The Holidays and Struggling Relationships
I recently heard that two weeks before Christmas is when most relationships break up. At the same time I learned that the 2-week-before Christmas mark also has the highest suicide rate and is the busiest time of year for most therapists. Yes, there is a whole lot going on during the holiday season, but why are they so hard on struggling relationships?
The Holidays Break Struggling Relationships In A Number of Ways
- In our imaginations we hold an image of our ideal holiday. We may remember times when things were good in our relationships and feel terribly disappointed that things aren’t good now. Life isn’t perfect, we aren’t perfect, our partners aren’t perfect. Our ideals are often disappointed. The holidays seem to magnify our disappointments.
- The holidays close the current calendar year and usher in a new one. This transition between years is traditionally a time to re-evaluate our lives and reassess our goals. “Do I like where I’m at?” “What do I want to accomplish next year?” Sometimes relationship changes are required to fit with the newly forming picture of ourselves.
- The days are short and dark leading to both depression and a sense of confinement. Things we usually do to bring relief like watching sunsets or taking a walk with a friend aren’t as available. Nights are long providing more time to think. When depressed that thinking can be obsessive and focus on the darkest side of our situation. Often relationship change seems like the quickest solution.
- The way each partner wants to spend money can be a challenge to an already stressed relationship. One partner often feels comfortable with higher spending than a more frugal partner.
- More time off work and school creates special challenges. Being in the same space for lengthy periods of time means relating on an entirely different level than we are used to. It’s hard to be in a confined space when we don’t want to be there. We may experience strong feelings of wanting to get away.
- The holidays magnify value differences like religious preferences, spending habits, eating habits, time the children spend with electronics, time spent with family and friends, and many other differences. We may be able to overlook many of our value differences in daily life but just can’t when they are so magnified and “in our face” as during the holidays.
- We have more time to imagine a future without the unhappiness we currently feel. If we compare the angst caused by our current stressful reality with an ideal imagined future, we will chose to delete the reality causing us the most difficulty.
How deeply these things affect us largely depends on us.
- How much control do we have over these uneasy situations?
- How equipped do we feel to make those changes?
- How supported do we feel by friends and family?
If we feel strong emotionally and have a good community of support we will be able to make the needed changes without a lot of fanfare. Whether you choose to let the holidays break your relationship, or heal it, you will need support.
Should I Stay or Go?
In my business January is the busiest time. I think that is because individuals who are struggling in their relationships hold it together through the holidays— hoping things will get better—hoping to spare the kids—hoping they won’t have to make the call—hoping to have one last happy holiday together. But when the kids are back in school and routines have returned, the feelings will no longer stay quiet. “What am I doing?” “I can’t stand this one more minute.”
What are You Up Against?
Because this time of year is particularly challenging it is tempting to make reactionary, but possibly uninformed decisions. The truth is that most of us don’t know what we’re up against when we hit a relational wall like that. We just can’t see around it to any kind of solution and so determine that ending the relationship is the only option. Even more discouraging is that the very professionals we hire to help us fix it often just make it worse. I’ve been there and done that.
Struggling Couples Assessment
If you would like to make a more informed decision—if you would like to find out if your relationship is worth saving—I offer you 10% off my Relationship Assessment until January 31. In 90 minutes I can tell you exactly what you are up against, how much effort will be required, and the approximate time it will take, to turn things around. Only you can decide if it’s worth the effort, but armed with that information allows you to make the most informed decision possible. Wouldn’t it be good to know what you’re up against?