I’m dreading the arguments at Christmas – why do they happen every year?
Some arguments at Christmas come round with the same regularity as the Queen’s Speech and carol services. There are reasons why we’re more likely to argue at Christmas
- The pressure of increased expectations – remember to aim for “Happy, not perfect”
- Tiredness from long journeys and feeling unwell
- Spending time with people you don’t like, or who don’t like you
When all three mix, especially with family relationships that go back to childhood, then they can be a breeding ground for arguments.
I’m dreading the arguments at Christmas – what can I do?
The key to avoiding arguments is to give yourself the best chance. Eating healthily, getting enough sleep, and staying active will give you the best chance of feeling positive, and managing any frustration. After that it depends who you’re arguing with
My arguments at Christmas are with my partner
The two main causes of arguments between couples are over where to spend the day, and over disciplining children. Plan in advance how you’re going to spend the day, and if you have long distance relatives then leave enough time for the journey and the visit. When it comes to the children work as a team, and back up your partner’s discipline. Don’t yield to any temptation to play the ‘persecutor’ or the ‘rescuer’.
My arguments at Christmas are with my ex-partner
Christmas can add more fuel to difficult relationships, and can cause friction in even normally amicable arrangements. And although we want the best for our children a third of us will delay or avoid speaking to an ex-partner about the children because they’re afraid of an argument.
You need to speak to each other to sort this out, and you can’t ask your children to make the decision for you. That’s putting an unwarranted emotional weight on them, and they aren’t the adults in the relationship. It’s up to you to make the decision, and if you need mediation or a third party to help you agree then do what it takes.
Whatever the final decision don’t criticise or run down your ex-partner in front of the children, and don’t turn it into a competition for who they love the most. They’re people, and they need to feel listened to and supported at what can be a difficult and upsetting time for them. Make their wishes and happiness the focus of your discussion and arrangements.
My arguments at Christmas are with my relatives and in-laws
Every family has its tensions and touchy subjects. You’re probably well aware of your own family’s, but you may still be finding out those of your in-laws or other relatives.
In relationships that go back to childhood the key is not to revert to being childish. Make a conscious and concerted effort to talk as adults, even if you feel that isn’t reciprocated. Don’t find yourself talking as two children as a parent and a child. That’s one of the ways in which we get suckered into the same old arguments.
Remember as well the old maxim that you’re always invited to join in an argument – and that you don’t have to accept every invitation you get. If you feel that your brother in law is needling you then walk away, or change the subject. You don’t have to rise to the bait, and if you want to acknowledge it do so calmly and assertively.
There are two things to avoid which will make any family tensions or arguments worse. Alcohol is the first, so wherever possible minimise it or keep it out of the situation altogether. The second is badmouthing your in-laws to your partner. Not only are you reinforcing any dislike of them, you’re asking your partner to choose sides – and that can take you right back to arguments at Christmas being with your partner.