This time of year, even the sparkliest of relationships can come under fire. If you’re going through a tough patch with your partner or dealing with separation, you probably aren’t feeling particularly festive, but that’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a break over the Christmas period. Whether you’re together or apart, use the following advice to help reduce your relationship stress.
- If you’re a parent in the middle of a separation, the first thing to do is get some advice from your solicitor and, if possible, a referral to a mediator so that you can meet together and lay down some ground rules about how you plan to divide up time with your children over the Christmas holidays. Having a mediator act as your intermediary can help you to look at things practically, in the best interests of your kids, and allow you to come to a decision on neutral ground. Alternatively, you can negotiate through Resolution child-focused solicitors if you feel that mediation is something you are not able to do with your ex.
- Stress is contagious and affects all our relationships, not just the difficult ones. When we’re angry at someone but aren’t able to communicate in a productive way, we often take out our anger and frustration on someone else – usually someone who doesn’t deserve it! Unfortunately, children are likely to be caught in the crossfire of relationship breakdown, along with other family members and friends, creating a great big stress-chain that leaves everyone feeling awful. Before you can begin to address your own relationship stress, consider who else it is affecting besides yourselves and make the decision to keep it between the people actually involved. After all, Christmas should really be about the kids, shouldn’t it?
- There’s so much organisation and preparation to sort out in the run-up to Christmas – even more so if you’re separated and have to arrange who’s having the kids and when. Minimise potential flash points and agree on a plan well in advance of the big day. This will almost certainly mean you both need to compromise and take into account each other’s wishes – no matter how angry you are. Make a plan and stick to it, and the stress of potential disagreements can get ticked off your list.
- Couples get set in their ways, even when they’re separated. We become so used to interacting in a certain way with our partner or ex that the pattern can be hard to break. We become blind to the warning signs or ignore the fact that the relationship is breaking down. Over the Christmas holidays, try to make a conscious effort to recognise patterns and triggers in your relationships. Once you can see how these habits affect your ability to communicate, you can begin to work towards changing and improving things.
- Make sure you’re calm before you address a difficult situation or make a big decision. If you need to vent, talk to a friend. If you need to get rid of pent up anger, go for a run or do something active. If you need some time and space, take yourself off somewhere quiet until you feel ready to face the situation. If you’re going through separation, use your solicitor as a guide and stay clear of snap decisions.
- When a couples go through difficulties it can often feel like everything is an attack, and relationship baggage can build up until it eclipses all rational interaction. Before you react, try putting yourself in your partner’s shoes. Just for a minute. Put aside the fact that you’ve had a rubbish day or are still holding a grudge from something that happened months ago, and try seeing things from their perspective. Try to communicate in the present and deal with the immediate issues rather than re-hashing past injuries and insults – you should find it’s much easier to be amicable and move forward. Try thinking about what your children would say if they could hear you.
- Communication is important, but so is listening. Knowing when to stop talking and just listen can be a huge help to a rocky relationship. You don’t need to have an answer, or a solution, or a cutting comeback. Sometimes simply hearing what your partner or ex is feeling is the best way to work out an issue. Respect each other’s perspective and strive for understanding rather than a quick fix. Often relationships break down because couples stopped listening to each other, and even if your marriage is beyond repair, learning how to listen can help you through the stress of separation.
- Stress can be overwhelming and end up affecting your mental and physical health. If you feel like things are getting too much, don’t be afraid to seek help from your GP, solicitor or mediator, or a support organisation like Relate or Resolution. In the short term, relationship stress can lead to frustration and resentment, but in the long term the effects of relationship breakdown can cause depression, detachment and ill health. If you need medical support to help you through a tough time, don’t be concerned that it will be held against you in the case of separation – your health is the most important thing. Find out what helps you most when you’re stressed. How do you calm down? Do you prefer to be alone, or do you need to talk? Do you find it easier to communicate with your ex by email or in person? Work out what you need and let your partner know, then ask them for their own preferences so you can communicate in a much more respectful way. If you’re going though separation, the ability to talk honestly and avoid confrontation can make the process easier, faster, cheaper, and much less stressful.
- And finally – remember that Christmas is only for a day! Try to make the most of your time off and enjoy the festive period with your family and friends. When you take away relationship stress, you might even find it’s a good time to reconnect with your partner and work through some of your problems.
For advice on mediation and other out of court methods like arbitration and collaborative family law, contact Frances Lindsay & Co to speak with an experienced and friendly family lawyer in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. We know that this time of year can be hard when you’re going through relationship breakdown, and we can help you find the best solution for your situation.
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