain thought or behaviour patterns that are not helpful and can lead to unforeseen consequences and a reality different to the one we expected.

So, have a discussion together as a couple – where are the stress points for each of you at this time of year? What might you typically disagree about? Maybe it’s about the details in the run-up to Christmas (different opinions about decorations, presents, where to spend your time)? Perhaps Christmas Day itself is a challenge, as you try to keep everyone happy? Or is there a mismatch of expectations due to your very different childhood Christmases?

Last Christmas

Last Christmas was a wash-out for many; we only had a few hours when we could be together as family. However, our son was intentional in his approach to the Day. He asked us all individually for one thing we wanted to do, then devised a programme that included everyone’s request. So we all watched the Queen’s Speech, some played piano duets, others went for a walk, favourite board games were played, and so on. 

Looking back, it was one of our best Christmases ever. We had been intentional, communicated in advance and worked together to accommodate each other’s desires and needs. We encourage you to try this too and see if you can change your unhealthy patterns into healthy ones. You might have your best Christmas ever!

(Oh and by the way: all those wonderful Christmases of your youth? They had stressful moments too. You just didn’t notice!!)

Hugh & Phil (Team DP)

As qualified GiANT guides, we work mainly with couples helping them to discover more about their own and their partner’s personality. We use the GiANT tools to talk about potential areas of conflict and how to communicate better. Our aim is to provide a Date Night experience, which is relaxing, fun, and informative. For more information, please email [email protected].


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