Relationships Ireland, a non-denominational relationship counselling service which has been supporting couples for over 50 years, has outlined some of the potential pressures which can affect couples and families at Christmas time and has provided advice which can help avoid unnecessary confrontation and stress during the festive period.
“Most families enjoy Christmas but for others it can be a sad and stressful time,” notes Maura Leahy, Clinical Director at Relationships Ireland.
“The absence of family members through death can be intensely felt during this period, while conflict in relationships can also be more intensely felt – and indeed can become heightened – at Christmas. Our professional counselling services at Relationships Ireland respond to much of this distress and conflict and helps people take appropriate steps to deal with all relationship difficulties.”
Bernadette Ryan, a couples counsellor with Relationships Ireland, has advice for anyone concerned about the possibility of relationship and family issues coming to the fore during the Christmas holidays.
“The three main pressure areas tend to be centred around the Four Fs: Finance, Family, Food and Fantasy,” Bernadette explains.
“Christmas brings additional financial costs. Most people overspend and extend their credit to the max. This can lead to rising anxiety and even panic. Try and take stock, make a list of essential spending, figure out a budget and stick to it. Even if you do go over a little, it will not be as shocking as spending willy-nilly.
“Families tend to get together at Christmas and for some it is a very welcome scenario, while for others it can be an anxious time fraught with anxiety and stress. If you find yourself feeling anxious or guilty about spending time with family members, try and check in with your feelings. What might they be trying to tell you? If you find yourself saying a lot of 'shoulds and have tos' perhaps you need to re-evaluate your plans. If you find yourself dreading family time perhaps you could limit the time spent with them? The extended time together can also put additional strain on an already challenged relationship and conflict can escalate. Try to step back. Take a breath or a timeout which will give you the opportunity to respond rather than react. Give yourself some breathing space.
“When it comes to the food, it is lovely to put on a delicious spread for all, but at what cost to you? It’s not a trial for Master Chef! Cook to your ability and, again, delegate. It can be a great way to involve extended family members and gives them an opportunity to share their traditions with you.
“Meanwhile, we all want the perfect Christmas and usually it is down to one person to try and create this for everyone else! The ads on the TV are lovely and heart-warming, telling us what we have to have. Again, step back and take stock. There is no such thing as the perfect Christmas so you can relax! Keep things simple and delegate. What can help to make it perfect for you is to make time for yourself. Take a walk, a bath, a moment to breathe and be present,” Bernadette concluded.
Relationships Ireland was established in 1962 and is a non-denominational, multi-cultural, LGBT-friendly, all-inclusive agency. Its services are provided to both couples and individuals to help them overcome difficulties in their relationships or to prevent further problems through relationship health checks and marriage preparation courses.
Other services include separation support and counselling for couples and individuals living in abusive relationships. Relationships Ireland also operates Teen-Between, a service dedicated to teenagers experiencing difficulties resulting from familial breakdown.