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Relationship Expert Warns Couples to 'Get Realistic' During the Holidays to Avoid This 'Nightmare' (Exclusive)

"The holiday season, while joyous, can amplify existing challenges for couples," marriage and relationship coach Dr. Jacquie Del Rosario tells PEOPLE

<p>Getty</p> Couple celebrates Christmas together.

Getty

Couple celebrates Christmas together.

The holiday season, while busy and fast-paced, doesn't have to also be stressful or ho-ho-horrible for couples, according to one relationship expert.

In an exclusive conversation with PEOPLE, marriage and relationship coach Dr. Jacquie Del Rosario offers advice on how couples can "get realistic" to avoid what she describes as a "nightmare" this December.

"The holiday season, while joyous, can amplify existing challenges for couples," she says. "The biggest challenge I’ve seen with couples often lies in managing heightened expectations and balancing family obligations."

"My advice," Del Rosario continues, "is to get realistic about your expectations and openly discuss them with your partner. Create your own traditions as a couple and embrace the joy of togetherness over perfection."

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<p>Getty</p> Couple celebrates Christmas together.

Getty

Couple celebrates Christmas together.

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According to Del Rosario, who received her degree in psychology at the University of Miami before pursuing her master's and doctorate degrees at Nova Southeastern University, one big thing that couples fight over during the holidays is where to spend them.

"At the onset of the relationship, couples should establish a holiday plan — what holidays will be observed, how and where," she offers as advice for couples.

"Just like life changes, plans change," Del Rosario adds. "Couples should revisit their plan annually to ensure that it fits their current lifestyle, and if not, adjust it where necessary."

<a href="http://www.gettyimages.com/search/photographer?family=creative&photographer=cornelia%20doerr&excludenudity=true&sort=best&agreements=pa:21711#license" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1">Cornelia Doerr</a>/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images Outdoor Christmas tree.

Another problem that couples face this time of year, Del Rosario says, revolves around money and spending it.

"Rule the holidays versus letting the holidays rule you," the expert — who founded and leads the nonprofit ReCapturing the Vision — explains. "Establish your own traditions that aren’t commercialized. It’s the family traditions that bring warmth and living memories. They're the things that we remember that warm our hearts and lead us to share them generation after generation."

"Establish a budget, and early," she adds. "If it is important to you to receive and give tangible gifts, sit down with your partner and set a dollar amount per person or even a total sum that will be spent per holiday. You both must be committed and honest about sticking to the budget agreed to."

<p>Getty</p> Couple celebrates Christmas together.

Getty

Couple celebrates Christmas together.

Related: All the New 2023 Christmas Movies Coming to Hallmark, Lifetime, Netflix, Great American Family and More

During this time of year, Del Rosario tells PEOPLE it is important for couples to remember what's important to them and to express their love for one another.

"Holidays are about connecting and sharing, and couples can use that same principle to strengthen their relationship during the holidays," she says. "Couples can foster intimacy and togetherness through small, meaningful rituals like cooking together or taking holiday photos."

And while she notes that "it is important and can be a bonding moment to share each other’s individual traditions," Del Rosario adds, "it is important to set your own traditions and establish what you want to encounter as a couple together during the holidays."

"Expressing gratitude, prioritizing quality time and engaging in shared activities are not just practices, but expressions of love and connection that can strengthen the relationship," she concludes.

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