December 14, 2018
Holiday Harmony Tips
Jess and Brandon answer listener questions about how to have a happier relationship this holiday season.
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This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
Holiday Harmony Tips
You’re listening to the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast. Sex and Relationship advice you can use tonight.
Welcome to the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast. I’m Jessica O’Reilly. Before we get started, I want to say a big thank you to Desire Resorts for their ongoing support of this podcast. If you aren’t familiar with Desire, they offer two adult playgrounds that are clothing optional couples only highly erotic resorts on the Mayan Riviera, just south of Cancun, as well as adult Playgrounds at Sea on their European and soon to be expanded clothing optional couples only cruise experiences. So do check them out. Desire Resorts or Desire experiences on Instagram. Well, the holidays are upon us, and I think we’re all feeling a lot of feelings. I have Brandon here with me today, and I was thinking, Brandon with the holidays only a week away for some of us were already in our holiday rituals. How are you feeling about this season? I feel great. I feel a little stressed, but overall, I feel pretty good. Do you really just feel a little stressed? No. I feel a lot stressed. Let’s start on a positive note. No. On a scale of one to ten, how stressed are you? Depends on the day. It depends on what we have, what event is coming up, but it could range from like a three all the way to, like a seven. Okay. And today, right this moment, this moment. I’m like a two. No, I’m like a one right now. Well, we’re recording here in Mexico City. We’re in our comfy hotel room. Let’s be honest. We’re recording in bed. Yeah, maybe a little too much information. I’m down here for work, but also for pleasure. We have my mother and my stepdad with us, not in the room, but on the trip, and they’re pretty awesome. I love traveling with them. It’s cool if you have a cool couple to travel with, and I’m lucky that it’s a family member. Yes. I really enjoy hanging out with your mum and Luigi. Yeah, mum just turned 68, but she seems more like she’s 45 50. It’s not too far from my age. Yeah. And Luigi is just super young, so that’s my stepdad. Anyhow. I wanted to answer some listener questions, and our listener questions are piling up. So thank you for sending them in, and I’m really doing my best to get to all of them over the next few eight weeks. But today we’re going to address some of the questions that are specifically related to holiday dilemmas, because I grew up really excited for Christmas. That’s what we celebrate. And my mum made the season really special. And now I get really excited for it. But I also find that we get really stressed out, and it has to do sometimes with the people that we have to see. Yeah. No, I agree completely. Sometimes that’s the truth. Sometimes it’s just a matter of timing. Right now, I’m working on a big project that requires a lot of work I’m creating. I should tell you, I’m creating a 50 video course with 50 different exercises and activities to improve and revolutionize your relationship. So simple activities you can do in 15 minutes. We’ve done these activities in the past and doing them again in advance of your course was great. Yeah. So these activities include physical activities like different erotic touch techniques, but primarily their discussion activities. So, for example, we have an interview, a vulnerability interview where you have to ask one another question that require you to get a little bit vulnerable. And so I’m creating this course. And so developing these 50 videos over this short period of time is stressing me out. So it actually is not about the holidays. It’s just that I’m trying to take some time to relax and spend some time with family, and it’s hard to do that. And so I think that kind of brings us to a really important perspective, which is don’t over schedule yourself. Well, we completely over schedule ourselves. Yeah. And I always tell people when they’re feeling stressed during the holidays to go cancel something, choose one event, one social engagement, one commitment, and don’t go. Just cancel it. And I actually did that last week. Brennan had his corporate party, and I really wanted to go because I love a party, and I hate missing a party. And I was feeling a little under the weather. But I also knew that I had way too much on my plate. And it is. Let me tell you, for me to skip a party is really hard. Yeah. I was surprised. I won’t lie. You rarely skip a party. No, I hop on a plane to get to a party. People were asking me what was wrong. They’re like, why isn’t just at the bar, they assumed that something was wrong in our relationship. Oh, no, I had to cancel something. And maybe some people were offended or there can be hurt feelings. I’m lucky you’re understanding. But I think if I’m giving you some insight and advice that I don’t always follow it’s, that if you can cancel something, do it now. If you’re listening and you still have about a week until you take a holiday, skip one thing. But I do want to get to these questions, and I have a ton of them. I don’t know how many