Christmas can test even the strongest relationships. Too much family time, money worries and loads of booze can really put the pressure on - and chances of splitting are at an all-year high.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Here are eight of the most common relationship pitfalls to avoid this holiday season.
1. Turning Feral In the Build Up
All that jabbering panic of winding down at work, attending office parties and coping with the annual overload of shopping and cooking has turned you into a harpy.
SYMPTOMS: Stress accentuates the negative emotions, making you uber-critical, snappy, tearful for no reason and even aggressive. And guess what, you end up taking it out on the person who is nearest to hand, i.e. him.
CURE: Make yourself cut corners in terms of workload (no one will notice the ‘jus’ was really gravy granules with a slug of red wine) and delegate jobs and chores where possible. Repeat the mantra ‘I feel calm, confident and in control’ and take lots of breaks and long walks when the pressure does build up.
2. Letting Christmas Bring Out The (Petulant) Child In You
You harbour an egocentric attitude to Christmas, becoming demanding and childlike, expecting endless treats and centre-stage attention, and believing it is your partner’s job to make you happy.
SYMPTOMS: Queen Bee behaviours that include sulking when he doesn’t seem to be planning enough treats plus checking his e-mails to see if he’s booking enough surprises and gifts for you. He might laugh when you say you’re high-maintenance but secretly he’s thinking you’re a bit of a spoiled brat.
CURE: Write out the mantra ‘It’s not all about me’ and keep it somewhere you can gaze at on a regular basis. Involve yourself in one of the Christmas charity campaigns and collect for that instead of yourself.
3. Expecting Your Partner To Read Your Mind
Presents are a test rather than a joy. And that hideous piece of jewellery you just unwrapped is irrefutable proof that he just doesn't understand you.
SYMPTOMS: As part of the annual Christmas test you have been force-feeding him lies like: ‘I don’t care what I get’. But all that pressure to read your mind and buy something ‘perfect’ might just convince him you’re not really worth it. And your long face when you open what he did get you will sour the day for both of you.
CURE: Tell him a shop you like and ask him to buy your present from there. Or just grow up. Perhaps your gift to him is a bit rubbish too! Smile as you unwrap his present, act delighted, and remember to be more specific next year.
4. Turning Christmas Into A Social Media Fest
It’s not the day itself you’re looking forward to, but posting all those competitive selfies online, showing off what a wonderful time you’ve had.
SYMPTOMS: You’re constantly stop-starting the action to get the pose right and as the first pic is rarely good enough you keep taking more until you have got the one you want. This behaviour signals a very superficial attitude to love and private intimacy and he could easily end up feeling used.
CURE: Focus on enjoying him rather than boasting to strangers online. Limit yourself to a handful of shots but make them of people other than yourself.
5. Turning Christmas Into A Battleground
You spend the year seething about his overbearing parents or siblings from hell and by Christmas day you’re just ripe for the fight. Either it’s a ‘me-or-them’ ultimatum about visiting, or you go primed to kick off at the flimsiest excuse.
SYMPTOMS: You find yourself stoking up all that simmering, passive/aggressive resentment by spending time pre the big day reflecting on all the things that annoy you about his family and already know what will kick you off.
CURE: Smile and wave. Don't join in if flashpoints and conflict brews. Christmas arguments are often a repeating pattern, meaning they’ll kick off over the same petty things every year. If you write down those flashpoints in advance you can plan to either avoid them or to respond in a different way this year, which is a very powerful way to break what might be a toxic tradition.
6. Smothering Him With Christmas Cheer
For you Christmas is all about overkill, from the gifts to panto. You’re busy booking him up from now until the New Year and a trip to Lapland is just one of the many surprises you have in store!
SYMPTOMS: You’ve been planning for months and every hour/minute is accounted for. You booked all the treats too, without asking him what he would really like to do. The problem is your vision of Xmas might not be his and if you’re a newbie couple he might also start feeling claustrophobic.
CURE: Use empathy. Find out how he views a happy Christmas mas and negotiate something between the two.
7. Desperately Waiting For The Big Moment
You’ve dropped hints all year so of course he’s going to propose on Christmas eve, isn’t he? You can already see yourself showing the ring off as you all sit down for your turkey dinner.
SYMPTOMS: You’ve been looking at rings by yourself and telling everyone that you think he’s about to get down on one knee. But getting excited about something that might just not happen will ruin your Christmas and dropping loads of hints could mean the emotion of the moment might have been diluted by the lack of spontaneity.
CURE: Why not propose to him if you’re so keen for a Christmas engagement?
8. Chucking Him In At The Deep End
You plan to spend Christmas with your family and that means turning up and expecting him to join in without being hosted by you. Every family has its own rituals and values and although they might seem normal to you they can be a minefield to your partner, especially if it’s your first Christmas together.
SYMPTOMS: The only briefing he gets from you is: ‘Oh you’ll love them!’ as you set off for days of family 'fun'. You all find it hilarious that he is talking into your gran’s deaf ear or taking the armchair that your dad’s dog normally sits in, but he might be less amused.
CURE: Give your guy the full low-down on all the family members and friends he’ll be spending Christmas day with and their rituals, and any ‘issues’ like recent divorces or kids with ASBOS so he doesn’t accidentally put his foot in it.
And respect house rules. You might find noisy sex hilariously naughty in your parents’ home but he might be mortified when it comes to looking them in the eye the following morning.
For forth with Christmas cheer and stay together!