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Could Santa Claus be a Big Cause of Marital Distress?

Ok, I bet that headline grabbed your attention, didn’t it? Trust us, this isn’t clickbait, and the reason Santa causes marital distress isn’t for the reason you might be thinking. So bear with us on this one. 

We’d imagine that most of you read that headline and your mind went in one direction right away. Most would assume we’re going to talk about problems with gift-giving – either giving too much, not the right present, etc. The holidays do put extra stress on marriages and families over the holidays, but that’s not our central point in this article. 

No, it’s also not about telling our little ones about Santa’s existence or anything like that. And we all know Santa isn’t a heartthrob breaking up households. So, why does Santa cause marital distress? 

We Internalize the Wrong Lessons

One of the most cherished activities for children over the holidays is asking Santa for what we want. As kids, this is amazing. We get a chance to dream big (well, what could be bigger than a bike or bb gun for a kid?) and ask the magic gift giver to provide it for us. We either write letters, sit on his lap at the mall, or do some kind of activity at school. Then, we wait impatiently for the big day. 

The lucky ones wake Christmas morning and rush to their trees to find them littered with new packages or one obviously shaped wrap job that has to be our asked-for new bike. Thanks to careful prompting from our parents to steer us in the right direction so that we don’t ask for too crazy a gift, most of us get what we ask for. Whether we realize it or not, we internalize these early childhood memories and hold them with us longer than our belief in Santa Claus. 

Waiting for the World to Deliver

We asked for something, and it arrived and, best of all, we didn’t have to do anything (except be a good boy or girl). We’re special, and the world delivers what we want when we put our wishes out there. Many “self-help gurus” make extravagant money reinforcing this belief in people’s minds. If you are good and wish for something, it will magically manifest for you because you deserve it. 

Some of you might be scoffing. “That’s not me,” you think. You gave up the belief in Santa at a young age, and you don’t buy into any of that new-age mumbo-jumbo. Or do you?

Here’s an example of dialogue that happens every day in therapy sessions. 

Therapist: “Tell me, what is it you really want?” 

Patient: “I just want my partner to cherish, love, respect, and accept me for who I am.”

Therapist. “Ok. But do you think you will be required to do anything to get what you long for? Or be different in any way?”

Terry: “No, not if my partner really loves me.”

We often don’t stop to consider what we’re really saying here. Our expectation is that we will get what we want from our partner because we deserve it, ask for it, or expect it. If they love you, they will give you X, Y, and Z because you’re good, and you deserve it. 

In our sessions, we can’t tell you how often we hear some variation of “I just want my partner to respect me, love me, and change A, B, or C for me.” However, when we ask about the patient’s efforts to make it easier for their partner to be those things, we’re hit with resistance. “Why should I have to do X, Y, or Z? If my partner really loved me, they would not only do what I want, they would want to do what I want.”

That sounds an awful lot like “I’ve been a good boy or girl, and now I’m waiting for my wishes to be fulfilled by someone else.”

Overcoming the “Santa Syndrome”

If you find yourself expecting others to give you what you wish for without effort, there’s a chance you’re suffering from what we’ll call the “Santa Syndrome.” 

Please don’t get us wrong here. You do deserve happiness and satisfaction in your life and relationship. However, we don’t believe that anyone should sit around waiting for others to fulfill those wishes on our behalf. Just as you deserve happiness, your partner deserves someone who will roll up their sleeves and help manifest these wishes. Instead of waiting around for our partner to transform, we have to be willing to put in the effort on our side as well. 

As we grow into adults, we see the effort that went into our parents giving us that perfect Christmas. The bike didn’t magically appear just because we wished for it, and we’re special kids. Our parents worked, sacrificed some things they might have liked to buy for themselves, and took the time to find, build, and wrap the bike for us (also waiting until the middle of the night to place it for us for that extra feeling of holiday magic). 

A ton of time, energy, and effort created that magical memory. 

Our relationships deserve these same memories and moments. So, don’t be a child wishing for the world to deliver your greatest desire. Be your parents working hard to ensure an environment where magical memories are possible. 

If a part of you feels like you’re struggling with a bit of “Santa Syndrome” and could use some direction on how you can be more active in your relationship, contact us today. We have a carefully curated group of counselors waiting to empower and equip your relationship

 

Connect With A Developmental Model Resource
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Coach

A relationship coach supports couples in learning vital partnership skills and helps you to develop conflict resolution skills, offering tools to achieve a thriving, healthy relationship. Coaches tend to focus on the present and creating an inspired future.

All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve. Therapists and counselors have mandatory educational and licensing requirements that are determined by the state or country in which they practice. Coaches do not.

Clinical Social Worker
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve.

This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

As you know, this is not an easy task when you and your partner are struggling to communicate, cooperate, and connect. This is where a highly trained guide is especially valuable.

Marriage and Family Therapist/Counselor (LMFT)
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve. 

Therapists and counselors have mandatory educational and licensing requirements that are determined by the state or country in which they practice. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

Counselors and therapists may make situational determinations about how deep to go into the personal history of each partner. They may seek to help you see where certain unhelpful patterns of behavior originated. 

Clinical Psychologist
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve.

After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psychology. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Our professionals can guide you to clarify your individual goals as well as enable you to develop mutually agreed upon and supported relationship goals.

Psychiatrist
All well-trained relationship specialists seek to offer advice, feedback, observations, and homework to help your relationship evolve.

After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Our professionals can guide you to clarify your individual goals as well as enable you to develop mutually agreed upon and supported relationship goals.

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