SGR 020 | Surviving Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is tomorrow… are you ready?
It’s great time to pause and consider what you’re thankful for as individuals and as a couple. We’ve touched on gratitude in previous episodes and it’s a powerful way to cultivate a more positive perspective on your life and experiences, as well as your relationship. When a couple embarks on a gratitude practice, the impact is exponential.
We know - the holidays can be tough. Each one brings with it a host of expectations, stressors, past experiences, and more. Thanksgiving is not different. These expectations are based on what each of you think is the “right” way to celebrate, your past traditions, and what your families expect of you.
It’s important to feel like a team as you and your partner walk into Thanksgiving dinner. You need to feel supported and like you have each other’s back. Not sure how to accomplish this?
Be sure to listen to this week’s episode, as we’ll be covering all of this and more. We’re talking about:
- What makes Thanksgiving so emotionally charged
- How to prioritize your relationship during the holiday
- How to get along “good enough” with everyone
- Cultivating an attitude of gratitude
We’ve also created a helpful bonus - The Thanksgiving Survival Worksheet - that’s going to take you through what each of you needs to get through the holiday, the best ways to be there for one another, and how to come out united at the end of the day. Download it below!
SGR 001 - Communication that (Actually) Works
SGR 002 - Getting Back to the Honeymoon Phase - One Habit at a Time
SGR 003 - Creating More Pleasure in your Relationship
SGR 008 - What Men Do That Leads to an 81% Chance of Divorce
SGR 016 - What To Do When Your Family Doesn’t Support Your Relationship
SGR 019 - Fight-Proof Your Next Big Event
Meditation Studio app
The Five Minute Journal
Short on time? Here’s a list of today’s topics and when to listen:
What makes Thanksgiving so emotionally charged - 1:42
If you’re hosting a lot of people... - 546
How to prioritize your relationship during the holiday - 6:27
Boundaries - 7:39
How to get along with everyone “good enough” - 9:01
Appropriate topics and ways to communicate - 9:24
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude - 17:54
Meredith and Marina’s Takeaways - 25:49
Meredith: Hey there, and welcome to episode twenty of the Simply Great Relationships podcast. We’re so glad you could join us today. I’m Meredith Silversmith and this is Marina Voron. And today, we are talking about “How to Survive Thanksgiving”. It’s a very timely topic and we wanted to be sure sure to get some support out to you guys before the big day. So today, we’re gonna be covering what makes thanksgiving so emotionally charged, how to prioritize your relationship during the holiday, this is my favorite, how to get along with everyone good enough, right? Good enough is good enough. And cultivating an attitude and gratitude on thanksgiving. So, make sure you stay with us ‘til the very end because we’ve got a great bonus for you and we’re gonna tell you how to get it.
Marina: So, let’s jump into it. Let’s talk about the kinda scary stuff first.
Marina: What makes thanksgiving so emotionally charged?
Meredith: That’s a good question! I think, you know, we go back to this a lot, but I think expectations play a role. So, expectations that you have for yourself, expectations your partner has, family members have, friends, whoever you’re involved with on that day, I think the expectations that everyone is coming in with can lead to be emotional charging and conflict.
Marina: Yeah, for sure! And I think thanksgiving is kind of extra emotionally charged compared to some other holidays because there’s this expectations for families to get together and be really happy and everything to be very smooth and I think there’s this discrepancy that’s created between “how do I want to celebrate thanksgiving” vs. “how do we actually end up celebrating thanksgiving and what has been my history and my experiences with thanksgiving?” I think there’s so much value to giving your partner that context of “this is what thanksgiving were like for me as a little kid and as an adolescent and in my twenties” so that they kind of understand where you’re coming from and where your feelings are coming from and vice versa so that you’re aware of each other’s triggers and expectations.
Meredith: Yeah because not everybody has an amazing track record with holidays, right? So you may not realize but one partner could have had thanksgiving as their favorite holiday. It was always the best experience and it was family being together and good food and all of that while someone else might have had horrible experiences. Thanksgiving may have been a battleground or fighting about who’s gonna spend it where and just a really negative history. So, I know this is sort of a silly example but have you seen the Friends episode with all the thanksgivings?
Marina: I have, yes.
