While you are rushing around during the holidays at social events, how much time and attention are you giving to your relationship? In my individual and couples counselling practice, I have often have clients desperate to book in for an appointment during the holidays. In fact it seems that Christmas and New Year holidays are the peak time for major arguments, walk-outs and ultimatums. There are several contributing factors I think that create this situation.
1. You are more stressed or tired.
You are busier with work, social activities and shopping which can make you more irritable or stressed than usual. When we are stressed we tend to be less tolerant and more likely to be triggered by our partner’s behaviour. A minor issue can become a battleground, and little things can escalate into a full scale argument when we are stressed and tired. A stressed brain makes poorer decisions and can be prone to all or nothing thinking. Leaving a relationship is a major life decision, and that feeling of urgency is just a feeling that will pass. Taking a step back to look at whether it’s just your own stress, or whether it really is that the relationship that is problematic is important. That’s when talking to a psychotherapist who is neutral and can see things that you may be missing can be so helpful.
2. You have been avoiding each other all year.
A relationship doesn’t die a quick death, rather it deteriorates over a period of time, often when we are avoiding connection or being honest with each other. You may have been overly focussed on work, your family responsibilities, study, or your own social life, as a way to avoid open communication with your partner. A relationship goes through cycles, sometimes there is distance as well as intimacy. If you don’t make the effort to share what’s going on for you because you want to avoid an argument or disagreement, the distance will grow and you will be living parallel lives rather than lives that are intertwined. A year of avoidance can leave you wondering whether you should stay in the relationship for another year. There is nothing worse than feeling lonely in a relationship during holidays.
3. You or your partner are having an identity crisis.
As you grow and change, it can create conflict or challenges for your relationship. I was recently working with a couple in their late 20s who had become parents for the first time. The wife felt she had matured almost overnight with the birth of their child and that her values had changed, while her husband was still going out and partying as he had before they became parents. She was feeling unsupported and like she had to be the adult all the time. When I worked with them both in counselling, the husband talked about how anxious he felt being a new parent. He had been raised by a single mother, so had no role model for being a father. He knew he needed to step up and support his wife but wasn’t quite sure how to do it. Becoming a parent is a huge transition and it’s common for either or both partners to have some challenges with making that transition. By working through these issues in counselling, this couple are looking forward to a more peaceful holiday with the husband stepping up as father, and his wife able to relax, knowing she is fully supported.
While it may feel like holidays is the time to call it quits, it’s always worth having a relationship check-up with a professional counsellor to see if there is still hope to save your relationship. Let’s talk before it breaks, book in for an appointment now to see how I can support you.