we’re going to get through, but let’s start with this one. Okay. I know all about this. Every year, around the holidays, my wife and I fight. We fight about the kids. We have two each from previous marriages. We fight about money, we fight about where to spend Christmas, and she’s just always so stressed out that it sets me off. She hosts the big Christmas dinner, and she’s so stressed, how can we avoid fights this year? Well, I already said one thing, which is to reduce your commitments. I also think it can be really helpful to put your plans in writing. And I always suggest to people that you have a hard calendar as opposed to a digital one, because when you have a hard calendar, a paper calendar that still exists don’t Realtors send those out. Brandon. Still do you don’t? No, I don’t. But other Realtors send them out. And you know what? I see them everywhere. So I guess they work. Yeah. So if you have a hard calendar, you can’t put 50 things in one of those little squares. And I think that seeing the hard calendar on paper in front of you helps you to visualize just how busy you are. And so when that little square gets full, you can’t add anything else to it. You can go cross things out. The digital planner can hold an unlimited number of plans and parties and events without looking full. But that little square fills up quickly, I think, which helps from a psychological perspective, to avoid over planning. There was something really interesting in that question that was said that resonated with me, which was the partner is hosting Christmas dinner and that she was really stressed out and it set the other partner off. Why did it set them off? If that’s the issue, is there not something there that can be addressed? Well, I think when your partner is stressed, you tend to take on that stress. And I talk about emotional differentiation oftentimes. So your partner is sometimes going to experience unfavorable emotions, and you can respond by also feeling those emotions, or you can let them own their own emotions, and then you can actually support them through those emotions. So if your partner is stressed, you don’t have to be stressed, too. Instead, forget their stress and focus on, well, not forget it. Don’t take it on emotionally differentiate and do something to make them less stressed. Now, what I thought you were going to say, Brandon, with regard to what was interesting in this question is that this person says she hosts the big Christmas dinner, and I was thinking that tells me that she’s probably doing a lot more work than you do in terms of cooking, shopping, cleaning, in addition to her regular duties and stress increases over the holidays, and the intensity of stress tends to be greater for women. So I don’t know the gender of this person, but regardless of your gender, step up, man and share the tasks don’t help her host contribute as an equal partner. I was reading about stress and gender around the holidays, and 44% of women report an increase of stress during the holidays, and this discrepancy is probably owing to the fact that women do a disproportionate share of unpaid labor, not just during the holiday season, the shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, the hosting, the planning, the keeping the peace, but throughout the year. And so just that mindset. I’m calling you out a little. I want you to think about the fact that it’s your shared house, it’s your shared families. If you are hosting the big Christmas dinner, do it together. That’s what I was getting at was the idea that it sets them off, and rather than it’s setting them off, maybe that person could look at what could be done to eliminate some of the stress. Now you said it a whole lot more eloquently than I did. But ultimately, if it’s getting groceries, getting booze, getting whatever supplies that are needed. If you were to do that, I would assume that if it was you and I doing that, that you would appreciate it, it would reduce your stress and it would solve some of the problem. Yeah, absolutely. And so let it be a shared task. And most importantly, don’t just do things, share in the mental and emotional labor, because this is something I see all across the globe, and it’s not always along the same gender lines, but it’s oftentimes the woman has to do all the thinking, all the planning. And yes, you’ll go do things when they ask you to. And I’m speaking more in a heterosexual context here. But you don’t think about these things yourself. So if you want to be helpful, think for yourself and do some of the planning in your mind, don’t just run errands when asked. And I think this applies throughout the year. And Brandon, you and I struggle with this sometimes. Yeah. 100%. I don’t always think about what needs to be done and do it. I’ve had to make a conscious effort. Excuse me in the mornings when I know we have a big event or if we’re hosting a party or if we’re doing something to think about what needs to be done so that I’m efficient with my time and that I can make sure that the tasks that need to be complete are completed. But it takes a minute for me to recognize number one that I don’t do it. And then number two is to then do it like, suck it up and do it. I think it also has to do with the fact that you’re used to me doing all