Christmas, it’s that most wonderful time of the year… but for some of us – in particular, those of us in a couple – it can be really stressful. Christopher Paul Jones, the Breakthrough Expert, talks about how stress can affect a relationship at Christmas and looks at the role that commitment plays when it comes to all things festive…
As magical as Christmas can be, one thing’s for sure – for couples, it can bring to the surface all kinds of issues that we didn’t necessarily even realise existed. But the single most stressful issue that I hear my clients talking about at Christmas is commitment.
Now, before I delve deeper into this, let me say that no matter what your issue, communication as a couple is key, and acknowledging that there is an issue is the first step in disempowering it and working towards a solution.
So why do couples feel pressure to commit just because it’s Christmas?
Couples may find themselves arguing more simply because of the pressure of having so much to organise and to do, but for some couples, the very thought of Christmas leaves them panicking about commitment.
Firstly, there is the issue of whose family should couples spend the big day with? And for some, the very thought of even spending more than an hour with their partner’s family can again lead to stress about commitment.
Maybe you haven’t even met your partner’s family yet, and maybe you don’t even really want to. But all of a sudden you’re invited, and it’s an invitation for the two of you. Queue lots of uncomfortable questions about how long you have been together and when you’re going to move in together, get married, have a baby…
For some reason, there seems to be this social pressure on couples who have been together for some time now, to sort it out and ‘put a ring on it’ at Christmas. In the weeks leading up to the big day, women will talk to their friends about ‘him proposing’ and men wonder what to do about it. Not exactly fun, is it?
This can leave some women feeling sorely disappointed, and some men reprimanded, when that small box under the Christmas tree isn’t a Tiffany engagement ring. Couples actually break up over this!
Issues such as how much you spend on your partner’s present can also lead to talks about commitment. “You spent how much on me?!” We’ve all been there. You put a lot of thought into things, and your partner hands you some pants or socks. Yes. The very thought of going Christmas shopping when in a relationship can lead to very high stress levels, particularly for a new couple.
So, what’s my advice on how to cope with all of this? Well, the first thing is to take a step back, take a deep breath and put things into perspective a little bit. You KNOW that society likes to pressure us to commit and spend at Christmas time, so make an active choice not to get caught up in that.
Next, sit your partner down and have a talk about it. Explain that a lack of ring at Christmas for example doesn’t mean that you’ll never propose to your partner, but it means that you will do it when YOU want to.
Make a pact as a couple to get through the stress of the holiday season together. Joke about it, turn it into an ‘us versus them’ kind of scenario. When heading to spend time with the family, laugh and say, ‘hey we’ve got this’.
Usually, couples face stress (and arguing) over Christmas, because they are on a different page to the other, so by making sure that you’ve discussed things in advance and are coming from the same angle, you’ll be able to have some fun this Christmas.
Christopher Paul Jones, the Breakthrough Expert, is a therapist based in Harley Street who specialises in helping people let go of their fears, anxieties and phobias, from a fear of public speaking to anxieties around work. To book a consultation, visit christopherpauljones.net/ and to watch some stress-busting videos online, go to breakthroughexperttv.com