Christmas tension triggers (and how to avoid them)

Relate North Hampshire is anticipating a peak in calls in the New Year after relationship tensions come to a head over the Christmas holidays. In January 2017, we experienced a 24% peak in calls* and a 47% increase in visits to the national website (relate.org.uk)**, a popular source of self-help and information for relationships.

This rise in people getting in touch is a pattern they see each year but we think that by the time many couples get in touch, their relationship is already at crisis point. For some couples it is already too late by then and January is also notoriously the most popular month for divorces. However, Relate’s research has found that one in ten (10%) of divorcees said that, with the right support they would have been able to save the relationship and stay together.*** In addition, 18% said that, with the right support they would have been able to make the ending of their relationship easier to deal with. This is why the charity is encouraging people to seek support for their relationships at the earliest possible stage and is releasing tips on how to avoid common Christmas tension triggers.

Relate Counsellor Dee Holmes said:

“As Christmas approaches, there can be added pressures placed on relationships as family tensions come to a head and the added stress of organising the festivities can ironically result in more arguments. There are some simple things you can do to survive this busy period with your relationship in-tact such as delegating tasks and carving out that all-important alone time. Many people leave it until after Christmas to contact Relate and whilst it is never too late to seek support for your relationships, the earlier you do it, the better chance you will have of resolving any issues and moving forward.”

To help you through the holidays and out the other side with your relationships in a good place, Relate has come up with some common triggers for Christmas tensions and how to avoid them resulting in a full-blown row.

Relatives assuming you will spend Christmas with them this year

Try to discuss your festive plans well in advance of the big day, considering everyone’s feelings as much as you can and if you cannot spend Christmas Day with them, find another time during the Christmas period when you can get together. Remember though, that it might be impossible to please everyone – try not to worry or feel guilty about this.

Your partner tends to spend a lot of money on food and gifts

Relate’s research has found that money worries are a top strain on relationships and Christmas can place extra pressure on finances. Talk to your partner beforehand about what you can jointly afford to spend on food and presents. If the arguments persist, consider some counselling to help you better communicate about money and understand each other’s attitudes to it.

A family member has too much to drink and makes hurtful comments

As tempting as it may be to react, take a few deep breaths and try to stay calm. Accusing them of having too much to drink could make it worse. Instead, you could say “I’m not sure Christmas Day is the best time to discuss this. Let’s talk about it another time.” If you feel there are deeper underlying issues you may wish to consider family counselling.

The constant socialising is getting too much

Don’t feel bad about excusing yourself so you can get an hour or so of ‘me’ time. It will mean you are in a better mood when you are with your family, so it is in everyone’s interest. Even better if as a couple you can ensure that you have some quality time as a twosome.

You have too many things to do and you‘re feeling irritable

Don’t suffer in silence. Explain to others in the family how you are feeling. See if you can delegate a few tasks and share the burden.

Our non-judgmental services support individuals, couples, families, children, young people and friends of all ages, backgrounds and sexual orientations. Please contact us to find out more or to book an appointment.

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