The fall and winter holidays are approaching! This year will be like no other as we try to create safe ways to celebrate and invent new ways to feel connected.

In “normal” years, holidays can be times of increased closeness and affection, but they can also bring increased tension and disagreement.

In this strange year of COVID, it becomes even harder to predict the impact the holiday might have on our relationships with family and friends.

So, it may be even more important than ever to ask ourselves, “How can we best choose holiday interactions which might result in positive experiences for ourselves and our loved ones?”

Part of the answer seems to be in recognizing and honoring individual differences regarding how we each prefer others to meet our needs for love, support, and security. Some of us may not even be consciously aware of our own preferences in these areas, but we all have them.

A small book that has proven extremely helpful to millions of people is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It was originally written to help couples rekindle love and joy in their relationships. But I think it has great value for anyone in any continuing relationship, including with our friends and relatives of any age.

This book identifies “five love languages” — five basic ways that people speak and understand emotional love. Each of us uses some variation of one of these five love languages as our primary way of expressing love and of noticing whether or not we are being loved.

Many times two people in a relationship have very different primary love languages. As a result the love that each is expressing in his or her own language is not being understood as love by the other. As a result the joy and connection that is possible in that relationship can end up instead as disappointment, confusion, and even resentment.

On the website anyone can learn more and take a free quiz to identify their primary love language. I recommend that you and your loved ones take this quiz, and then experiment with applying what you learned. You may be surprised at how powerfully these simple lessons can transform your holiday experience, even at a social distance.

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