The first working of day in January is dubbed ‘Divorce Day’ by family lawyers, as this is when they get the highest spike in new cases. According to the Office of National Statistics, the divorce rate in opposite sex couples increased by 18.4% in 2019. After people have been forced to spend the holidays with their nearest and dearest, suddenly they don’t feel as dear to them anymore. Imagine that!
Christmas, although a time of merriment, good cheer and all things fun, can turn out to be the most stressful time for couples. Thankfully due to the Pandemic (and I never thought I will use the words ‘thankfully’ and ‘Pandemic’ together) we are all (sort of) used to working from home with everyone else about. However, this has proven stressful for a lot of working parents, particularly when home-schooling was thrown into the mix. This situation becomes a pressure cooker when you take out the home-schooling and work, but add in the turkey, in-laws and all the trimmings and call it Christmas.
Basically, the children are allowed to relax because there is no school, but at the same time they have to be on best behaviour because there are in-laws to impress. Couples also feel on edge because they are either on the backfoot apologising for a member of the extended family who is behaving badly or having to stick up for another who might be behaving.
Christmas is unique in the stress it brings, which is odd considering that the stress, is in pursuit of having a merry time. The list of things to do to prepare for the festive season is unending:
- Decide who is hosting, and try to not get into a fight about it
- Send out 400 Christmas cards
- Get a Christmas tree
- Put up the decorations
- Make list of who to get presents for
- Do the shopping. The queues start building up in shopping car parks by the first of December!
- Wrap presents
- Do the food shopping, the turkey needs to be ordered by when again?
- Dig out last year’s recipe for nutloaf, because one the kids has decided to go vegan!
By the time you have done everything that needs to be done, you are exhausted, fed up and lost your Christmas cheer; and it is only Christmas eve and the in-laws haven’t descended yet!
If you have small children, Christmas is such a magical time for them, and you really want to make it special; that is why stressing yourself out into a frazzle can make you come across as Scrooge. So, you pretend you are not stressed, and your partner gets his head bitten off for blinking more often than usual as that is his way of showing stress. Then the fight begins.
If you are a working mother you have your usual balls in the air and another one is added just for good season’s cheer. So why do couples come out Christmas wanting a divorce? Because the two of you can sit on a blister all year until the pressure cooker of Christmas when all hell breaks loose.
Here are the 3 mistakes to avoid if you want to protect your relationship:
- Trying to do Christmas by someone else’s rules especially if you are hosting.
This is always a bad idea. If you want a fake tree, please do just that and tell Aunt Maud you are allergic to pine trees!
2. Think your family will suddenly become perfect because it is Christmas
Everyone is not going to get along just fine because it is Christmas; people are people, and Christmas doesn’t change that. Siblings when they get together, even if they are 105 years old, revert to their familial pecking order and old grievances come out. Be prepared to call time out if required, you know it makes sense.
3. Having unrealistic expectations
You are not suddenly going to become a master chef champion and cook Turkey a L’orange!
Your children are not going to suddenly become model children because Aunt Maud has shown up. Leave them be, they are being what you have allowed them to be all year.
If you have been fighting with your husband all year long, things will not suddenly solve themselves out because a Christmas pudding put in an appearance at table. Your resentments haven’t gone anywhere, you still need that counselling session so please don’t put that added pressure on Christmas.
Christmas, that most wonderful time of the year can indeed be wonderful if you are realistic in your expectations. Don’t expect all your problems to disappear and people to have a personality transplant. Relax into the imperfection of family life and whatever you do, please don’t be that cliché picking up on the phone to call the lawyers on divorce day.
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