Shortlands

Coping With Difficult Relationships at Christmas

Swathes of ‘picture-perfect’ Christmas television adverts and magazine articles come out about now. These can add pressure for people who may not be anticipating similar scenes of familial bliss. For many households, the extra pressures that Christmas brings can really strain a marriage or partnership. They can increase the likelihood of arguments and disagreements overshadowing the celebrations. Coping with difficult relationships at Christmas can seem a lot harder than at other times of the year. Especially if there are children and other family members in the picture, as added pressure to give them a magical time can also make a tricky situation intolerable.

Relationships at Christmas

It’s not a coincidence that divorce rates increase significantly in the weeks following the Christmas break. Sometimes, spending all that extra time together, coupled with trying to fit everything in – and paying for it too – can tip relationships over the edge.

Shot of an elegant married couple angry with each other having a therapy session

Many couples find themselves splitting up at Christmas and visiting the divorce solicitor in the New Year, which can be termed as divorce crisis in Christmas. Yet with some prior planning and managing of expectations, there is plenty that can be done to help keep the arguments and upset to a minimum. Even if things are not completely harmonious, knowing how to handle what can be a difficult time can help people manage their emotions a lot more easily.

1. Keep it Manageable

So many Christmas memories are about who we spend the festival with and what we do. For example, going for walks after dark to look at the Christmas lights or drinking hot chocolate in front of a Christmas film. So, don’t stress yourself out by trying to make everything perfect. Don’t book up every minute of free time or over-extend your budget to buy loads of unnecessary presents. Keep the food simple so that you are not getting anxious about complicated cooking schedules.

2. Plan Ahead

This is vital for families with children, who may (or may not) be spending Christmas period at two or more households. Get together with everyone involved in plenty of time to work out what is happening when, and what people will need to have with them to make things work. This could mean packing overnight bags for longer stays and ensuring that people’s Christmas gifts are delivered to the right places. Handling difficult relationships at Christmas is easier when everyone knows what is expected of them and what you have all agreed to ahead of time.

3. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

As per the suggestions above, keep things simple to help the mood to remain relaxed and content. It won’t matter if there aren’t quite enough crackers to go round or if no-one remembered to pick up the sprouts for dinner. Small things like that can easily become catalysts for larger disagreements, which can then escalate and dominate proceedings. It can be difficult to separate minor irritations like these from stronger, longer-term feelings, but succeeding at this will help keep the day more festive and less contentious.

4. Time Out

We all enjoy some time out from company occasionally. The Christmas holidays period with family and friends all around can be full-on for even the most dedicated extrovert. Allowing everyone (including yourself) time alone can help reset the mood and keep things on an even keel. Going to a bedroom for a quiet read can help, or popping out for a quick stroll to clear the head. Taking a break from the group setting like this can also help stop any disagreements that are brewing from escalating further.

5. Be Kind

Remember that people are often tired at the end of a calendar year. Winter weather can also make people feel less able to cope with things not going as planned. Cut each other some slack; help out where possible. Pull together to make the festival one to remember for all the right reasons. Showing some Christmas spirit and festive tolerance will help teach your children how to get the most out of their own celebrations when they form their own relationships in the future as well.

6. Seek Professional Advice if All Else fails

If your relationship really cannot survive the festive period, it could be time to think about splitting up. Sometimes, agreeing this can help draw a line under lingering resentments and help the family to move forward in a more positive way. If you would like to discuss your options around divorce, speak to a family solicitor in January who will be able to discuss your individual circumstances. Alternatively, if you feel that the relationship could still be saved, a counsellor or third-party mediator can often help people untangle their feelings and work out how to sort out their disagreements in a healthy, effective way.

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