How to survive the festive season with your relationship intact

·Lifestyle Reporter
·3-min read

It’s no secret that Christmas can stretch credit cards, waistlines and relationships.

And, a recent study by HCF Australia found that Aussies are feeling more stressed about this Christmas and feeling the affects of pandemic stress in their relationships.

christmas couple
With Aussies anticipating this to be the most stressful Christmas ever, experts share tips to look after your relationship through the festive season. Source: Getty Images

One in four Australians who were in a relationship during the pandemic say it was negatively impacted, with the equivalent of 980,000 Aussies saying they are seriously considering, or have already left their relationship during lockdown.

So, knowing that stress levels are high, how can you get through Christmas with your relationship intact? We've collected expert tips to help you out.

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Understand the source of your stress

HCF partner PSYCH2U Psychologist Jeremy Cowden explains “Christmas is always a tough time for people and a lot of it is caused by a build-up of expectation, which this year will be greater because we’ve had a long time to think about it.”

Angry man and offended woman in quarrel. Sitting on a couch. Vector. Rain cloud hovers above one partner and lightening bolts above the other.
One in four Australians who were in a relationship during the pandemic say it was negatively impacted by lockdowns and pandemic stress. Source: Getty Images

The study asked what is causing Aussies the most stress, with responses showing:

  • 23 per cent fear that the combination of overeating and under-exercising will lead to weight gain

  • 22 per cent feel pressure to be more social with family and friends than they want to be

  • 21 per cent are worried about travel restrictions and whether they will be able to have the Christmas they want

  • 19 per cent of Aussies are feeling pressure to spend more than they can afford on Christmas (foods and gifts)

  • 19 per cent also reported feeling lonelier and sadder at this time of year.

Simple ways to look after your relationship

According to Psychotherapist Lissy Abrahams, the key to smoother relationships at Christmas is to understand your own triggers for conflict and your defence mechanisms.

“There’s an expectation to make Christmas a happy time, especially when the host works hard to create this, but family dynamics are not always enjoyable. No-one wins when we argue, upset people, or lose our temper," Lissy explains.

“Try to avoid controversial topics, the hot-heads or know-it-alls at your festive gatherings. At Christmas, it’s often easier to get on if we keep conversations lighter and in a safe zone.”

People in love looking at each other, man laying on his girlfriends lap.
Tips for healthy relationships through the festive season: share new experiences, laugh together and let your partner know you like them. Source: Getty Images

To support the health of your relationship during the holiday season, Lissy also suggests the following strategies:

  • Pick your battles - be careful you’re not criticising your partner(s) just for the sake of it

  • Have new experiences together that neither of you have done before lockdown

  • Lower your expectations of each other’s stereotypes of gender roles. Think about who your partner(s) needs to be for themselves and their own fulfilment in life, not just for you

  • Set time away from each other. During lockdown partners were cooped up together. Allow some breathing space so you can look forward to seeing each other

  • Express gratitude for what your partner(s) does do for you

  • Laugh a lot and let them know you like them.

Seek professional support

If you notice that you're struggling with your mental health, withdrawing or isolating yourself from your partner(s), or you're unable to resolve arguments, professional support can help you to safely work through these challenges.

Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can also be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. Online support is available via Beyond Blue.

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