Expert Author Susan Leigh
Many people have high expectations of Christmas. They spend weeks planning, shopping for perfect gifts, decorating their homes, anticipating the wonderful festivities so often depicted in films, adverts and magazines.
Reality though can mean that things don't always go to plan. Some couples discover that they're not as relaxed with each other as they thought or may have completely different ideas as to how they'd like to spend the time and with whom. It may start to dawn on them that they've been growing apart over the years.
Interestingly, post-Christmas is the busiest time for divorce lawyers after the full-on closeness, stress and drama of a family Christmas spent hot-housed together. The intensive time together can highlight serious flaws and issues within the relationship.
Let's look at some tips to help your relationship survive Christmas;
- Don't expect everything to be perfect. Perfection's a tough ask and can make for a tense home if people feel they have to behave in a more formal way, especially if there are guests. Remember, the times that people remember with affection are often the times when things didn't go to plan; when the brussels spouts were discovered still on the stove after the meal had finished or when granny said something indiscreet.
- Relax a little and share the load. Allow others to help, including the children. Jobs like dressing the tree, setting the table, preparing vegetables, planning the entertainment can be fun for all, including your guests. Many people want to join in and feel of value. You can ease your stress and occupy the in-laws, both at the same time.
- Resist the temptation to overspend. A recent survey revealed that children preferred spending time with their parents rather than receiving a miscellany of gifts. Agree on one special gift, then focus on giving memories, days out walking, playing games, doing crafts together. Use the opportunity to invest time and affection into your family relationships.
- Make food less of an issue. Some meals are expected to be traditional, whilst others can be more relaxed. Prepare soups, stews, pies and casseroles in advance and cook them as required. Accept if guests offer to contribute a dish. It can make for more of a party atmosphere whilst easing the expense and time usually spent in the kitchen.
- Present a united front. House guests and children can cause division between a couple. Refuse to be side-lined and agree to discuss contentious issues when you're alone in private. Try to dedicate some time everyday to be alone together to talk, to share your thoughts and feelings and reconnect.
- Determine to spend some festive time as a couple. Ask house guests to babysit for a few hours so you can go for coffee, lunch or an evening out together. Let them know that it's important for you both to spend some fun Christmas time together too.
- Have a little quiet 'me' time too, when you take a bath, read a book, go for a run or simply relax for half an hour. Find a way to manage your festive stress. If you're stressed and over-tired your mood can cause both you and your partner to feel frustrated and resentful.