We’re quickly approaching the most wonderful—yet chaotic—time of year, but sometimes even stuffing, turkey, and mistletoe are not enough to keep holiday stressors at bay. Finding time to connect with your partner between family dinners and travel plans can end up feeling like yet another item on the to-do list. But prioritizing your relationship shouldn’t be an afterthought, so what’s a person to do? I’ve compiled a list of eight things that help my partner and I stay physically and emotionally connected during the holiday season—so you and your partner can too.
1. Create new traditions together
The holidays are basically synonymous with tradition, from decking the halls to baking a crowd-favorite cookie before Christmas Eve. Most everyone can point to something that makes (or breaks) their holiday season, and I come from a family with more traditions than I can count. While I love spending time with my loved ones, it can be hard to feel like any part of the holidays really “belong” to my partner and I. We’ve made it a point to develop our own holiday traditions, no matter how small they may seem. Whether it’s driving around and looking at lights or watching that same terrible Hallmark movie you can’t seem to forget about, creating an expected and anticipated moment for just you and your partner is a surefire way to break up the holiday stress.
2. Take a little extra time to “set the mood”
One of the best parts of the holiday season is the novelty of it all, right? That excitement doesn’t have to stop in the bedroom. Grab some Christmas lights, candles, and your favorite aphrodisiac—I always vote for chocolate—and zero in on your partner. The intimacy of creating a special environment to relax and focus on our desire to simply be close has been a game changer. (Bonus points if you introduce some fun holiday-themed lingerie or role-play, nothing is off the table.)
3. Cook together
Sometimes we just make pasta, but other times you’ll find us pulling out all the stops with a homemade pumpkin pie. Cooking together grounds us in the present moment and allows us to focus our efforts on one common goal. Try that recipe you’ve been dreaming of bringing to the family gathering or that Pinterest-mulled wine you’ve saved every version of—no matter what you choose to make, it forces you to slow down in the midst of the bustle. Cooking is also sensual by nature because it involves all five senses and lets you explore your partner’s tastes, even when sex isn’t possible.
4. Plan alone time
While this may seem self-explanatory, it tends to be easier said than done. My partner and I learned quickly that “alone time” cannot simply be the car ride between our parent’s houses on Thanksgiving morning. Scheduling time to be alone—truly alone—is essential. Write it in your planner. Put it on your Google calendar. We don’t think twice about going to the grocery store or stopping by a workout class because they’re key to our mental and physical health. Treating one-on-one time with your partner as a top priority throughout the holiday season helps to alleviate some of that exhaustion when the dust *finally* settles.
5. Focus on individual self-care
Sometimes the key to healthy emotional and physical intimacy comes from giving each other space to do your own thing. This time of year is filled with gobs of people and loads of expectations, so taking that bath, reading that book, or binging another true crime podcast can be the ticket to cooling a hot-headed temper before it bubbles over. Taking care of yourself not only keeps you healthy, it ultimately makes you a better partner.
6. Do the “boring” errands together
You just got that notification: Another package arrived for pick-up. Also, it’s cold, so suddenly your tires need to be changed. Rather than pulling on your boots and trudging through the snowy streets alone, ask your partner to come along. Throwing on some festive tunes in the car or pointing out your favorite light displays can help make mundane errands like picking up wrapping paper or salt for the driveway glisten with festive magic.
7. Give an unexpected gift or sexy gesture
A little goes a long way, and this is true both in and out of the bedroom. Surprising each other with our favorite Starbucks drinks (hello, peppermint mocha!!) or an early Christmas present is a great way to keep the nature of the season alive during the daily grind. Might we suggest a spontaneous trip to the bedroom to try out a new toy or show off that new oral skill you’ve been reading about?
8. Give into cheesy romance
We’ve all been the person who rolls their eyes at the cute couple on Instagram in their matching buffalo plaid pajamas but hear me out. Planning an activity like skiing, ice skating, or holiday-specific festivals is the perfect way to tap into that Princess Switch romance we all secretly wish for. Some of my favorite holiday memories with my partner have come from building that terrible gingerbread house and paying a little too much for average hot chocolate under the city lights