How to help your relationship survive Christmas!
The demand for relationship counselling has three main peaks in the year – after summer holidays, after Valentine’s Day and after Christmas. All three of these may signal that not all is well with a relationship based on how we believe the experience should be. However, this can also be sparked when our expectations may be based on an idealised view rather than an objective assessment of what is really going on.
Christmas for many of us is a special time of year when we get together with family and enjoy a few days of celebration but, increasingly for some, Christmas becomes an endurance sport where too much is eaten, drunk and spent putting strain on relationships. Added to this can be in-laws visiting, and for some couples negotiating between competing Christmas traditions brought to the relationship from their families or previous long-term relationships. Finally, our TV screens bombard us with idealised images of perfectly cooked food, large happy families and of course lots of beautiful crisp snow.
The harsh reality for the vast majority of us is that we can’t hope to match this idealised Christmas. I still feel disappointed on Christmas day when it hasn’t snowed, but then again I have never experienced a white Christmas in the UK, but can remember a particularly hard frost on the 26th December one year and thinking “if only”. This in a small way highlights the unrealistic expectations we build up around Christmas. The following points below are offered here to help you and your partner embrace a grounded Christmas:
1. Budgeting – the pressure to have “the perfect Christmas” leads many to load debt onto credit cards with the view they will deal with that in the New Year. However, longer term this creates more issues and tension can begin to rise as one partner becomes uncomfortable about how much is being spent and arguments escalate. Setting a budget that you both agree to and your finances can cope with, can help you both feel a sense of control and clear view of what you can afford.
2. Manage expectations (yours and others) – be realistic about what Christmas will be like and try not to idealise the day itself. Plan how you will spend the time together and how you will share the workload.
3. Maintain Perspective – Christmas day is just one day – yes it can be a special day but nevertheless like any other day people may be feeling unwell or be out of sorts – people don’t have to feel the way you may believe they should. Like getting married, couples focus a great deal on planning the Wedding day but less time discussing the marriage, being overly focused on one day can lead to driving those unrealistic expectations which may only set you up to fail.
4. Communication – as with all other relationship challenges, communication is key. Being open about how you feel and working together to agree an approach will go along way to understand each other’s perspective and give you both the opportunity to discuss concerns before they become significant issues.
And finally, I wish you all a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas.
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About Eugene Gallagher
Eugene Gallagher is a relationship therapist and works with individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship-based issues. Eugene has an MA in relationship therapy and is a member of the BACP.