11/21/2012 07:57 am ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

Relationship Stress: Meeting A Less Social Partner Halfway Over The Holidays

After 25 years of marriage, Tamima Friedman said she's still a lot more social than her spouse -- a clash in personalities faced by many couples that's likely to become even more pronounced during the busy holiday season.

"I am definitely a lot more social than my spouse. He has what we refer to as 'limited tolerance for social interaction'," said the real estate agent from New Jersey. "But we don't put a limit on the number of holiday parties we will attend.

"The key for us is to to take two cars to any social event," she added. "That way he has an escape route and can leave when he wants without crimping my style."

The holiday season can be one of cheer for those who love to eat, drink and make small talk -- or one of fear for those who'd rather get a root canal then attend another crowded Christmas party. The result? A lot of unnecessary stress. But don't pack away the mistletoe just yet. There are ways to meet your partner halfway when one of you is a social butterfly and the other is a homebody.

"My wife and I make a deal that we'll never go out on both a Friday night and a Saturday night," said Joe Cutler. "One night we have to be at home and I'll agree to go out the other night if that can happen."

Erica Gerstman said she and her husband rate each social event they're invited to on a scale of 1 to 10 to determine their importance. "If both people rate an event high, we go. If both rate it low, we don't go. If both are in the middle, we talk about whether to go or not go," she said.

Another long-married woman in Washington, D.C. admitted that she's a lot more social than her husband at holiday time only because he's forced to attend a lot of dinners for work, all year round. "It's rare that I dress up and go out so I'm always more excited about holiday parties. He jokes that it takes 30 minutes to get me to leave a party," she said. "He's always ready to leave before I am and sometimes that does create some tension. I will say that in recent years the kids are so busy that I'm exhausted during the holiday season and I've been more ready to leave than before."

Even couples in the public eye can have disparate personalities that don't always mesh, at least from outward appearances.

A few years back, The Washington Post amusingly wrote about how German Chancellor Angela Merkel's greatest accomplishment in advance of the G-8 summit was actually persuading her reclusive husband to show up. Apparently Joachim Sauer is so adverse to publicity that he didn't even bother to attend her inauguration in 2005.

So what can you do if one partner is more or less social than the other? Pamela Zivari, an attorney and conflict-resolution professional, said it's most important to respect the other person's feelings. "Just as an extrovert's sense of self is strengthened by interactions with others, an introvert's self can be compromised," she said. "The key to a good resolution of that issue is to know yourself. If you need a lot of time alone, or down time, fine.

"But if the introversion is 'hiding out,' then that's not good," she added. "Sometimes intro/extroverted couples join forces because they naturally equalize their respective tendencies into a moderate mean."

Zivari said she's a lot more social than her husband and that this is one of their biggest challenges as a couple. "He hides behind me at parties," she said. "In fact, the reason he married me is so that he can hide behind me at social functions."

Relationship experts suggest that partners who hates parties agree to attend one or two events important to their spouses during the holiday season -- but perhaps set a time limit of, say, two hours. While there, try to make small talk with a few of your spouse's friends. Ask open-ended questions such as "whatever happened with ..." rather than simply "how are you?" Talk about the party afterwards to see if it's an event you'd both like to attend again next year.

For more on personality clashes during the holidays, check out our slideshow. How do you and your partner handle the holidays? Let us know in comments.



Holidays: How Couples Juggle Social Schedules