Post Christmas Relationship Problems

I had a chat with Declan Meehan on East Coast Radio this morning about what we relationship therapists dub “Divorce Week” – the first week of being back to work. Before Christmas ’twas the Season to be Merry – now ’tis the New Year Relationship Blues week !

Why is this ?  What goes on ? Why do so many relationships come under such strain at this particular time.

Imagine this scenario….

First off a lot of couples are so busy nowadays, especially younger ones with children, that they hardly get time to see or speak to or touch each other from one month to the next. Sleepless nights, school runs, flu and or vomiting bugs, ageing infirm relatives to mind, meals to prepare, clothes to wash and wages to earn combine to exhaust and stretch us. So the enticing TV advertisements’ model of  happy smiling co-operative families sitting down to a perfectly cooked dinner in immaculate clothes with hair and teeth all a glimmer simply adds to our sense that there’s something seriously wrong, that we’re missing out here. It makes us mad with resentment.

What happens next ?

Your partner has asked the in-laws to join you for Christmas dinner but you weren’t consulted. You still carry the scars from wounds inflicted as a result of that and previous rows over the same issue. Now, as you race around the kitchen peeling, plucking, stuffing and roasting he/she is playing on the ten year old’s game console without a care in the world. You’re ready to take the rolling pin to them, but the effects of that’ll just add to the washing up. Then the doorbell rings…


In they come, all smiles and hugs and gifts for partner and children before – eventually – heads pop in the kitchen door and ” Happy Christmas. God, but you’re great the way you have it all under control. I dunno how you do it..” And abruptly they’re gone.

Pop  ! The bubbly has been opened next door in the living room. More laughter. Then the timer pings and the smoke alarm triggers when you open the oven door and THEY slam the kitchen door to incarcerate you in the choking stinking smoke of burnt bird and goose fat.

Jesus !  You’re ready to scream….

Okay.. a bit exaggerated, maybe. But get the gist? And you can just imagine how the day descends into bickering, resentment and, once the booze takes hold, flaming ugly dispute.

Next day you’re both miserable. Too much food, too much alcohol, not a word between you and wishing the worst for each other. As New Year approaches and the inter-personal sniping starts you find yourself taking stock of things and this slowly develops into thinking ” Hang on a minute…..New Year…. New Me !” And when your best friend enquires about resolutions you shock yourself by having to bite back your immediate response of  “FREEDOM FROM ….” before you mumble something about losing a few kilos and trying to get fit again.

Phew… You’re both hurting, there’s no apparent joy in being together any more and a goodly piece of you wants out. So go on line and check out divorce lawyers. Talk to your friend who’s in the process right now. Start thinking of your exit strategy. After all, life is for living…

But then, but then. The children. The house. Finance. Starting afresh.

Is it THAT bad?

How about seeing a relationship counsellor together?  Talk about difficulties in front of trained  therapist who is non-judgemental and objectively neutral. Who’ll keep things safe and make sure that each of you is heard and that there is no blaming permitted. Respectful communication is the aim so that problems can be aired, explored and outcomes mutually agreed.

And change is very much on the agenda – not just for him/her but also for you : what can you each do to help make things better? Little things can mean a lot like a word of appreciation or a smile and a pat on the hand – or better still a hug. There will probably be small tasks set as homework and these will be reviewed each week. Some are pleasurable like a date night every so often, some more tricky like undertaking a task that you have avoided  and which causes friction. But these are baby steps to allow the build up of communication, respect and trust which are the foundations of positive and loving relationships. And gradually, as these start to grow, the relationship starts to flourish.

Worth a try ? Worth the investment ?   It may save your relationship. And imagine never having to go through another Christmas like that….