Advice to cool the festive tensions

Relationship support charity Relate is expecting a peak in calls in the New Year after tensions come to a head over the Christmas holidays.

Monday, 18th December 2017, 1:34 pm
Updated Monday, 18th December 2017, 1:41 pm

In January 2017, Relate Bedfordshire and Luton received more than double the number of calls from local people compared with an average month – the total rise was 108%.

That figure was four times the increase in Relate calls nationally.

Visits to the charity’s website at are also expected to outstrip the national uplift of 47%.

Relate counsellor Diane Whitmore said: “This rise in people getting in touch is a pattern we see each year, but by the time many couples get in touch, their relationship is already at crisis point. For some couples, it is already too late by then. January is also notoriously the most popular month for divorce.

“However, Relate’s research - with more than 5,000 UK adults - has found that one in 10 divorcees say that, with the right support, they would have been able to save their relationship and stay together.”

In addition, 18% say that, with the right support, they would have been able to make the ending of their relationship easier to deal with.

Diane added: “This is why we encourage people to seek support for their relationship at the earliest possible stage.

“As Christmas approaches, there can be added pressures placed on relationships as family tensions come to a head and the added stress of organising the festivities can ironically result in more arguments.

“Yet there are some simple things you can do to survive this busy period with your relationship intact, such as delegating tasks and carving out that all-important alone time.

“Many people leave it until after Christmas to contact Relate and, whilst it is never too late to seek support for your relationship, the earlier you do it, the better chance you will have of resolving any issues and moving forward.”

To help us through the holidays and out the other side with our relationships in a good place, Relate has come up with some common triggers for Christmas tensions and how to avoid them resulting in a full-blown row:

>> Relatives assume you will spend Christmas with them this year

Try to discuss your festive plans well in advance of the big day, considering everyone’s feelings as much as you can, and if you cannot spend Christmas Day with them, find another time during the Christmas period when you can get together. Remember though, that it might be impossible to please everyone – try not to worry or feel guilty about this.

>> Your partner tends to spend a lot of money on food and gifts

Relate’s research has found that money worries are a top strain on relationships and Christmas can place extra pressure on finances. Talk to your partner beforehand about what you can jointly afford to spend on food and presents. If the arguments persist, consider counselling to help you better communicate about money and understand each other’s attitudes to it.

>> A family member has too much to drink and makes hurtful comments

As tempting as it may be to react, take a few deep breaths and try to stay calm. Accusing them of having too much to drink could make it worse. Instead, you could say: “I’m not sure Christmas Day is the best time to discuss this. Let’s talk about it another time.” If you feel there are deeper underlying issues you may wish to consider family counselling.

>> Constant socialising is getting too much

Don’t feel bad about excusing yourself so you can get an hour or so of ‘me’ time. It will mean you are in a better mood when you are with your family, so it is in everyone’s interest. Even better if as a couple you can ensure that you have some quality time together.

>> You have too many things to do and you‘re feeling irritable

Don’t suffer in silence. Explain to others in the family how you’re feeling. See if you can delegate a few tasks and share the burden.

If you’d like to talk with one of Relate’s counsellors, give the friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.

Visit or call 0300 100 1234 to find out more.