Family lawyers are once again preparing for what they predict will be a ‘spike’ in divorce filings as more relationships are expected to hit the rocks in January 2022. January is well established as the landmark month for divorce filings to spike, with the first full working day now coined as ‘D Day’. 

Divorce tends to spike at pivotal points in the family calendar, such as Christmas, which can be the inevitable melting pot for the increase in tensions and the magnifier of disputes. 

Families face a lot of pressure at Christmas time, often, in part by placing high expectations on ourselves and other family members to create the ‘perfect Christmas.’ This, coupled with financial pressures, mean that some families can reach a tipping point.

It’s a sad fact that, when we do spend quality time with our partners, any cracks will start to show up. We don’t have the common distractions of daily routine, so we have more time to focus on the relationship. If the foundations are already rocky then holidays have a way of holding a mirror up to the relationship and it could well mean make or break time. 

The good news is that, if you are aware of these pitfalls, there are things you can do to help your relationship survive Christmas holidays:

  1. Don’t let problems fester                                                                                                                      I’ve yet to meet a spouse who can read minds, but I’ve met so many people who expect their partner to just know what they need. I’ve also seen many people push away their own needs as a way to feel invulnerable. If there are issues or needs you have that aren’t being met, then raise these in advance with your partner and work together to try and sort them out before it gets to boiling point and irreparable damage is done.
  1. Manage expectations 

Set aside some time to discuss what you want from the holidays and how you see it working. 

Try and pinpoint any difficult demands and points of strain in advance and make compromises where needed that you are both comfortable with. Make a plan that you both agree to and are happy with.

  1. Agree a financial budget for the Christmas period in advance and stick to it

Financial pressure is one of the biggest causes of tension at Christmas as families feel under enormous pressure to buy the latest toys for their children and have a lavish Christmas. If you’re worried about the cost of Christmas, you could try setting some spending limits for gifts or come up with ideas for presents that don’t need to be bought. Gifting some time to each other, where you agree to take care of the kids for an afternoon or even a romantic breakfast in bed can make wonderfully thoughtful gifts. 

  1. Make a conscious decision to stay calm and to keep spirits up over Christmas                             

Making a conscious effort to stay positive and calm is a simple but incredibly effective way to avoid tension building up. Good vibes are contagious. If you do find yourself simmering, take some deep breaths or try and get out for a walk to clear your head. Above all, recognise that people are stressed and don’t take the bait. 

  1. Do your best to get along with the in laws and extended family

If this creates tension in your household, agree to keep visits to a minimum to avoid unnecessary stress. If you’re already committed, try factoring in a walk in the afternoon to break things up a little. Equally, feel free to ask a guest to help out with the cooking or looking after the kids so you’re not left feeling resentful. If you know certain people don’t get on, it’s a good idea to speak to them beforehand and explain to them that it’s important for everyone to make the effort to have a harmonious day. 

  1. Cut them some slack 

Understand that loved ones might be a bit more stressed than usual and give them a bit more allowance for this. Letting your partner know you are there for them and you have their back can make a world of difference. 

  1. Don’t take things too seriously

Keep perspective on the magnitude and significance of things that might trigger an argument. Remember you can diffuse an argument before it happens by choosing to react with love. For example, giving them a hug or telling them you love them can diffuse the tension in a heartbeat if you do it sincerely.

  1. Actions speak louder than words

Being the change you want to see in your partner can be the most effective way to bring them around. You may find they reciprocate and make more effort with you without you actually having to ask them. 

  1. Keep the communication lines open 

When stress goes up, communication often goes down. Find a way that works for you both and remember that you will both have different methods of communicating how you feel. Sticking your head in the sand isn’t a great way to deal with issues and it’s always best to nip them in the bud right away. However, it’s never too late to start communicating better with your partner. Be kind, respectful and empathetic towards each other and you will find that your relationship can overcome many obstacles.

  1. Keep the love alive 

Be affectionate with your partner and try being a little more spontaneous – surprises can be very romantic so take advantage of the time you have together over the holidays.  

Being able to eat out in your favourite place again or have a drink in your local area to rekindle your connection. Christmas can be a great time to get your sparkle back so be creative!