Tactics to protect your relationship during Christmas
The build-up to Christmas can be such a busy time that you may not realise that you’re navigating fairly stressful terrain.
You’re trying to finish things off at work, you’re juggling a lot of social commitments, and you’re trying to negotiate where and how you’ll be celebrating the major events of the festive season.
If you’re in a relationship, then you’ve got an additional dynamic to try and work around. Will your partner be going to your family events? Will you be going to their family events? Do you have to spend time with their friends? Will you both be boycotting everything and just going off and doing your own thing?
It’s easy for Christmas to become a make-or-break proposition when it comes to a relationship, so it’s important to try and keep everything in perspective and be on the look-out for any signals that stress levels are rising.
Here’s a few hints and tips to help you navigate the Christmas relationship minefield.
Start the conversation early
Whether this is your first Christmas together or you’ve done this before, starting the conversation well in advance helps to identify where any points of contention might arise.
Use open-ended questions, such as:
- “I know it’s months away, but have you given any thought to what you want to do for Christmas this year?”
- “Hey, have your family mentioned anything about Christmas this year?”
- “I can’t believe it’s only three months until Christmas! What do you feel like doing this year?”
Be ready to compromise
Even if you’ve got some red lines that are non-negotiable, demonstrate that you’re open to discussing things and willing to compromise to find a Christmas solution that works for you both.
Proactively making peace offerings can give you some leverage when it gets to the sticking points that really matter to you. For example:
- “You’re welcome to come to my office Christmas party, but no pressure – your call.”
- “I’ve got to go for lunch with my grandmother next week. Did you want to come? I’m happy to go by myself if that’s easier.”
- “My friends are getting together for Christmas brunch on the weekend – is that something you’d like to be part of, or would you prefer to give it a miss?”
Don’t set ultimatums
You might have specific things that you want to do at Christmas, but avoid setting these out as ultimatums that force a decision point in your relationship.
Avoid something like:
- “We have to spend Christmas lunch with my family this year, we spent it with your family last year!”
Instead, try something like:
- “My family have asked if we could spend Christmas lunch with them this year. Do you think that will be possible?”
Recognise your limitations
Just because you’re in a relationship, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything together. Try and figure out a common understanding of what matters to you as a couple, and you want to do personally.
If you really want to spend Christmas Eve with your family but your partner doesn’t, are there solutions available that means that you spend Christmas Eve apart? Does that negatively impact your relationship?
Monitor stress levels
Stress is one of those funny things that can creep up on you and explode unexpectedly. If your partner has agreed to spend Christmas with your family, be aware that this is going to be creating subliminal stress for them that they’re probably not even aware of. Create opportunities to go for a walk with your partner, to give them some time out, to check-in with each other to make sure that everything is okay. Pay attention to your own stress levels also – your family may be stressing you out, but don’t take it out on your partner, they’re there to support you not to be your punching bag.
Don’t forget to debrief
Once Christmas is done and dusted, take some time together to discuss how it went for you both. What worked? What didn’t? What will you do differently next Christmas? Start the conversation early and navigate it together.