More couples than ever break up over the Christmas period. According to The Independent (2016) ‘two weeks before Christmas day is the day of the year when most couples decide to separate’, www.indpendent.co.uk (accessed 9th December 2018). Why is that and what small steps can you take to continue to nurture and enjoy your relationship during this time.
There is no doubt that Christmas can be a wonderful, joyous time of year as we emotionally invest into ideology and romanticism, the festive adverts on the television, christmas decorations, films and the feelings of cohesiveness with neighbours, people in the community and generally giving to others. The beautiful lights, exchanging of presents, feeling the presence of happy people surrounding you can be an incredible, uplifting experience
However, it can also be a stressful time of year as families battle with stressful situations, including financial pressures, juggling work, children’s Christmas school festivities and also where they perhaps feel forced or obligated to spend time with friends and otherwise distant family members in order to meet social expectations and to fulfill it being ‘a season of goodwill’. Tension can easily arise between couples as they become more and more exhausted and increasingly irritated with each other – and all this on top of an already strained relationship can unfortunately be recipe for break-up and divorce.
Christmas is often a time when people reflect on their relationships, look at the year gone by and what they want to achieve from the New Year. Many of us are on leave from work and have the opportunity to slow down and think in the present. It can be a time where you begin to weigh up the pros and cons in your relationship – it can often be the case that difficult feelings or resentment starts to build. This is due to there being more time to think about hurt feelings and also for negative defenses to be created. Communication can be impacted between you, where one or both of you start to use silence and/or withdrawal to avoid conflict. These situations can easily lead to behaviours where you begin to overtly blame one another for events and arguments in the past and where issues do not get resolved.
So what can you do to ease pressure and prevent separation?
Christmas can be an expensive time of year, particularly when you have a large family, including children, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and grandparents to consider buying presents for. It is easy to not want to disappoint others with present buying and as a consequence get swept away with purchasing extravagant gifts that overstretch your budget. It can create more problems to face in the New Year when you are faced with having to manage heavy debt and pay credit card bills.
It may be helpful to set a Christmas budget or and to speak together about an agreed amount to spend on each person. Often arranging ‘Secret Santa’ activities where you pick a relatives name randomly out of hat and buy only for this person can feel exciting and be fun, as well as be more financially viable.
Whatever arrangement you decide upon will hopefully ease some of the financial pressure from you and in turn help to give you more time and emotional energy to focus on enjoying yourselves as a couple/family during the festive period.
Making necessary change
If situations become too tense it may be good to take some time out, go for a walk, other exercise, listen to some music or whatever you find helpful to calm the mind. Other changes you may wish to discuss include;
- Negotiating a date between you to work towards where you wish to have everything prepared, made, purchased and/or wrapped as much as possible will enable you to enjoy the lead up to Christmas and where you will feel able to enjoy spending some relaxing, quality time together.
- Setting personal goals in your relationship on a short/mid/long-term basis for the year ahead can often be beneficial at this time of year to keep you focused and motivated and encourage a working together mindset.
According to Holloman (2012) couples come for therapy in the New Year as they see it as a time for ‘new beginnings and an opportunity for renewal, growth and fulfillment’.
Holloman (2012) ‘Making Marriage User Friendly; The Helping Solution’.
It can be a more proactive approach to solution building as opposed to resigning to ending the relationship.
Gifts over Christmas
It can often happen that you feel upset when your partner does not buy you the gift you have asked for or want and you start to feel unloved and unappreciated. It is important to remember that people show their love in different ways, such as through words, physical touch, acts of service, such as engaging in chores at home to help one another. Gifts may not be on his/her lists of priorities, but it’s possible that they may show their love towards you in their own way. It is essential to learn to appreciate the way he/she shows their love and that you learn how to reciprocate your feelings in the right way to them. Gary Chapman, ‘The Five Languages of Love’, writes in-depth about the different ways people show love and how to work together to meet each others primary love language.
This may be helpful to appreciate your loved one in a new light for the love that they do provide
Is communication between you already difficult? How can you ensure that you see your loved ones, friends and family yet still find time for each other and create romance?
If there are tensions between yourself and in-laws what can you do to show and reassure your significant other that you’ll be respectful and agreeable towards them and their parents and that you can agree to disagree in a mature way. This will help by talking with your loved ones about your concerns and any potential topics or problems that may arise throughout the Christmas period. It might be helpful to have an agreement of how much time you spend with each relative and then separately as a family and/or couple.
It maybe necessary to have a mutually agreed response or behavior that is shown towards your relative(s) to help minimize the risk of any conflict situation arising.
It is important to speak to each other regularly about sharing the chores and asking how you can do small things that show the other that you are a team.
There are many other topics to consider over Christmas, such as how to manage the office Christmas party, where flirting can take place and loved ones can often feel neglected or jealous. Often compare and despair feelings can take place as there is more time to engage in social media activity and see friends talking about their romances and gifts they’ve received. It’s important to recognise ahead that these events could happen and to take steps to make change and minimize tensions and emotional upset. This could be perhaps through inviting work colleagues home for pre-Christmas drinks to meet your loved one and to help them feel more relaxed about any potential threat or putting phones away and reducing your access to social media for a period of time.
Be confident that you can survive the Christmas period – it’s only for a few days in comparison to the rest of the Year.
Most of all make sure you have fun! Try and reduce the pressure of Christmas where possible and your relationship will flourish for many years ahead.