of these things. Yeah. 100%. I’m used to you doing all of these things, even if we’re going to someone’s house for dinner, for example, you’ve become accustomed to my asking, what can we bring? And then I prepare that thing that we can bring, or even if we just need to bring a bottle of wine. It’s not something you have ever had to think about. No, but you being away as much as you’ve been away, and my still going and doing social things has forced me to realize what you do. And then I’ve just become aware of it. And now I do it. Or at least I make more of an effort to do it until I come home, until you come home. Well, I think that is an important point, too. If you stop doing things, your partner will have to pick up the slack, because when I’m away and you have to go to a party, you have to drag your butt and get a bottle of wine yourself. And so I can just opt out or communicate a little bit more effectively. But what I don’t want to do is have to ask you to do it. I want it to be a team effort where it’s like who’s grabbing the wine as opposed to. Hey, Brendan, can you please grab the wine? Yeah. So then it’s just simple, right? It’s where are we going today? Both people think about it, and then both people take initiative. Yeah. Okay. Let’s move on to another question. This person says my father in law, and I don’t get along. And my wife says she doesn’t want to take sides, but I feel like she takes his side. He berates me. He’s critical of my job. He’s hard on our kids, and he isn’t particularly nice to her either. My wife is the best, but it’s like she’s not herself around her parents. What do I do? Well, this is a common challenge, the notion of being stuck in between your partner and your family. And I have a very strong opinion on this, and that is that you need to be with your partner. Your family needs to know that you and your partner are for lack of a better term, a United front. And I don’t see it as taking sides, but your primary family, the person you’ve opted to be with and you have kids with is your partner. And so in this case, I would suggest that your wife has a responsibility to show her support for you. And if people want to see it as taking sides, that’s their problem. But I do believe that it’s unfair. I almost want to say cowardly to say, I don’t want to take sides, because if your father in law is berating you, if he is being critical of your job or your financial situation, if he’s hard on your kids and hard on you, it is your partner’s responsibility because it is her father to stand up. It doesn’t mean it needs to be a huge confrontation, but at minimum, he needs to know where she stands now. The second piece of this, the part that she’s not herself around her parents is common because oftentimes when we go back to our families for the holidays or for another time, we harken back to an earlier time in our lives, right? We can feel infantilized. We can feel feelings that we experienced earlier in life with these people, and we aren’t always the best versions of ourselves. So I want to be fair to her, because if he’s berating you, maybe she grew up with his berating of her. And so it’s difficult for her to stand up. So I do want you to be empathetic. But at least behind closed doors to begin with. I’d like you to be able to say to her, Babe, I need you on my side. I need to know that you have my back, and hopefully she can, at minimum, express that privately with you, and then eventually, perhaps that can be communicated more clearly to her father, and it can be communicated not only verbally but also nonverbally. She can come over and stand next to you. If there’s a conflict, you can hold hands and express affection in their presence. So I think these small steps are essential to getting to a point where your father in law understands that you’re here, here to stay, and you two are a team. I’m sure you want me to chime in on this, but I mean, my visceral response is initially very different. I immediately feel for this person. I wonder how long they’ve been in this relationship where they’ve been criticized openly by their father in law, because my gut, my gut is like, cut them off. I know that’s not the answer, but my gut is cut them off. Now I’m being too sensitive response, you’re entitled to feel what you feel. Let me also reiterate you do not have to spend time with people who make you feel terrible about yourself. Well, the thing is, have they berated you once? Why were they critical of you? Why are they being hard on your kid or your children? And why are they being hard on your partner? Because if this is a repeated behavior, I’ll tell you, the number of times I’d be seeing that person would be certainly being cut back drastically year over year. Eventually, I would assume that you have to think about do I want to continue having a relationship with this person? And if I do want to continue having a relationship with this person, am I going to have to have a very difficult conversation because you’re either going to continue being criticized and being treated poorly or you’re going to confront it, risk the relationship getting worse or the possibility of it getting much better? Right? Like, you have to have that difficult conversation and just say, why are you being a jerk and maybe not in