RELATIONSHIPS AT CHRISTMAS

How to have an argument-free Christmas and avoid becoming a January divorce statistic

Relate Devon and Cornwall is preparing for a New Year spike in people seeking relationship support after tensions come to a head over Christmas, pushing some local families to breaking point.

On average Relate receives a 13% rise in calls and a 58% rise in website users each January. The charity, which offers relationship counselling for couples and individuals as well as family counselling, young people’s counselling, and sex therapy is bracing themselves for a similar peak next month. While they say it’s never too late to seek support, they are urging people in Devon and Cornwall to think about any relationship issues that already exist now – before the pressures of Christmas unnecessarily tip some couples and families into crisis. This comes as new Relate research has found that over half (55%) of UK adults say Christmas places an added strain on relationships.

Previous research by the charity has found money worries are the number one strain on relationships, with over a quarter of people (26%) experiencing this pressure. Relate counsellors say that at Christmas, arguments about money tend to be even more common.

Nathalie Caulier, Relate Devon and Cornwall Area Manager said: “It’s not surprising that so many people see Christmas as an added strain on relationships. No one’s saying that Christmas itself leads to divorce and separation, but if you’re already experiencing issues then added ‘festive pressures’ such as financial woes and family rows can push things from bad to breaking point. Last year we received a 25% increase in calls in January for our services.”

“If you’re aware that things aren’t great with your partner, don’t leave it until after Christmas to take action. Have a conversation now about what’s not working and maybe call your local Relate to find out how they can help. Just starting to have those difficult conversations can take some of the pressure off before you’re all jammed in at home together for a week.”

Relate’s advice for avoiding Christmas fall-outs

DO agree a budget. Sit down with your partner and decide what you want Christmas to look like, versus what you can actually afford and agree a budget. This might take some compromise, particularly if you have different attitudes to money. Keep checking in so there aren’t any nasty surprises come January.

DO divide up tasks. Talk about what needs to happen, such as buying presents, tidying the house, preparing food and decorating. Divide up tasks based on your skills and interests and empower the kids by getting them to choose which chores they will do.

DO carve out me and us time. When you’re with a big family group for several days, it’s important to take time out so you don’t burn out. Go to your room for a while and enjoy a cuddle or get up early to go for a morning run together. Have a bath to relax and unwind.

DON’T let it fester. If your partner does something to upset you, ask them if you can talk to them in private rather than kicking off in front of the family. If there are guests around, head to the garden or go together to run an errand and discuss things properly then.

DO give people equal attention. You may have your favourite relatives who you prefer to hang out with or a child who you have a particularly strong bond with or common interests with, but try to make an effort with everyone so that people don’t feel left out or unwanted.

DON’T drink too much booze. It can be tempting to get carried away on Christmas Day, particularly if conversation isn’t flowing easily or if somebody has rubbed you up the wrong way. Unfortunately, too much alcohol when you’re already in a bad mood can be a recipe for an unmerry Christmas and an awkward New Year.

Relate’s relationship support services are available across Devon and Cornwall.To find your nearest service, visit www.relate.org.uk or phone 0300 77296812016-xmas-tree

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