My husband and I hosted a summer birthday party for our daughter. My in-laws came into town and we had a backyard full of energetic four year olds. Between the summer heat, his family’s “helpfulness,” and the chaos of small children, my husband and I spent most of the party snapping at each other. He felt criticized by my instructions and micromanaging, I felt hurt by his choice to sit back and have a beer instead of helping with clean up. What should have been a fun-filled day for our family turned out to be a stress-filled day! What can we do differently next time we host a summer party?
When most of us think about summertime, we imagine both lazy days by the pool or in a hammock and a packed schedule of backyard BBQs and beach vacations. Especially when the parties and trips include extended family members or lots of planning, stress levels can soar. And from the description of what happened at the last party, that stress definitely got the better of you and your husband. Here are three tips for dealing with summer party stress:
Discuss ahead of time how you and your partner can be helpful to one another.
Think about the one, most important thing your partner could do during or after the party to be help the event go smoothly. Perhaps your husband would have asked you to more gently phrase any requests for help or directions for how to complete a task with positivity and gratitude. Perhaps you would have asked your husband to take initiative with clean up and to include you in relaxing afterwards. Keeping your partner’s request in mind and then intentionally following through demonstrates a strong commitment to teamwork and will contribute to a sense of connection.
Create a secret signal of connection.
Before the party starts, decide on a secret signal of connection you can swap with your partner — like a high five or giving a quick back rub. Then, at the party when things start to get stressful, make eye contact so you have each other’s attention and do your secret signal. Tug on your ear then smile at each other. Tell a knock-knock joke. The signal doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a clear sign to each other that you are on the same team, that you value each other’s help and participation, and that you’re doing your best to maintain a positive spirit in the face of summer party stress. Repeat the signal often!
Self-soothe in healthy ways.
Inevitably, things will go wrong — in-laws will interfere, you’ll run out of ice, the baby develops a sunburn… and ultimately, you are responsible for how you react in these stressful moments. Instead of succumbing to a negative attitude or reaching for another glass of rosé, try a healthy self-soothing strategy that will help you center yourself and stay calm:
- escape to a quiet place (the bathroom usually works!) and take a few deep breaths
- hum a song to yourself
- drink a glass of water or eat a healthy snack
- ask your partner for a hug
Taking some time before the party to talk about these three strategies with your partner and then following through will help make summer parties and family vacations less stressful, more fun, and — most importantly — more connected!
For more help navigating the impact of stress on your marriage or the stressful influence of extended family, contact the experienced counselors at Emily Cook Therapy today. We can help!