those words? But why are you treating people, me, my children, my partner this way? Because if it continues, it’s very simple. Like I wouldn’t be seeing that person. You know, Brandon, you make a really good point because I’ve said that she needs to stand up. But yeah, you also have a responsibility to express how you feel, which can be really hard with someone else’s family. So I think with all of these questions, with all of these dilemmas, there isn’t always a simple solution. I think we can just share insights and you can use those insights and consider them given the context of your situation because every situation is so different. Yeah. My commentary was based on kind of how I think I would respond, and it’s not going to work for everyone. I mean, there’s so many other questions that come up out of this, which is why it’s a deeper conversation to have before. Maybe that very difficult conversation has had right. And there are cultural differences, too. You might be willing to cut a family member off, whereas for some of us in other cultures, that may not be the way we handle things. I always want to reiterate, though, that you don’t have to spend time with people. If you leave feeling terrible every time you’re around someone that might not be a relationship you want to prioritize. I agree. And for me, you don’t cross me too many times before. I don’t see you. Brandon, hold for me. If you hurt people close to me, I don’t give you too many chances. Yeah, and you really hold a grudge. And years he’s still mad at a kid in kindergarten who made fun of his last name. I think we’ve been over that. Well, I wish you luck. I wish all of you luck with these dilemmas, and we’re certainly not immune to them. We’ve got our own stuff in our families. This person is such an interesting question. I’ve come in. I’ve run into something like this several times. My husband was raised Jewish and I was raised Catholic. We’re lucky that Christmas and Hanukkah fall on different days, but we run into trouble when it comes to gifts. His parents, the grandparents want to give them eight gifts for Hanukkah. My parents want to put presents under the tree for the 25th, and it’s getting out of control. It feels like a competition. It’s about religion. It’s about love and money, and the kids are getting too spoiled. They’re six and eight years old and they have more stuff than I have owned in my lifetime. So how do we manage the grandparents? Let me start by saying if I was Jewish and your love language was gifts, I would stink. Days of gift giving. I would be horrendous. Well, you don’t have to do that. Here’s the thing. You don’t have to give gifts, and you also don’t have to worry about everybody’s feelings all the time. Sometimes what you want will not feel good for other people. And that’s okay. So you have lots of options here. You could set a price limit for gifts, and I think the more money you have, the more important this is because it’s so easy to buy a really cute outfit and then to advance and buy a whole game console or all of a sudden your kids getting a new computer so you can request that there’s a price limit on gifts. I also think it’s important with grandparents to set more time aside for them to spend with their grandkids, not at a mall, not shopping, so that they’re connected in non financial ways. I know a family who has a grandparent and grandkids day of baking over the holidays, so no parents allowed. So it skips a generation just so they can spend time together. I also think if this is about religion, I think it’s also important to celebrate religion throughout the year with their grandparents, not just over the holidays where you receive gifts. So maybe it’s spending the Shabbat or the Sunday Mass together, depending on your religion. In this case, we’re looking at Christianity and Judaism, but I do think it’s fair to make requests of grandparents because they are your kids and it is your house, that all that stuff is in. I’m a little biased because honestly, I could care less about gifts. Yeah, Thankfully, I’m not a good gift giver. Yeah. I had another question from someone the other day on a television program. They were talking about how they have a gazillion relatives. And there’s so many nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles, and just the immediate family involves 25 gifts or something like that. And they said, how do I suggest that we pull names or cut back on the gift giving without hurting people’s feelings? And again, I believe that it is okay. Sometimes for some people’s feelings to not be 100%. You don’t have to get people’s permission to do gifts differently. In fact, when it comes to giving, it is only your choice. You are not required to spend $100 or $10,000 because somebody else spends that 100 or $10,000. Gift giving is about giving, and it’s giving without the expectation of reciprocity. So if you don’t want to buy gifts, I know I’m getting off topic from this question, but don’t buy gifts. What’s happening for me this year, personally, is I’m donating to two causes. One is food for the poor, Canada. Check them out. They’re also in the States, and they do a lot of work in the Islands and particularly in Jamaica, where my family is from. And online, you can buy a fruit tree or a Beehive or £100 of rice or a stack of books for kids. And so that’s what all the kids in my family are getting. Well, they’re not getting those things. They’re getting a certificate to let them know that it’s going to a child in need. And some of the kids don’t really get it. And that’s fine because one day they will. And some of the parents I know because I did it last year rolled their eyes and some of the parents were like, oh, that’s so cool. And they explained to the kids that, hey, while you’re receiving all these gifts, some kids don’t have food to eat. Some kids are just dying to go to school. Some kids don’t have running water. You can also buy a well. So that’s one charity and then the other is Stepstones For Youth, which does mentorship and support programming for at risk teens in Toronto. So we’ve got 30 kids. What are you smiling? We got 30 kids. So I know that’s what I’m doing. That’s my business. Listen, I get to do what I want with my money. And that’s what’s happening this year. And so I wish people would do more of what they want so that they feel good and you feel good about the way your kids are being treated. I’m laughing and I’m smiling because the first year that you make that switch from buying gifts to giving kids a certificate that says, you gave somebody £100 of rice. They like, tear open the pack. However you present it, they tear it open. And then they’re like, oh, wow, a piece of paper. This sucks. And they look at this and you’re like, oh, no, man. You gave £100 of rice in a stack of books, and the kids are like, Where’s the rice? This sucks. Well, you know what? I’m already the coolant. So I don’t know. You lost points after last year. Oh, man, the kids tore open the gifts and they were kind of like, yeah, and you could just see the look on the rise. We’re like, this sucks. It is a teaching opportunity, and the holiday should be an opportunity to teach. But it did provide some, like, there was some context to it. Okay. I want to be clear. So the kids that you’re specifically talking about, I know which ones they are. They’re our nieces and nephews. We have a bunch of them. Hopefully they’re not listening. They’re like, four. These kids have, like, four Christmases. They have separated parents with separate Christmas trees, separated grandparents with separate Christmas trees. They get so many gifts that if they don’t get the one from me, they’re going to be okay. But it did become a bit of, like, from the outside. It seemed like it was a bit of a competition that there was that upping of the ante every year. And that’s really unfortunate, not only for the children, also for the grandparents, for the parents, because it does become a competition. I don’t know. To me, that seems really unhealthy. I mean, the person who wins, it’s really great for who gives the best gift £100 of rice. You give a kid £100 of rice. They think you suck. But the humor in this is actually sobering in that these kids want for nothing. Which is why £100 of rice to another child kind of doesn’t resonate with them. But £100 of rice makes a big difference in somebody else’s life. I’m not saying that I’m here to teach or anything like that. I just knew it was getting out of control. And I believe that I get to give a gift based on what suits my needs. Same thing with money. I have another family I was working with where one of the sisters and her husband has a ton of resources at their disposal, and the other has significantly less. And they were complaining about the cost of gifts given and received. And the bottom line is not everyone has the same resources. If you can afford a five dollar gift, go ahead and buy it. And if you can afford a $500 gift, that’s okay, too. But I also do believe that because we’re so sensitive about money, it can be helpful to set limits. I don’t know what you think about that. I agree. No, I think setting a limit. There’s nothing wrong with that. If it’s what you want, if it’s for your children and you’re most comfortable with that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Other people will feel differently than I do. But if it was my family, that’s what I would suggest if I was feeling uncomfortable. And finally, I want to talk about gifts because I received this question the other day. I actually answered it on a news program. If your partner tells you not to buy a gift, are you supposed to buy a gift and read between the lines, or are you supposed to accept that they don’t want a gift? I think you should voice record that statement where they say they don’t want a gift. I have a voice recording again. I have such a strong opinion about this, which is say what you mean and mean what you say. If you say you don’t want a gift, mean it. If you want a gift, speak up about it. And the woman who was interviewing me the other day, Vicki was saying, Well, gifts is my love language. So gifts are really important to me. And I actually think it’s really great because I think most people don’t want to admit that gifts is their love language. And if you’re not familiar with the five languages of love, Gary Chapman wrote this book and theorized that we each communicate. So we give and receive love using one of these five primary languages, and you have to learn your partner’s language, because if you speak