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John Fenna - summarises from a couple counselling perspective, taken from an interview given on BBC Radio with one of our psychotherapists. 

Post festive relationship blues – how and why this occurs and what you can do.

Following the intense period of family and personal activity that so many of us experience over the seasonal period, it is not unusual to feel unhappy with your partner and your home life. But instead of simply accepting the situation or taking drastic action in anger, seeking help in a calm manner can give perspective on why you feel like you do.

There are so many reasons why January is a tricky time for couples. On the surface, disagreements may be rooted in a single or series of arguments over festive arrangements, or maybe a particular person or people that you didn’t get on with.

In the ‘pressure cooker’ of a busy family home or major seasonal event, things can begin to seem so fundamental and disturbing that they start to affect your entire view of your relationship, making Christmas the time when differences are laid bare.

Many people seek relationship support in January

Here at Tavistock Relationships we do see a large number of people in January who come to us for couple counselling or relationship support, often triggered by the events of recent weeks.

We find that the things that cause most of the discord around the holiday season include:

-Disagreement on policies, like child discipline, tidiness or things to talk about at the table; and

- Frustration and upset when the hopes for a ‘perfect Christmas’ are dashed by events or people.

And it’s the last item that often holds the key to why January seems such a hard time. Often it is the very fact that our expectations were so high in the first place that created the intense pressure and stress, leading to arguments.

It is important to reflect, as you feel five pounds heavier in body and heart in January (and considerably lighter financially), whether there might be a sense that the recent events have just got too much, that you have overlaid too much importance on festivities and, in reality, it is often the case that there is a price to pay and things will clear up in time.

Try not to load up on Christmas hype

Of course the lesson there is we must try not to load up on Christmas hype - via TV or social media, or via friends and family - to create the dream that everyone is going to experience the perfect Christmas, with endless gifts, games and laughter.

The reality is Christmas is very hard work and you are likely to have been running yourself ragged to meet your own and others expectations. When we put so much in we often expect an equivalent emotional payback.

All of us want attention and to be looked after. At Christmas it is children that are overwhelmingly the focus, but all of us have an inner ‘child’ who needs and craves attention. Often we subconsciously hark back to our own childhood, where at special times we were treated, loved and cared for. This is often the contrast with an adult Christmas, especially for those of the ‘sandwich’ generation – so called because they are looking after children, as well as elderly parents or relatives.

We expect our partner to understand when our inner child wants attention, but in all the business and kerfuffle, could it be that both partners have failed to communicate their emotional needs?

Look deeper into feelings of disappointment

Now, with the dust settling, we advise couples to look deeper into those feelings of disappointment. And a key question is do they relate to a wider challenge you have with your partner or relationship that you have been bottling up? Maybe it’s not really events that are driving you to this hard place, but underlying feelings?

In that manner many couples, though in a very difficult place, find January is a wake up call and one way to approach it - through the hard reflection and even the bad feeling - is to use the new year as a trigger to try to put things right.

Very often talking to each other outside of the festive bubble may work, but in cases where one or both partners feel deeply unhappy, couple counselling is one avenue to explore. It is not the easiest, as it requires commitment to opening up, but it does provide a safe new space to communicate, with the aid of a highly trained professional who is there to help.

You can book to talk to one of our relationship counsellors about issues between you as a couple, individually or around sexual problems here.

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