Meredith: I feel like that really depicts. Obviously, it’s humorous but they show each person’s experiences in thanksgivings and like Chandler has always had this horrific experience so he’s like that one guy who’s like “I don’t wanna celebrate. I don’t wanna eat food. I don’t want anything to do with it.”, but that’s reality. We all have our history and it really is significant.
Marina: Yeah and I think managing some of that and being supportive to your partner can really de-escalate but I think, again, if we’re looking at what makes it emotionally charged, the fact that you could have a really loaded history with it. The other thing is there’s a lot of pressure around thanksgiving. A lot of pressure to come spend the day. If you have kids, bring the kids and for your kids to be a certain way and for everybody to behave and get along in a certain way, and for everything to be… I feel like thanksgiving is very curated and there’s a huge societal pressure for it to flow a certain way and that, of course, trickles down to us as individuals, couples, our kids, our families, and it’s just like a lot of stuff to manage.
Meredith: Yeah! Absolutely! A lot of commercials about thanksgiving. A lot of visual depictions of the turkey and the family and all things.
Marina: Subliminal messaging.
Meredith: Yeah, for sure! A lot of couples this comes up for, when your families don’t live near each other or they just don’t combine on holidays having to split the time. Either split the time and spend half the day here and half the day there or to go share alternate holidays, so “when you’re going to my family”, “when you’re going your family”, so that means every other year, someone’s making a sacrifice and choosing to go with their in-laws. So that’s a contributor as well.
Marina: Yeah, huge contributor. And then we talked about it in our last episode, the fight proofing your next big event if you’re hosting. That’s a lot of people, a lot of food, a lot of feelings, a lot of opinions to manage.
Marina: And we had a whole episode about how that can impact individuals, couples, how to strategize. So make sure to listen to that episode. I think these two episodes really go hand in hand quite well because thanksgiving is a big event even if you’re not hosting and that episode has a lot of great tips on managing.
Meredith: Mhmm! Absolutely! So, what are your suggestions, Marina? What do you think for prioritizing your relationship during the holiday?
Marina: I think, support. Support, support, support.
Marina: You have to have some conversations beforehand. You need to go in strategic like “What do I need to feel supported? What do you need to feel supported? What are our triggers? What do we need to do if our triggers are really on high alert?” Go in strategic knowing the answers to all these questions. Have your signal. Especially if you’re not hosting, you have a lot more flexibility in, you know, do you need to tap out for fifteen minutes and say like “Oh, I’m so full. We’re gonna take a walk around the block” because you need to support each other. Have all those things ready ahead of time.
Meredith: Yeah, definitely! And checking in throughout the day, making the plan ahead but making sure you’re touching base throughout the event so that you know you’re still on the same page. My favorite word, boundaries.
Marina: The “B” word.
Meredith: Boundaries for thanksgiving. So, this can come in a lot of different ways; “What time are we getting there? What time are we leaving?”, right? There maybe external explanations coming at you where we’ll want you there at this time and you have to stick ‘till the end but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to. This is something to discuss with each other and come up with a game plan. I think a big thing that comes up on thanksgiving is sitting around the table and talking about certain topic, having a plan. “Where is your boundary? What topics are you going to dismiss? What topics are you going to dodge? What topics are you going to engage in? What’s the plan? Where are your lines? Because you have to know where your lines are in order to enforce them.
Marina: Yeah. I think boundaries are super, super important. I think this flows in nicely because boundary is like those are kind of the couple’s boundaries but there also needs to be boundaries in terms of interacting with other people because usually, thanksgivings bring a lot of people together and some people that you may have not seen for a while and some people that you may have a lot of unresolved stuff with, right? So, how do we get along with everyone at the thanksgiving table good enough?
Marina: Not perfect, not great, not how to turn best friends with aunt Susan who you’ve had a contemptuous relationship with for the past 20 years but how to get along good… how do we get along good enough?
Meredith: That’s a good question. Well, I think the first piece to take in is that thanksgiving is not the time replaced to resolve family drama.
Marina: 100%. Could not agree more.
Meredith: It’s not. So once you take that option off the table, it makes it a little bit easier. It’s not the time or place to talk about what happened in the past to try to resolve what happened in the past, to be nasty about what happened in the past. Not the time of place, so just remove that from the expectations.
