How to decide who to spend Christmas with and avoid family rows

As the Christmas lights go up and the heart-warming festive TV adverts appear, anyone who hasn’t confirmed how they are spending Christmas this year may be feeling under pressure to commit.

Who to spend Christmas with sounds like such a simple question but it can actually be rather complicated and cause a lot of stress and tension within families and between the couple themselves. In fact, Relationships charities Relate Nottinghamshire and Marriage Care say that this is something which often comes up in the counselling room. The charities have therefore released top tips on how to avoid rows about who to spend Christmas with.

Relate counsellor, Alison Towner, Clinical Supervisor at Relate Nottinghamshire said the issue can be particularly apparent within blended families. She said:

“Deciding who to spend Christmas with is often a major source of tension in relationships, especially where families are trying to cover all bases. This is never truer than for step families or blended families where there might be competing agendas, especially where children are concerned.”

“At Relate, we often see people who have felt infuriated by an ex-partner having somehow ‘manipulated’ offspring into spending the big day with them instead. Of course, underneath the anger there are often feelings of sadness, abandonment and failure. That’s why if you have difficult relationship with an ex-partner, finding time to connect, talk and listen to their thoughts and feelings within a neutral environment can be a powerful way of coming to an agreement.”

In Marriage Care’s experience, newlyweds can also face issues, particularly when they find themselves having to choose which family they will spend their first Christmas with as a married couple. Bridie Collins at Marriage Care said:

“Sometimes, both sets of families assume they’ll be ‘getting you’ for your first married Christmas and will be disappointed if they don’t. If parents protest, keep in mind that this can be hard for your parents, especially if it’s your first time missing the family occasion. And it’s likely to be tough for you as well. Reassure them that you wish there was a way to spend the holiday with both families, but you have to make a choice. Perhaps you can offer to visit them on another significant holiday occasion, or decide to be with them next year.

“What is most important is that you as a couple discuss the issue and agree on any decision, compromising as necessary for the sake of your relationship. If it’s something you find you can’t agree about, don’t let it become a niggle – seek a little support!”
Tips for avoiding disagreements about how to spend Christmas
• Be realistic and understand that you can’t please everyone all of the time. Rushing around trying to fit in multiple visits on Christmas Day is likely to mean you feel stressed and don’t enjoy it.
• If you come from a blended family, bear in mind that asking a child to ‘choose’ who to spend the day with can make them feel very anxious. Consider a fairer solution such as taking it in turns each year.
• Find time to connect, talk and listen to all parties. If you have a difficult relationship with anyone, discussing things on neutral territory may provide the best outcomes.
• Share with each other what practices or traditions make this time ‘special’ and the importance to each of you of celebrating it with the extended family. You may find that it’s not such a big deal for one of you, despite family expectations
• Try to introduce change gradually so it’s all less of a shock to the system. People can often accept minor differences which before they (and you) know it, become part of a new way of doing Christmas.
• If for instance you want to go abroad this year but are worried about a friend or relative feeling lonely or left out, consider inviting them along or seeing if there’s anyone else who they would like to spend the day with.
• If you can’t see certain people on Christmas Day, arrange to see them at another point during the festive period such as Boxing Day, Christmas Eve or the weekend before.
• Recognize that it’s OK to take control of the Christmas arrangements and not stick to the same routine.
• Next year, start talking about what feels do-able sooner rather than later. This often means that more people’s opinions can be canvassed and considered before a decision is made.

Ten tips for a happy relationship

1. Talk constructively

How you say things is as important as what you’re saying. If you and your partner are having a disagreement, don’t just attack them or go all-out criticising. Why not try using ‘I’ statements? By saying ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You always…’ you’re taking responsibility for your emotions and your partner won’t feel like they’re being blamed for everything. Try our three tips for improving communication with your partner.

