Holidays often present stressful situations that take their toll on relationships. Here's how to make sure yours survives

All that time spent with family over the holidays can put pressure on your romantic relationship. In fact, court records show that many divorce petitions are filed in the month of January.

Deciding whose family you will be visiting or hosting can require excellent negotiating skills. Things can get very tense if one or both of you has a vast extended family descending for the holidays. ‘Plan the holidays together as a couple, instead of individually, to avoid feelings of neglect,’ says Papers. A lot of tension can be avoided if you are mindful of spending time equally with both families. ‘Communicate your expectations, fears, concerns and boundaries effectively when it comes to guests, and respect each other’s wishes,’ she adds.

Whether the two of you have been together for three months or three years, it’s only fair to prepare your partner if they are about to meet your relatives for the first time. Particularly if your other half has a small family, they might find meeting yours overwhelming. Give them a bit of family history, as well as fair warning if there’s anything they should know about – for example the likelihood of relentless questions from Aunt Abby about starting a family, or Uncle Kenny’s tendency to get boisterous after one beer too many. Papers suggests speaking to your partner about their readiness to meet your family. ‘If they resist,’ she says, ‘make alternative plans and arrangements that will make you both happy.’ Also, before the guests arrive, agree on a ‘time-out’ signal between the two of you that means your partner needs a break. This way there won’t be misunderstandings or resentment.

The festive season often goes hand in hand with overspending. Money worries can put a damper on any relationship, especially when one of you feels left out of the spending or that your partner is being frivolous with their money. Budget for the festive season. ‘Make your partner feel that their input on how money is spent is important and valued,’ suggests Papers.

Picture this: you have family members from far away as house guests, while your partner’s relatives aren’t visiting this holiday. It’s really easy, in the excitement of seeing everyone again, to spend all your time catching up with them and having fun, while your other half does all the chores. But this could leave them feeling like the hired help, so plan a to-do list together, and use the chores as a way to connect while you share the work. Decide who will be responsible for completing which tasks. That way, you’re sharing the load.

Many of us tend to over-indulge over the holidays, and drinking too much alcohol can cause tension, conflict and even accidents in extreme cases. Some-times, when people have had too much to drink, they say and do things they would never normally say or do. And once it’s said or done, you can’t take it back – so limit your intake if you value your relationship. Also, you should take care of your health all year round. ‘How and what we eat and drink remains important,’ says Papers. ‘Self-control is critical.’

Tension rises in the Nkosana* household in the months leading up to the festive season, as Chris* and Akhona* disagree on where to spend the holidays and what to do. ‘We end up fighting every year. I don’t like going to his family because I end up serving everyone and don’t get to rest,’ says Akhona. ‘I also don’t like the amount of money he splashes around with his friends. It’s like he has to impress them all the time.’ She says that this year they discussed it and have agreed they will go to Chris’s family just for one meal and he will tone down his spending.

‘We’ve compromised, and will alternate whose family we visit each year’

Esther Faure* says she was so upset by her mother-in-law criticising her parenting in the past, that last year she decided to visit her family on her own. ‘I know this is not great for us as a couple, so we’ve compromised and will alternate whose family we visit each year,’ she says.
*Not their real names

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by holiday tension, help is at hand:

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HOLIDAY HEADACHES HOLIDAY HEADACHES Reviewed by Zandile Xabendlini on December 05, 2017 Rating: 5
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