Marina: Yeah. I think having that as a frame of mind as opposed to going and being like, “This is gonna be the year where we all fix it and get along.” which I think sounds silly but I think it resonates with people.
Meredith: No, I think it does and I’m laughing because this is gonna be the year you go into it and you’re like “That’s it! This is the year! This is the day that it’s gonna happen!”. That’s just funny.
Marina: Take the expectation off. It’s not gonna be the day. Doesn’t mean the day is not gonna come but thanksgiving may not be the appropriate day. And I think going with that is almost kinda like have talking points and boundaries in terms of like if an emotionally charged conversation comes up, how are you gonna disengage in a cordial and respectful way? What kind of topics are “okay” topics? How do you change topics and have some talking points about them in your pocket essentially. You know, just being strategic about that. So if aunt Susan who you have conflictual relationship with forever brings up “Well, you know, five years ago, blah blah”, go “Oh, yeah, I remember that. But you know what I’d love to hear about? I saw you posting these great vacation photos on Facebook. Tell me all about your trip to Hawaii.”
Meredith: Yeah. That’s a great suggestion!
Marina: Just redirecting.
Meredith: Yeah! Redirect it because unfortunately, you can’t control what aunt Susan does.
Marina: Yeah, you can’t.
Meredith: You can’t. You can control your 50% but you can’t control the other person’s 50% so having a plan for if they cross that line, how you’re gonna handle it is really key. I think something that I’ve been noticing more and more, I don’t know if you’ve been noticing this in families and around the table, is just talk of politics.
Marina: Oh yeah.
Meredith: I think especially here in the US, things have, that’s become a more emotionally charged topic lately or lately as, you know, we’re filming this. So sort of go in with a mindset especially if you have a family where you know it’s gonna come up, “Do I really wanna engage in this conversation?” because often, you can predict how it’s gonna play out. I know I can with my friends and family. I don’t know if you feel the same like you kinda know who’s gonna say what and what’s gonna happen. So, “do I want to engage?” because just because the topic comes up doesn’t mean you have to. So choosing “do I want to engage and considering how will I feel if I have to listen to what ‘they’ have to say, my opponent in that situation and how will I feel if they don’t listen to me?” And if you can say “I’ll feel okay and I’ll be able to let it go and I’ll move on with my day really easily”, then maybe it’s okay to engage. But if you’re like “Nope, I’m gonna be mad for the rest of the day and I’m not gonna be able to get past it”, then it might better not to.
Marina: Yeah. I totally agree. I think there’s just so much room for tension and conflict and I don’t think turkey and politics go well together. Because it is so emotionally charged, I think having that disengagement in a very cordial and respectful way, having some redirections and having just some alternative topics that are much less charged and maybe fun to talk about, I think a really great idea is... I love table topics. You can get them on Amazon. They’re like a little box with cards and all the cards have really fun questions on them. Whipping that out can just be such a lifesaver and say like, “Hey, I got this. This is a really fun thing” and it really can diffuse the situation.
Meredith: That’s a great suggestion. We’ll put them in the show notes in case you don’t know what they are. So, being lovingly curious of your partner and of other people, right? It’s a really easy way to redirect the conversation. I think you gave a really great example, “Oh, you know what? Yeah, you know, I’d rather talk about your vacation! How was your vacation? What was that like for you? How are the kids?” Redirecting it to some curiosity questions to move the conversation along.
Marina: Mhmm! And I think this is one that may not sound very peace-y to a lot of people but I think it’s a great strategy. I know when I’m in situations where I don’t have equal relationships across the plate feels with people, this is something that really helps me, but maximizing your interactions with the people you want to interact with as opposed to feeling like you have to divide your attention across the board equally when you know there are some people you may not want to or have the best interactions with is a really good strategy that I find has worked for me. You just need to be good enough, cordial and respectful. You don’t need to have a lengthy conversation with everybody.
Meredith: Yeah! Absolutely! And thinking about where you’re sitting. I totally do this also. Where you’re sitting; If it’s about sitting far from certain people or close to other people; being mindful of that because that can make a big difference. You could always remove yourself and go help in the kitchen. There are certain socially appropriate way to disengage. So helping in the kitchen, doing dishes, or getting involved with like if little kids are in the area, getting involved with them. Those are really subtle ways disengage from maybe some bigger issues that are going on.