2. Listen to each other

Listening is such an important tool in relationships. Sometimes, we find it hard to hear what our partner is saying because we’re so wrapped up in our own emotions. Remember that communication works two ways. Listening to your partner is the only way to know what’s really going on with them.

3. Don’t bottle things up

If something has upset you, you’re not doing yourself or your partner any favours by keeping it to yourself. This is only likely to cause resentment to build up that will come out in other ways. If it’s something that really matters to you, talk about it.

4. Keep things fresh

It’s a cliché, but making the effort to keep things fun and interesting in your relationship can really make a big difference. It’s easy to get complacent about having someone in your life, but this kind of attitude can also lead to boredom and dissatisfaction. Let your partner know you appreciate having them around by surprising them occasionally.

5. Let go of the little stuff

Although it’s good to talk when you’ve got something on your mind, your relationship is going to be like a battleground if you can’t ever let things slide. If it’s something that, all things considered, doesn’t actually matter that much, why not just forget about it? Nobody’s perfect – and you probably do stuff that your partner finds annoying too!

6. Appreciate what you have

Many people end up looking outside their relationship because they think there’s someone out there who is ‘better’ for them. Relationships aren’t about finding the ‘perfect partner’ – whatever that means. They’re about allowing the connection you do have to develop and grow. The strongest relationships are usually the ones that have been given the time to flourish.

7. Give each other space

Although it’s great spending quality time together, don’t forget you both need to nurture your interests and friendships. Couples who spend every moment in each other’s pockets can easily begin to feel unfulfilled when they realise that their personal interests have started to slip. Allow each other to spend time on the things you enjoy separately. When you reconvene as a couple you’ll be pleased to see each other and have lots to talk about. Try our four steps for setting healthy boundaries in your relationship.

8. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

It’s easy to worry about whether your relationship is as good as it ‘should’ be. Just as we can get wrapped up in having the best clothes or latest gadgets, we can worry about having relationships that are as exciting and passionate as the ones we see depicted in movies or hear about in songs. Relationships aren’t about constantly feeling butterflies – we all have our own unique ways of experiencing them and you’ll know what’s right for you. Enjoy yours for what it is – and be grateful that it’s there!

9. Avoid jealousy and build trust

Jealousy can destroy relationships, and nothing is less attractive than the green eyed monster. If you’re worried your partner isn’t giving you enough attention, try the open, honest approach rather than acting out or accusing them of looking elsewhere. Building mutual trust is the key to banishing unhealthy emotions and remaining strong together.

10. Work on it

It’s not always the most popular way of thinking about them, but relationships can be work. They need to be nurtured and given the space and attention they deserve. Communication isn’t something to do only occasionally – it should be a constant. It’s only by not taking your relationship for granted that your connection will stay strong. But the rewards, as anyone in a happy relationship knows, are more than worth the effort.

Parenting Troubled Teens

As parents of troubled teens it’s logical that we try to look for a reason why this has happened in our family. Why us? Why me? Understandably, you may look for someone or something to blame; whose fault is it? Maybe you blame yourself, your partner, your teenager or their friends?

Blaming yourself or others will leave you feeling guilty, angry, powerless or all three. To truly take a first step you need to take a good, hard look at the problems and the situation before you can decide what to do next.

Relate have put together some questions for you to think about. Answer as honestly as you can. Every family will be different so this may leave you with even more questions. That’s ok, this is a time to think and understand. What you do about it will come next.  Follow the link below…

http://parentingtroubledteenagers.relate.org.uk/issues-topics

Official spring time – time to spring clean your relationship?

Every year we get a reminder to take our cars in for an MOT to ensure that they’re roadworthy.

But what about our relationships? Do we need a reminder to check in with our partners, or should we just carry on until the wing mirrors fall off, and we can no longer see the relationship hazards coming our way?

Follow the link for the Relationship MOT.

http://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/self-help-tools/quizzes-profilers/relationship-mot help/self-help-tools/quizzes- profilers/relationship-mot