Love in the Mountains: Holiday survival guide for your relationship |

Love in the Mountains: Holiday survival guide for your relationship

Despite December being boasted as the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also notorious for being tough on relationships. It might be sentimental, but simply being with friends and family is what this time of year is all about.
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Jessica Heaney knows the struggles living in the Vail Valley can have on relationships. Email her with your questions to be answered in this column at

Spending the holidays in the mountains is an escape into a winter wonderland — a scene fitting for a Norman Rockwell painting. With snow crested peaks playing background to the twinkling village lights, along with the smell of Beaver Creek’s fresh baked cookies, it’s easily the ideal place to be cozy fireside this time of year.

Yet for most, the nostalgic Norman Rockwell painting gets reworked into mirroring something more like the “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” — everyone has their version of an Uncle Eddie, right?

Despite December being boasted as the most wonderful time of the year, it’s also notorious for being tough on relationships. Arguments arise over splitting time between families, worry surmounts around purchasing perfect gifts and the travel delays compound our anxiety. All while we eat too much and drink too much.

No such thing

And let’s be honest, without a solid snowpack to ski off some pent-up stress, come Dec. 31, we could all be approaching a Clark Griswold-styled breakdown.

Rest assured, I’m not going to waste your time trying to tell you how to have a stress-free holiday. Because frankly, I don’t believe stress-free holidays exist. But I can help you create a holiday that brings more connection between you and the ones you love most. It might be sentimental, but that’s exactly what this time of year is all about. Simply, being with friends and family as another year comes to a close.

Season to Connect

The pressure the holiday season brings can be a heavy burden to bear as there’s often too much to do. What clients tell me is that they become so preoccupied with holiday parties, tree decoration and travel plans that there’s no time left over to even enjoy any of the holiday charm.

And for many locals, the next two weeks are the busiest of the year. Work obligations take priority and the importance of protecting time to be with loved ones is forgotten. The holidays become more about work than they do about connection.

Simplifying your holiday checklist is central to creating space for your relationships. Start by getting clear about what matters most to you. Just because you’ve done the same thing for years doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it. In fact, I give you full permission to switch it up and begin choosing what is actually meaningful to you.

Maybe it’s hiking into the woods to hunt for the best Christmas tree. Or perhaps it’s decorating cookies together using your grandmother’s recipe. Identify what brings joy and happiness to you, your partner and your family. This will help you prioritize what matters while also helping you know what to say no to.

I think we all can do better at being engaged and present in our relationships. So, as you gather together this holiday season, show up curious, interested and with an open heart. Don’t hesitate to put the phone away (in fact, turn it off) and engage with the people you are with. Slow down, because we move too dang fast this time of year. Watch the snow (hopefully) fall, take time for long conversations, bring out the card deck, play a game and just be with each other.

Jessica Heaney is a licensed clinical social worker who knows the relationship struggles of living in the Vail Valley. If you’re a Vail Resorts employee, then your EAP benefits give you and your partner six sessions with Heaney. For more information, visit If you want to learn how to date for commitment and how to stop dating the king or queen of first dates, then contact Heaney at

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