Marina: This one is more of like a mindset and I find this as just like a beneficial mindset in life but I think going into a situation like this, it can be really helpful, but I know a lot of times I will see couples and we’ll talk about their thanksgiving survival plan and there can be a lot of issues in the family and they put contingencies on it so, “I’ll only talk to his sister if she talks to me first. I’ll only be nice to his mom if she’s nice to me first. I’ll only engage with this person if they do something first.”, right? So those contingencies, they’re like “I’ll only”, “If”, really sabotage us. They sabotage us in everyday life but in going into situations like this, they extra sabotage you because you’re saying, “I’m gonna be nasty. I’m not gonna be my best self unless this person is their best self”. So you’re not giving benefit of the doubt, you’re not being lovingly curious, you’re not being open to the experience, you’re placing this contingencies that’s kind of setting you up for failure.
Marina: So, going in with this mindset of, “I’m gonna remove those contingencies. I’m just gonna focus on doing me and me is good enough, cordial and respectful.”
Meredith: Mhmm! Yeah, absolutely! I would almost guarantee that if you go in with that mindset, it’s not gonna go well.
Meredith: And it’s gonna go down the path that you’re trying to avoid in the first place. So , it’s not recommended. This is another favorite; cultivating an attitude of gratitude on thanksgiving, because that’s the point. That’s really the main point of why we have this holiday, being thankful. So we wanted to give you some tips for being more aware of feeling gratitude and how to really get in touch with that feeling. So maybe you could talk a little bit about how gratitude is a mindset.
Marina: Yes. So just like contingencies are a mindset, gratitude is a mindset also. You can go in with attitude of “I’ll only if the other person” or you can go in with an attitude of “I’m really thankful to be here”, “I’m really thankful that I have somewhere to celebrate thanksgiving”, “I’m really thankful that I have this big family”, “I’m really thankful that I get to experience an experience that is gonna challenge me in some sort of way”.
Marina: You can always reframe negativity to learning. I think there’s actually very little true negativity in life. I think there are a lot of really amazing learning opportunities and resilience-building opportunities. And I think for me, a part of the essence of growth is getting to be strategic and testing out your strategies and when a part of your strategy is “I’m gonna be open, I’m gonna be curious, I’m gonna redirect it, I’m gonna change the narratives and expectations of these relationships that haven’t been going well for me and I’m gonna look at what I’m grateful for”, it makes a huge difference.
Meredith: Yeah! Absolutely! And that can be challenging. So, one way to make it a little bit easier is by doing a mindfulness or a meditation app. We really like Meditation Studio, but you can pick specifically like “meditations on gratitude”. And it guides you through 5-10 minutes of breathing and thought process and feeling process and getting, again, in that mindset. Being able to sort of move into that direction I think is really helpful. Also, The Five Minute Journal.
Meredith: I love the five minute journal.
Marina: Big, big fan!
Meredith: Yeah. We’ll put that in the show notes also.
Marina: I’m on my third one. I’d just like to say.
Meredith: That’s impressive!
Meredith: I’m on my first one because I’ll start and I’ll stop and then I’ll start and then I’ll stop but I’ve been really consistent lately, so it’s good. But the five minute journal is this really great journal. It is literally a five minute journal. You fill out every morning and every night, things that went well, things you’re grateful for, things that are gonna set you up for a good day. But it creates, research-based, creates an attitude of gratitude that helps your mind shift more towards what’s going right and what I’m thankful for rather than all the problems that we could easily pick out.
Marina: So I think five minute journal’s a really, really good thing to start pre-emptively before thanksgiving and I think that really helps you get into that mindset of… what I love about it is it makes you scan for positive learning, growth, gratitude type experiences because I think it’s really easy to shift into like “I’m gonna look for the negatives. I’m gonna look for all the times I’m wronged. I’m gonna look for all the times I feel injustice.” five minute journal, you have to write down things you’re grateful for, so it makes you scan for those things and I think that’s a big shift.