a different language, it’s like speaking Japanese and English and expecting to understand one another. And those five love languages are physical affection. I feel most loved when you touch me, acts of service. I feel most loved when you go out of your way and do favors for me, do things for me. Gifts of time, quality time. I feel most love when you really set time aside and you’re focused on me receiving gifts. I feel most loved when you receive, when you give me something thoughtful or generous. And words of affirmation. I feel most loved when you really openly express your love to me. So, for example, I’m a words of affirmation person. I feel most loved when Brandon really articulates how he feels about me when I use the words to say the things yes. And I mean your love language. It’s funny to me because I am not very effusive. I am not very good. I’m going to move mountains, and I feel like that’s what you want to hear. So when I say something. Number one, I feel stupid. And number two, I feel like I’m still falling short. So I’ve had to just say what I think and say it more often, but mine would be touch, and I don’t know what else. I’m a little bit of a couple. I would say touch and probably quality time. Yeah, well, he does talk about that. You have a primary love language and then a secondary love language. And he has. So back to this conversation with Vicki. Vicki says that her love language is gifts, and so she’d be hurt if she didn’t receive a gift. And I totally feel that my bottom line is say, so. Do not tell me you don’t want a gift. If what you’re secretly hoping is that I will find you an amazing gift. So Brandon and I, to be honest, we don’t exchange gifts. We haven’t exchanged gifts in, I don’t know, twelve years. Yeah, at least a decade. And that works for us. But that doesn’t mean it will work for you. So I don’t want you to go say to your partner, oh, we don’t have to do gifts, Justin. Brandon, don’t do gifts. And look how happy they know that works for us. It may not work for you. You have to figure out what works for you and then communicate it to your partner. I think it’s cool that Vicky owned it, man. Yeah, she’s just like, I like gifts. Give me a gift. She probably didn’t say I need $1,000 gift. She just said I’d like a gift. No. Oftentimes people who really like receiving gifts as part of their understanding of love. It’s related to the thought that goes into the gift. So they don’t want a $1,000 gift card to Sax. They want something thoughtful that’s relevant to your relationship or really useful, or it could even be impractical in their lives. They’re looking for you to put the thought into it. And I think that’s what makes receiving gifts a really meaningful experience. Honestly, even though I don’t want a gift, and it’s mostly because I don’t know what you would buy me. Probably a zebra print dress. Let me tell you guys about the gifts that I bought just in the past that were inappropriate. You mean the fukuku vibrating glove? Hell, yeah. Christmas morning with the family. There’s this glove. It was called the fukuku, and it had different vibrating parts in the fingers, and it was under. Why did you put it under the Christmas tree with my finger? Okay, so I guess maybe I’m a little naive, but this fukuku glove was super awesome. You put it on and then it vibrates. But of course, if you think about it from a nonsexual perspective, rubbing somebody’s back with that is awesome. Maybe I just didn’t think about the sexual angle when I bought it and wrapped it and put it under the tree. So Christmas morning, it’s like, look what I got a five finger vibrator. And then my dad’s like, oh, can I try it on? Oh, my God. Do you really? Yeah. Needless to say, we never use the glove. That was awesome. So is that what you thought? You thought it was just a massager? Yeah. I think this was when we first got together, and I really did. I used to rub your back a lot and rub your feet. You did whatever. I’m an awesome back massager. You are. You’re very talented. You should just do it more. No, it’s all about scarcity. The economy of scarcity. I get it. But we do have to stop there next week. We’re going to be back with some more listener questions, so please do keep sending them in. Wherever you’re at. I hope that you have a happy holiday season as it rolls in. I hope that you’re feeling good. Wherever you’re at. I hope you’re nice to yourself. Easy on yourself. And I always think of empathy on my heart. I have this weird thing that goes through my head, and it’s not purposeful. But when I know, I’m going to have to spend time in environments that might be stressful or with people that perhaps cause me a little bit of distress. I always think of the word empathy on my heart and leading with empathy. And I don’t know if that sounds cheesy. I don’t know if Brandon’s rolling his eyes a little. I’m not rolling my eyes. I just don’t do it. This is true. I don’t. Let’s be honest here, but I hope you have a great week. Wherever you’re at, we will be back next Friday before Christmas rolls around. If you celebrate Christmas and answering more of your questions, thank you again to Desire Resorts. Thank you to you for listening. And thanks, Babe, for being here. Thank you.
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