4 steps for avoiding Christmas conflict


There are no two ways about it: Christmas can be stressful and is the prime time for relationship breakdown and family conflict. For many people it doesn’t live up to the chocolate box image of warmth, generosity and good will – instead they experience stress, guilt, financial worries and the pressure of other people’s expectations. Add in the fact that alcohol flows more freely with even people who never normally drink indulging during the Christmas period and it is not surprising that conflict arises. Here are some ways you can minimise the chances of arguments and have a peaceful Christmas free of conflict.

1.      Be honest

Christmas is a time when people feel a tremendous pressure to enjoy themselves. In an attempt to do this people say yes to things they don’t really want to do; spend money they can’t afford; give and receive presents because it is expected rather than because the really want to  and spend extended periods of time with people who they try to avoid for the rest of the year.

It is hard to be honest if it means you might hurt other people’s feelings but it is essential if you want to avoid the conflicts that are the result of not saying what you want and need. Be flexible and willing to meet people half way but don’t attempt to hide negative feelings and think they will stay hidden – they won’t. Talking to someone outside the situation can help you decide what to do if you feel there is a conflict of interests between you and your partner e.g. whose family you should spend Christmas with.

2.      Be realistic

One of the biggest stresses people face at Christmas is the expense. Trying to create the perfect Christmas that we see on the adverts can cause people to get into serious amounts of debt. Often it is tempting to spend now and worry later but the chances are that the stress of overspending will nag away at you over the Christmas period and if your efforts don’t yield you the perfect Christmas you were hoping for you may also end up angry and disappointed.

Try as far as possible to agree a realistic budget and stick to it. If you can’t afford to get everyone in your family presents tell them – they are sure to appreciate your honesty and it may take the pressure off them to spend so much too. If you are in a relationship agree a realistic amount you can afford to spend on each other so you don’t overspend thinking your partner is going to do the same. Homemade gifts and cards are always well received because of the thought and effort that goes into them.

Time is more precious than money and this can also be in short supply over the festive period. Think about where you really want to spend your time, and who with, rather than just going along with other people’s demands on you.

3.      Don’t drink too much

Sadly alcohol is at the root of many conflicts over the Christmas period. People who never normally drink are just as likely to have too much as anyone else and it can have the dramatic effect of loosening tongues. A good way to think about it is like a magnifying glass highlighting any grudge or gripe you may have – after the third or fourth drink Christmas day can seem like the perfect time to tackle that resentment you have carried for months or years.

If you are going into a situation where you know you have unresolved issues steer clear of drinking too much. If you feel something brewing stop – leave the room – have a glass of water or cup of coffee and ask yourself these 3 questions: Does this need to be said now? Does it need to be said by me? If I were sober would I say it?

4.      Lower your expectations

Disappointment is often the root cause of many conflicts over the Christmas period. There is so much hype and tension and we are lead to believe that in order for us to feel we are succeeding in life we have to have the perfect Christmas. For many people life is not like that – Christmas can bring up sad or painful memories or may cause them so much stress and anxiety that they are simply unable to participate in the way you would like them to. Even though is can be hard to accept if your partner isn’t as enthusiastic as you are about the festive period your patience, love and understanding are the best present you can give.

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