With Hanukkah coming up and Christmas and Kwanzaa not far away, the issue of interfaith relationships for many families comes to the fore and can pose a conflict. This can divide a couple and family, cause stress, and lead to uncertainty about where to spend the holidays and how to celebrate. If you’re fighting over this issue, this tells me three things: 1) poor communication 2) neither person is having their needs met 3) each has some fiery passion that potentially could be used in a much better way.

Here’s how you and your significant other can handle the conflict:

1. Be open-minded, flexible, and willing to compromise.

If one person agrees to forgo the holiday just to avoid conflict, then resentment might follow. You have choices other than just celebrating one or the other. A lot of couples celebrate by attending services together and decorating to reflect both holidays. Others make it more secular by celebrating peace and the spirit of the season.

2. What’s important?

Share memories with your partner and ask about their family holidays. Gain an understanding of each other’s point of view and the meaning of the holidays rather than trying to win the other person over or pressuring with your view.

3. Have a conversation about the other person’s religion.

Find out what aspects of it are most important to each other. Is it going to midnight mass? Attending synagogue? Is it about celebrating the actual meaning of the holidays? Or is it more about the holiday traditions? Christmas and Hanukkah are deeply rooted in family customs and it is often those that are missed — not necessarily the different religious views. For example, gathering with family, lighting the Menorah, playing dreidel games, decorating the Christmas tree, and hanging wreaths and ornaments. Participating in these invokes a sense of belonging, comfort, identity, and reinforced values.

4. Think about what bonds you.

Rather than getting bogged down in that which separates you, think and discuss that which unites you: perhaps similarities in the meaning of the holiday traditions and mutual desires to maintain them…and perhaps indulging in latkes and eggnog.

5. Be open to compromise and looking at issues through a fresh and new lens.

Work out a trial plan and evaluate how well it works after the holidays have ended. If there are children and they’re old enough to express their thoughts and feelings, involve them in the conversation and planning. Bear in mind that plans can change from year to year and new activities should be looked at with an open mind.

6. Don’t use the holiday season as an opportunity to air dirty laundry and address unresolved conflicts concerning your relationship.

Keep the focus on this particular issue and discuss new ways to handle conflict and better communication in other areas of your relationship, independent of the December Dilemma.

For more tips on living a healthy and stress-free life, check out my book Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.


  • Jonathan Alpert

    Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Twitter: @JonathanAlpert

    Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan. As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention. Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis. With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Jonathan’s 2012 book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his Inc.com, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns. @JonathanAlpert