You know that busy two-week stretch leading up to “Happy New Year,” right?  Well, isn’t it supposed to be a nonstop party; a string of mistletoe inspired kisses; a joyous reveal of extravagant gifts?  Then why does January 2nd herald so many choruses of, “Thank goodness it’s over?”  And why do the shiny jingle bells of love, which hold so much promise early in the holiday season, seem tarnished by January?  I suggest it’s because most of us have set ourselves up for holiday disappointments, encouraged by movies, media and the merchandising mania of the season.

Whether your relationship is brand new or has been years in the making, there’s no doubt that the winter holidays create unique demands.  The pressure to realize romantic holiday dreams of love and lust is, at least in part, carried over from old movies where everything was perfect, making our “sexpectations” for today’s relationship as bloated as the bird fattened up for the holiday feast.  By December 26th our lively romance,  just like that poor turkey, may be stuffed and roasted on a platter, and by New Years day, mere leftovers.

To avoid that holiday blade of doom, we need to be realistic about seasonal pressures and their effects on our love lives. For starters, recognize that the whole idea that holidays are a time of unremitting goodwill and family togetherness is a myth that usually conflicts with most people’s imperfect realities. During the holiday season, family members who have avoided each other like plague-carriers are thrust into each other’s homes; holiday tasks often feel overwhelming, while shopping crowds and looming deadlines add instant stress and ill temper.  As the spirit of the holidays becomes tainted by consumerism, and as feelings of envy or emptiness arise at the sight of ideal-holiday TV specials, the renowned holiday blues are born and bred.   But… hey… we bought into the myth of the ideal holiday, and, like most people, we’ll be damned if we’re going to give it up!  That’s when we look to our lovers or spouses to compensate for other holiday miseries and make everything all right.  Now the heavy duty pressure is on—because they are looking to us, too!

Maybe you tell yourself that everything will be Ok if your honey would just sashay around the house wearing the skimpy lingerie that’s still in the box from last year.  Maybe you think that all will be well if your guy figures out how badly you want that diamond bracelet featured in the catalogue you left open on the kitchen table.  But — whatever your fix-it fantasy, this is the moment you need to wake up and realize that your feelings won’t be salved by your darling’s mind-reading – especially when, let’s face it, he hasn’t been able to manage that feat once all year.  By adding another demand, you’re setting him up to fail you, and ensuring that you’ll sink deeper into the holiday blues.  Instead, pay attention to your feelings and talk about them all. Chances are, your partner has some of the same concerns and is hiding them, too—or hoping they’ll go away when you do something spectacular.  Yet, simple empathy can mean more to both of you than trying to live up to a Hallmark image that nobody will ever attain.

Instead of relying on mind-reading, share your dreams for the holidays. The most romantic notions need to be stated aloud—sometimes so that you can hear how ridiculous they actually sound, but usually so that you have a real shot at bringing them to life.   For instance, if you’re hoping he’ll tack mistletoe over every doorway so that he can spin you around and kiss you a dozen times a day, make that fantasy happen by sharing it. If your idea of a Happy New Year is an explosive orgasm at midnight, that’s great, but you need to tell your partner and plan for the event, or she may have another midnight treat in mind—like watching the ball drop at Times Square.  Yet, your wish could so easily have been fulfilled if only she’d known.  Is it better to blame her for not intuiting your desire, or to tell her ahead of time and share the moment together? Of course, some desires might need a little revamping.  If you’re hoping she’ll make Christmas cookies just like your mom’s—even though she doesn’t know a cookie sheet from a lasagna pan—well, maybe you need to rethink things.  The point is to make loving and sexy holiday surprises happen by being realistic and letting your partner in on the secret.  Otherwise, all those inflated expectations will burst like balloons, and the holiday joy you might have shared will evaporate.

One of the most stressful aspects of the holidays is trying to choose the right gift for a lover or mate, while also attempting to figure out what they are likely to do for you, so you can match largesse.  How does the “should” compare with what you genuinely want to do or can afford?  If expectations are unmet, what do you fear about your future love and sex life?  These may sound like superficial issues, but they’re real concerns that add anxiety to the holidays and need to be taken seriously.   Depending on where you are in the relationship, different approaches work best.  If you’ve just begun dating, action gifts are often the best choices:  a special dinner, tickets to a concert, a sensual massage afterward.  When you’ve been together a while, it’s easier to say, “lets talk about holiday gifts” because practicalities can be considered within the context of life – i.e., you both care about how the cost of that ice bracelet will affect your summer vacation budget.   Maybe a pair of artisan earrings is exotic enough to give you that “I’m so special” feeling, yet, won’t break the bank.  And maybe gifts don’t have to be all about “stuff,” either. After all, what are gifts other than expressions-–or perceived expressions—of feeling? We attribute our own particular values to the cost, thoughtfulness and desirability of a gift—values the giver may not even relate to.  We buy into advertising’s message—“a diamond means forever,” or  “say it with flowers,”—and in the absence of the right commodity, we may think that the right sentiment is missing.  This is a trap made up of grandiose expectations and enormous misunderstandings, and wiggling out of it may mean thinking less about what we each need in order to feel loved and romanced, and more about what the relationship needs.   Often, the best present two lovers can give each other is time and attention.  There are many ways to create bubbles in time for two, and lots of fun approaches to filling it up with sexy, romantic gestures.  A simple,  self-made coupon booklet of intimate massages, fantasies fulfilled, and breakfasts in bed may say far more than merely plunking down a high-limit credit card.

Of course, deciding together to reject the commercial demands of the holidays and take a time out for the sake of your sanity is the perfect foil for holiday Grinches—including the dutiful and obligatory.  Can you hear yourself say, “Sorry folks, friends, sibs …we’re off to Tahiti.  See you in January!”

Now, isn’t that the sexiest holiday fantasy of all?