The beginning of a new year can be one of the most stressful times of the year for families and couples. Christmas often brings with it pressures that would test the strongest of relationships at the best of times. Rarely does the holiday season match the Christmas card image of happy families sitting round a fire – a romantic ideal that all too often makes our own family Christmas look less than perfect and adds to the stress on our relationships.
To make things even harder, not all couples are together over the holidays because they want to be, and it’s in the early weeks of the new year that the cracks start to show. Sometimes you might know your relationship is in trouble, but you’ve struggled on through Christmas and the new year for the sake of the children, or to avoid upsetting parents and other members of the family. Having to portray the image of a happy couple publicly can take its toll in private.
If you get on with your in-laws, then you’re very lucky, but tensions between family groups who don’t spend much time together other than over Christmas can spark furious rows. “Why does my partner always take his/her parents’ side over mine in an argument?”, “Why does my partner’s family seem to think they know what’s right for our children better than we do?” You bite your tongue so the tension bubbles away under the surface. Add to that pressure cooker a dollop of indigestion and a glass of wine too many, and it’s no surprise that tempers get frayed and things are said that may not be easily forgotten.
So now it’s the new year, and you have to unpick the arguments and tensions that you’ve faced over Christmas, and work hard on your relationship. Money might be tight, and the credit card bill that’s due at the end of January looms large. What can you do to put it all back together again?
New Year offers the perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again. Dragging into the new year the resentments that have built up over Christmas is unhealthy, and often take on false additional meaning at the beginning of a year. Make your new year’s resolution to deal with issues now, rather than let them fester. It’s rarely a good time to make an impulsive decisions about your relationship that you may live to regret.
Date night – take one day or evening of the week to go out together and simply enjoy each other’s company. Book a babysitter, record your favourite programmes, say no to that extra work, do whatever you can to give yourselves some time for each other.
Encourage intimacy – we all know that intimacy is more than physical. Both partners need to feel loved and appreciated before a feeling of intimacy can thrive. Talk. Focus on the good things that your partner does and thank them for it. Let them know what you appreciate (and what you don’t) about the relationship.
Clear communication – Communication – or lack of it – is the number one reason why partners come for couples counselling. Relationships can break down because of poor communication. It’s certainly better than relying on friends or family. Although they mean well, they have their own allegiances and baggage, and in situations like this you don’t need to be right, you need to understand each other’s point of view.
Set goals – sit down together and make some exciting plans for 2012. Maybe you’ll help each other get fit, or work towards saving for that dream holiday so that next Christmas you can be sunning yourself in Sydney rather than stuffing a turkey in Sydenham.
Don’t ignore the problem and hope it will go away. Left unaddressed, problems can chip away at your relationship and make the situation worse down the line. Remember, many of these issues are simply a matter of improving communication. Couples’ counselling can help work through issues in a controlled environment and guide you to a revitalised relationship in 2012.