Why relationships break down over Christmas, from badly-chosen presents to family pressures

Relationships can often break down in the weeks leading up to Christmas. [Photo: Getty]
Relationships can often break down in the weeks leading up to Christmas. [Photo: Getty]

While it might seem romance is in the air at this time of year, thanks to Christmas proposals and New Year’s Eve kisses, the festive season also brings with it a number of unique pressures which can test even the strongest of relationships.

The two weeks before Christmas Day are believed to be peak break up season, with 11 December proving the most popular day for relationships splitting up, according to research from Match.com.

Although Christmas day itself is generally considered safe, as the least popular day to break up, another survey conducted by Plenty of Fish found 74% of people believed in ending a relationship whenever it felt right – so really, no day is safe.

There are a number of reasons couples tend to split up around this time of year, explains relationship coach Michelle Zelli.

She says: “Whilst relationships can break down at any time of the year, any big occasions, milestones can cause us to reflect and sometimes to redirect our life and there is no bigger or more stressful event than Christmas.”

Why relationships break down at Christmas

A lack of moderation

The sheer excess of Christmas compared to other times of the year can be a force for tension, explains Zelli.

“Overspending, over drinking and lack of sleep often can lead to one partner behaving badly, or another becoming increasingly intolerant of such behaviour. This in turn adds pressure to a relationship and the potential for arguments,” she says.

Family drama

The pressures of family ties can also cause pressure at Christmas time, which is traditionally a time to be with your nearest and dearest.

Zelli says: Unresolved family issues add fuel to our relationship fire. The tradition of bringing the family, extended and close, under one roof can put undue pressure on our partner to choose allegiances and they don’t always choose right.

“The best thing to do is split it as fairly as you can. Split Christmas day in two, do one family on Christmas day the other on Boxing Day, or alternate years.”

Seasonal pressures

Many of us feel the need to please others over Christmas, leading to a lack of self care. This can become a force for resentment if one partner isn’t taking up the slack.

“Putting ourselves under enormous pressure to deliver the prettiest, most sparkliest, fun and fabulous Christmas for everyone can be the kiss of death for relationships, with one partner feeling they are doing the lion’s share of the work, whilst the other sits back and takes advantage.

“This is usually an underlying resentment which has been lingering throughout the year coming to the surface.”

Bad presents

For those of us who are expect thoughtful Christmas presents at this time of year, a dud gift can sooner become a reason for arguments.

Zelli says: “Feeling our partner doesn’t know us by the presents we receive. Even these days women receive an iron for Christmas and spend the rest of the year fantasising about where they could stick it.”

The temptation of other people

This time of year, there’s also the age-old threat of other people – especially when socialising more frequently.

“Christmas is also a time full of parties and socialising, and opportunities to score a new romance.”

There’s also the threat of an ex reaching out as the year comes to a close.

“When goodwill to all men (and women) means reaching out to an ex, it can be the beginning of the end.”

Of course, a healthy relationship should be able to survive a stressful times. Kate Mansfield, a love and relationships expert, reminds that people in relationships need to keep the effort going over Christmas.

She says: “Try to remember that relationships need tending to, a bit like your garden. If you neglect your spouse or partner, or take them for granted blame them for your own boredom, then weeds will grow and eventually take over, strangling the love that once was between you.

“Make time to future the bond, to feed the connection and think about ways to create excitement and growth. This will Christmas-proof your relationship for the year and the future to come.”

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