Make this holiday season as conflict-free as possible with these simple relationship tips

By focusing on one another, you could end up having the most magical holiday season ever.

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  • It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but all that wonder comes with a healthy serving of stress. During the holidays, that stress can be particularly taxing on couples. Before diving head-first into the holiday fray, take a minute to assess your holiday plans and decide, as a team, how you're going to tackle the season.

  • To get the conversation rolling, look to beloved holiday movies or your favorite TV couple for inspiration on how to survive the season.

  • Once the ice is broken, try out these simple survival tips to keep your love on the nice list this year.

  • Be Realistic

  • It's easy to get caught up in ideas about the "perfect" holiday, including everything from looking like the ideal couple to receiving the gift of your dreams. Disappointment and resentment are more likely to build up if you cling too tightly to that perfect vision. Be flexible — and don't expect your partner to read your mind.

  • If decorating is important to you, let your partner know. If you have your heart set on a special gift, don't make them read your mind. Finally, accept that some things will not go to plan, and that's okay. As long as you are together, that's what really matters.

  • Remember the Magic Words

  • "Please" and "thank you" aren't just for small children. We often overlook the small kindnesses that can ease tension during this hectic time of year.

  • Don't bark orders at your loved one while shopping or cooking the family feast, and always acknowledge their efforts with a simple "thank you." You may be surprised how much more quickly (and happily) the lights get strung if you simply say "please."

  • When you're feeling exasperated, take a breath, and then use these magic words. You're sure to get a better result when you do.

  • Don't Take It Personally

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  • Getting together with family is one of the most special parts of the holiday season — and one of the most challenging. If you and your partner have different family traditions, it can be hard to mix the two. Be ready to compromise and don't be offended if your sweetie can't stand the tinsel you love.

  • When it comes to family gatherings, always be gracious and resist the urge to get into risky topics like politics. If Grandpa blurts out a controversial point of view from the 1940s, let it slide and don't take his worldview as an affront to your own. It ispossible to get along with family at holiday gatherings.

  • It's Okay to Say No

  • One of the things that puts us on edge this time of year is the hectic pace and desire to squeeze in every activity and event to which we're invited. Sit down together and decide which events are the most important to both of you and commit to attending those.

  • If other invitations come up that conflict or will push your holiday spirit to its limits, it's all right to decline with a polite, "We'd love to join you, but unfortunately our holiday calendar is full." To soften the blow (and possible guilt), you could suggest a get-together after the holidays when you can really relax and spend quality time together.

  • Share Your Sugarplum Dreams

  • When you're starting to feel more stressed out than festive, take a break and reminisce about holidays past. Cozy up with your honey and share your favorite childhood memories about the holiday. Not only will this help you understand each other's holiday expectations, but it will bring you closer together as you learn more about the wonder-filled child your partner used to be.

  • Start Your Own Traditions

  • Couples can feel torn between two families and different ways of celebrating the holidays. One way to bring harmony to the holiday season is to start some traditions that are unique to you as a couple. It can be as simple as watching a favorite holiday movie each year or learning to cook a new dish that becomes your signature holiday offering.

  • As long as you do it together, any activity can have meaning. Look around and start planning some brand-new traditions that honor your special bond.

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  • We get so caught up in the dazzle and demands of the season it's easy to lose sight of what matters most — each other. Take these simple tips and make this holiday season as conflict-free as possible. By focusing on one another, you could end up having the most magical holiday season ever.

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Sarah lives in Utah and has her MA in Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Communication from Iowa State. She freelances and teaches speech and writing courses. You can find Sarah on Twitter .

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