Christmas is traditionally a time to relax and celebrate, away from the stress of everyday life. However, it is also the time when many relationship troubles come to a head. Dissatisfaction peaks as a consequence of lots of time spent together, financial pressures, desire to make changes, unfulfilled expectations and no more Christmas glue holding the relationship together. Relationships don’t suddenly go wrong, but the aftermath of Christmas provides the first opportunity to reflect on issues that have been brewing and put on hold for months. At a time that encourages harmony, long-standing relationship issues stand out. If you’re approaching Christmas with a sense of trepidation about the future of your relationship, rest assured, you are not alone – after all, the first Monday after new year is dubbed ‘’National divorce day’’ for a reason.
Here are some indicators that you’re heading for a post-Christmas separation.
Planning the holiday leads to numerous disagreements: With so many key decisions to make, you may find yourself compromising much more frequently around Christmas. It’s not whether you disagree that’s the issue but whether and how you resolve your differences that counts. Are you truly compromising - or are your views being ignored? If you can’t resolve disagreements, it’s time to ask whether your partner can fulfill your needs long-term.
You’re having to force the festive mood: We associate Christmas with acts of selflessness, but if this attitude isn’t reciprocated, it can lead to feelings of resentment. Meanwhile, you’re probably attempting to force the mood by ignoring your frustration. If you’re feeling isolated the writing may be on the wall.
Worrying about family takes its toll on sex and intimacy: For many couples, Christmas means looking after family. Giving them your undivided attention can draw you even further away from your partner at a time that encourages intimacy between loved ones. Have you made some special time just for the two of you? Are you motivated to…if not then the slippery slope of a ‘plutonic relationship’ may be around the corner.
There have been issues at home for a long time: It is easy to think that Christmas may ease existing problems in your relationship, but it will more likely bring these into perspective. If you’ve feeling extra-aware of them over the holiday, then it’s likely that you’ve had doubts for some time.
You’re imagining Christmas without your partner: If you can readily imagine life without your partner, and this potential reality does not upset you, it’s likely to be a warning sign that things were meant to last… if you gone as far as to voice this to a friend or family member then it’s probably time to end the relationship.
Concerns about money, children, and joint property can make the realization that a relationship is over very difficult to digest. If you feel overwhelmed, then the following steps should help you navigate these contradictory feelings:
- List what makes you unhappy about the relationship — be specific.
- List what you can change and what you want your partner to change to improve things — and again be specific.
- Either discuss with your partner or decide for yourself: is change possible? Am I/are they motivated to change?
- Write a few sentences about what you conclude having completed steps one to three.
If you’re still uncertain about whether to stay or go then speaking with a relationship counsellor can be very helpful. Whatever you decide, recognising there’s an emotional journey you will both go through, and giving this some thought before starting a separation, leads to a better outcome for the whole family.
Kate Daly is co-founder at amicable.io, a faster, fairer and cost-efficient method for negotiating the turbulent process of divorce proceedings. Her own divorce became a reality at Christmas, so Kate understands the difficulty of making this decision when everyone around you are enjoying themselves.