By Elly Prior (About)
Counsellor, Founder and Author of Professional-counselling.com
Relationship advice for Christmas
Expectations at Christmas
Christmas can put an extra and unnecessary strain on your relationship - so I really hope I can help you out with some extra relationship advice. I really don't want you to be one of the thousands of people knocking on the door of a relationship expert once the holiday season is over!
First of all, you may as well acknowledge that you could be at risk of setting yourselves up for 'failure' - if you want to call it that. Why? Well... the holiday season is often so stressful because of the huge expectations:
- the 'right' presents
- the 'right' food
- the 'right' atmosphere
- the 'right' mood
- the 'right' festive events
- the 'right' cards/greetings
- the 'right' contribution to the school
- being the 'right' daughter/husband/child/parent
- being a 'good' guest
- ensuring that your children are on their 'best' behaviour
Whatever that all of that means! How stressful is that?!
Before you even start - have you ever thought about trying hypnosis to help you relax? There's a fab solution for coping with the stress around Christmas time, so why not check out my page of Hypnosis Online FAQs.
Peace and joy... or trouble ahead?
- 11 of the most common Christmas time relationship stresses
How merry is your Christmas really?
All the expectations around Christmas can lead to disappointments - for you, and for others.
Below I've listed the potential trouble spots, some of which you're no doubt well aware of, but others perhaps not so much.
I hope that if I can prepare you in advance, you may be able to manage at least your own, your partner's and your children's expectations way in advance of Christmas.
Hopefully this will also help you to become more aware of the pressures others around you feel too. It all creates the potential for a meltdown!
Here are some of the 'pressure points' on relationships at Christmas:
- The pressure of time in terms of all the above expectations
- Managing your finances may be even more difficult in December, and differences in attitudes towards spending will be even more apparent
- The cost of Christmas parties - in terms of money, time and maybe even your relationship if your trust in each other has been damaged
- Staying with extended family and/or...
- ... Having extended family stay with you
- Spending time with children who may not be your own
- Spending time with children who may not behave in the way you'd want them to
- Deciding with which parent the children should spend their days (if you and your partner are separated or divorced)
- Your children not being with you on the days you'd have wanted
- The influence of alcohol - on your partner, on you, on your guests
- The physical and mental effects of the kind of foods you eat during this time (yes... your mental well-being too!)
Given that there are so many potential causes of relationship problems at Christmas, how about insulating your relationship as well as your home?
Top 10 tips to insulate your relationship at Christmas
There's still enough time to review your Christmas arrangements. Take the time to decide what you're definitely going to do differently this year. Remember, if you always do the same thing, you can't expect a different result!
Here's a plan for you and your partner to use well before Christmas, and during the festivities themselves. If you have children, arrange for them to stay in their rooms for an evening - with a tray of 'goodies' if need be - or have them spend a night away with friends/family if at all possible (you could agree to swap).
- Switch off the TV, put all phones on silent, light some candles, cook something easy or have a take-away. This how you start your Christmas preparations.
- 'Indulge' in a bit of daydreaming about what your ideal Christmas would be - just for fun. Think about your ideal location, ideal guest/celebrity, ideal food (forget about the staples). What would you want to see happening? What would you really like to get? How long would you really like it (whatever 'it' means) to last, etc. ...?
- Brainstorm all the things you really do have to do - the things you don't have a choice about. This list is for the unavoidable 'musts'. Then see if you can add in anything you've written down for point 2 above.
- Consider telling your family and/or friends that you'd much prefer to spend some special time with them during a weekend in the dark month of January. That way you'd have something to look forward to after the holiday season.
- Review my list of expectations at the beginning of this article. Make a list of tasks and break those up into individual steps, so that you have some clarity on what exactly is required.
- 'Divvy up' the tasks and make lists for both of you or all of you - if you have children - to make clear who's responsible for what.
- Work out together who you both might want or need to help out - or visit - for whatever reason. Giving 'time' can be more valuable than any present at any price. If you can really commit to it, you'll gain tremendously yourself by cheering up someone else. If you do it with a sulky attitude, it's just going to feel like hard work. Lovingly helping someone else will also take the focus off your own troubles for a while.
- If on Christmas day your partner (or someone else) hasn't fulfilled their task, whatever you do - don't go on about it! It's not worth a row, at least not at that time. Lower all your expectations and be grateful for whatever it is that's good and goes well. Make a point of looking out for those things.
- Accept from the start that it's very likely you're going to 'fail' in at least someone's eyes, if not your own. Oh well… you and everyone else will recover! Just agree that, whatever happens, the two of you are going to make Christmas the best you can manage.
- If your house is full or you are staying with other people, plan for the two of you to spend some quality time together as often as possible. That might be with 'an early night', a stroll to the park, a midnight feast, an early morning start, or any other way to 'escape' children, family and/or friends (however much you love them!). It'll help to 'anchor' you and your relationship and give you time to discuss and problem-solve any potential issues. Oh... and 'stay in touch' with each other via Romantic Text Messages - even if you share the same house!
Under no circumstances discuss any of the above when either one of you is under the influence of alcohol!
Here are some more tips from the Greater Good's Christine Carter, PhD:
Keeping things in perspective
See Part 2 for 8 'Life-Saving' Tips.
Go right ahead and comment (please keep it short)!
I'll do my best to offer a few words of comfort.