Whether you dated your now-fiancé for several months or a full decade, spending your first holiday season as an engaged couple changes things entirely. "Being engaged creates an entirely new space for some couples to navigate—it's no longer two individuals making time for each other, but rather how best to make the unit work for everyone else," says relationship coach Fila Antwine. "There is an obligation for each one in the relationship to show respect for their partner's family customs as well as stay connected to their own, and that's not always easy."
Like any aspect of your relationship, surviving the holiday season requires a great deal of compromise and understanding. Here, expert tips for navigating your first holiday season as an engaged couple.
Negotiate where you'll spend the holidays.
You probably want to spend the holiday with your own family, but you and your fiancé need to come to an agreement over whose relatives you celebrate with this year. "Discussing it can help you two find the best ways to enjoy the holiday experiences you treasure the most," says psychiatrist Susan Edelman, M.D. "If it's difficult for your parents to adjust to seeing less of you at holiday time, it might be useful to ask how they maneuvered the holidays when they first married."
Share your holiday traditions with your partner.
Don't let your fiancé be the one person at the holiday party who has no idea what's going on or how things are about to go down. "It is critical that you let your partner know where and how you typically spend the holidays with your family," says Rhonda Richards-Smith, LCSW, psychotherapist, and relationship expert. "If there are certain celebrations that are very meaningful to you, share their significance with your fiancé."
Set aside some quiet time.
It can be difficult being the center of attention, especially if you and/or your fiancé tend to be more private or introverted. "You may need some quiet or alone time between parties to help you recover from all the attention," says Dr. Edelman. She recommends scheduling the time you need between celebrations or even finding some alone time at a party if you're a little overwhelmed.
Don't rush to answer questions.
You can expect that everyone from friends and family to total strangers will be asking you and your fiancé tons of questions about your upcoming wedding. Don't feel obligated to answer any or all of them. Dr. Edelman recommends simply smiling and responding with a casual "We haven't planned anything yet," or "We're still figuring it all out and are waiting to share it when we're done."
Expect some holiday blues.
Even though the engagement period is wonderful and exciting, you may still experience some sadness around the holiday season, also known as the holiday blues. "This transition in your life involves loss as well as gaining a partner and family," explains Dr. Edelman. "You might miss your family when you're spending time with your in-laws and your fiancé may have the same kind of feelings if he or she is not around his or her family." For this reason, she recommends talking things through as much as possible—checking in with each other now and then to make sure you're on the same page.