Meredith: Mhmm. Definitely. And you can channel that even into your relationship and to focusing on your partner by creating your own journal and just writing down three positive things about your partner or your relationship everyday. I love that. I recommend that to a lot of couples because again, it’s shifting your focus from what’s going wrong to what’s going right and overtime, that become more the norm for you.
Meredith: It’s very powerful.
Marina: And I wanna throw out a challenge to all the people out there that are going into thanksgivings where they know they’re gonna interact with the person they’ve butted heads with for five days pre-thanksgiving. I want you to write down every day three positive things about that person.
Meredith: Hooh. That’s tough.
Marina: It can be really tough but I think the thought process going into thanksgiving if you know you’re gonna be facing a family member or somebody you know you have a strained relationship with, you tend to ruminate and think of all the bad things they’ve done. Like that, you’re priming yourself to look at them in a really bad way.
Marina: I’m not saying exonerate them of their crimes. All I’m saying is look for small positive things about them.
Marina: Start trivial. If you have a really hard time, you can start trivial but those things are generally easy to find about your partner if you have a pretty decent relationship but to challenge yourself to look for positives about a person or a relationship dynamic that’s harder can really be big mental shift.
Meredith: Yeah! That’s a great suggestion.
Marina: So, that’s my challenge for you guys.
Meredith: Hooh! That’s a good one. I think one last piece to boost your relationship around this time or you could certainly do it anytime of the year but if you’re doing the journal about the positive things that are going on in your relationship, share it with your partner in a meaningful way. So, meaningful way meaning be specific. And you can be specific by using process-based compliments which we know are one of Marina’s favorite. Do you wanna give an example of that?
Marina: Yes. A process-based compliment, we’ve talked about this many times, is not saying “You look very nice today”. It’s giving a compliment on a process you observed your partner, anybody doing, so it’s something like, “When you made me breakfast this morning, it made me so appreciated and loved and considered and it just made me appreciate our relationship so much that I’m with such a considerate partner.”
Meredith: Yup! So it’s specific, it explains what exactly hit you in what way, how it made you feel, and that’s really powerful to share with your partner. And if you wanna take it to the even higher level, make it a habit and a ritual of connection where you guys are doing this together and you’re doing it daily or with some level of consistency. It’s a really nice way to end your day, I think. I know I’ve had some couples who have really great experiences with that. So that’s like the level up challenge to do it everyday.
Meredith: So look, we shared a lot with you today. I think you’re ready for thanksgiving. We don’t want you to just listen to this. We want you to actually apply it so we are sharing with you our thanksgiving survival worksheet. So we’ve compiled a lot of what we talked about today into this worksheet that you could sit down with your partner a week or so in advance, go through, make a plan, be on the same page and go in to set yourselves up for success. You can get that at www.simplygreatrelationships.com/020.
Marina: Let’s talk about takeaways.
Meredith: Hmm. Takeaways. I really like what you just suggested about if there’s someone that you’ve had negativity with, instead of sort of like gearing up for that interaction in a negative way and thinking about all the things that went wrong and all the things that are gonna go wrong, instead to shift that to focusing on the things that went right at some point no matter how small. I think that’s definitely my takeaway. That’s a big one.
Marina: My takeaway is, you know, when you brought up that “Friends” up so like everyone’s experience is so different. You can’t say, “Because this is my experience, everybody’s experience is like this.” And to learn what your experience is, to teach your partner what your experience is, to learn what their experience is really puts them and puts you in context and allows you to support each other in a much better, much deeper way.
Meredith: Yeah! Absolutely! So, that’s all for today. We hope you take our tips and start using them in time for thanksgiving. We’d love to continue the conversation with you in our private Facebook group. So, definitely pop in there and join us. We’re gonna be sharing additional tips, tricks, live streams for our members. You can join us at www.facebook.com/groups/simplygreatrelationships or you can go to our website www.simplygreatrelationships.com and click the link. Join us, talk about your thanksgiving stories, let us know how you set yourselves up for success and read about how other couples and partners did it as well and have a happy thanksgiving!
Marina: Happy thanksgiving!
Meredith: Hope you have a peaceful one with very little conflict.
Marina: And a lot of gratitude!
Meredith: Lot of gratitude! So, until next week!
Marina and Meredith: Bye!