Festive season damage to your relationship?

Christmas and New Year have come and gone – and now everyone is left to face the January financial crunch. But healthy cash flow and your size 34 figure may not have been the only casualties of the festive season. How's your relationship doing?

"The festive season is a stressful time for many people," says Cape Town psychologist Ilse Terblanche. "There is a lot of social and financial pressure and many people also find themselves having to deal with relatives they usually avoid during the year, for a number of reasons. Finding presents and preparing festive meals can add to this pressure."

"It is inevitable that relationships will be affected in some way as well, as any pressure will add to existing problems in relationships."

Relationship danger zones over the festive season


January debt crunch. Many people overspend during the Christmas season. This is understandable, as most people are on holiday and there is a lot of pressure on everyone to buy presents for loved ones. Not everyone gets a bonus in December and this can put real pressure on your cash flow. If you and your partner have different spending habits, or different financial values- she put half her bonus into a savings plan and he bought lottery tickets with his – the lean month of January will highlight this. And without money, stress-release mechanisms such as going to the cinema are out of the question.

Houseguest deluge. If family descends on you for the holiday season, it could seriously impact on the time you spend together and the time you have in which to relax. Orchestrating a household with ten people is probably more stressful than continuing to work over the festive season. You may have to make a real effort to reconnect with your partner after the guests have departed.

The season to be jolly. And the season in which many people drink too much. If you are conscious of hubby having one too many once too often, this will be even more apparent during this time. And he will be conscious of being watched – one can almost hear the buildup to the fight.

Go ask Daddy. Most parents do not have 24-hour contact with their children. Having them undiluted for a few weeks could highlight different ideas you and your spouse may have regarding childrearing. And, let's face it, the darlings can be quite stressful, especially if they demand constant attention and entertainment.

What shall we do? If partners share a number of interests, there is no problem. But what if she wants to go mountaineering and he is aching to go to the golf course? Or they simply cannot agree on which movie to go and see or which friends to visit or which restaurant to go to? Or one wants to go to the beach for a camping holiday and the other wants to hit the shopping centres in a large city. Having different interests is never more apparent than when two people are both on holiday together.

My parents vs. your parents. The endless debate rages – where shall we go for Christmas? Where were we last year and the year before? Will your mother criticise my job, my hairstyle and my cooking again? Will your brother share his ultra-conservative political rantings with everyone once more? And even worse, if the chosen venue turned out to be fraught with peril, family fights or longstanding feuds. The issue of family is a very contentious one and will most probably remain so. Limit contact if the situation is intolerable.

Roly poly, pudding and pie. Everyone eats too much at this time of year and it is inevitable that people will pick up weight. Criticising your partner over weight gain is the start of many a bitter and acrimonious battle. People know when they have gained weight – and chances are you are the last one to criticise.

Bedknobs and broomsticks. Many households are without domestic assistance during this time of the year and if one person does the lion's share of the household chores, it becomes very apparent. Vicious squabbling about the dishes, the washing and the state of the bathroom is the rule and not the exception.

"Undoing the damage can sometimes take quite a while, but mostly the resuming of normal household routine will make people slot back into things, says Terblanche. But, if there were serious problems highlighted during this time, that cannot be put down to seasonal stress, perhaps it's time to contact the professionals and do some damage control with the help of a marriage guidance counsellor."

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, January 2005)

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