Relationships can become strained at Christmas
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Noel Bell MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP
21st December, 20170 Comments
The Christmas period can be a particularly stressful time for close intimate relationships. It is a time that when visits to family or friends can potentially ignite old tensions and long-standing resentments about past events and behaviours. Christmas songs can rekindle happy memories but might also activate sad memories of past hurt and unfulfilled expectations. These triggers can stir difficult emotions and discomforting feelings which can place pressure on intimate relationships at a time when you will be away from your normal routine and support network.
Being together with your partner over the holidays for such long periods may exacerbate difficulties especially if you are not used to spending so much time together during other times in the year.
Here are some tips for coping with the Christmas period and maintaining your relationship:
Try to take one day at a time. It may be tempting to slide into forward thinking by linking the days over Christmas with new year celebrations which may magnify the holiday period in your mind. Taking your life one day at a time will help to make your life feel more manageable.
Communicate with your partner. Try to be as open as much as possible with your partner about holiday plans and any grievances you may have. Unexpressed expectations often lead to discord in relationships. Lack of communication can often be the main reason for couples seeking support for their relationship.
Boost your social support structure. Find out who is around to talk to over the holiday season as people in your network might be travelling or unavailable. A bit of forward planning will help to guard against the pitfall of feeling alone. This is especially important if visiting in-laws or friends of your partner when you will be away from your normal routine and support network.
Avoid overindulgence. Drinking too much will potentially lead to lower mood and will risk jeopardising existing relationships. Using alcohol to fix your discomforting feelings will not ultimately help your emotional regulation.
Boost your physical exercise regime. This will increase your mood and reduce the risks of feeling anxious. Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle will help boost your self-esteem and will help you to sleep better. Allow yourself to take time out if the stress levels rise to an uncomfortable level.
Counselling and psychotherapy can offer a supportive and safe place to discuss your feelings around all your relationships. Perhaps there are some historical resentments that require some processing. Dealing with the impacts of difficult family constellations can trigger old feelings of hurt. With a professional therapist, you can benefit from discussing your life concerns with someone who has no vested interest in the decisions you make. A therapist will also offer a neutral and confidential listening space for you to assess your future decisions.
About the author
Noel Bell is a UKCP accredited psychotherapist in London who has spent over 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel is an integrative therapist and draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the psychodynamic, CBT, humanist, existential and transpersonal schools.
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