December 2018


How to have an argument-free Christmas and avoid becoming a January divorce statistic

Relate Beds and Luton is preparing for a New Year spike in people seeking relationship support after tensions come to a head over Christmas, pushing some local families to breaking point. Last January, they received a 22% increase in calls compared to an average month*.

The charity, which offers relationship counselling for couples and individuals as well as family counselling, and young people’s counselling, is bracing themselves for a similar peak next month. While they say it’s never too late to seek support, they are urging people in Bedford and Luton to think about any relationship issues that already exist now – before the pressures of Christmas unnecessarily tip some couples and families into crisis. This comes as new Relate research has found that over half (55%) of UK adults say Christmas places an added strain on relationships**.

Previous research by the charity has found money worries are the number one strain on relationships, with over a quarter of people (26%) experiencing this pressure.*** Relate counsellors say that at Christmas, arguments about money tend to be even more common.

Relate counsellor, Simone Bose said: “It’s not surprising that so many people see Christmas as an added strain on relationships. No one’s saying that Christmas itself leads to divorce and separation, but if you’re already experiencing issues then added ‘festive pressures’ such as financial woes and family rows can push things from bad to breaking point.

“If you’re aware that things aren’t great with your partner, don’t leave it until after Christmas to take action. Have a conversation now about what’s not working and maybe call your local Relate to find out how they can help. Just starting to have those difficult conversations can take some of the pressure off before you’re all jammed in at home together for a week.”

Relate’s advice for avoiding Christmas fall-outs

DO agree a budget. Sit down with your partner and decide what you want Christmas to look like, versus what you can actually afford and agree a budget. This might take some compromise, particularly if you have different attitudes to money. Keep checking in so there aren’t any nasty surprises come January.

DO divide up tasks. Talk about what needs to happen, such as buying presents, tidying the house, preparing food and decorating. Divide up tasks based on your skills and interests and empower the kids by getting them to choose which chores they will do.

DO carve out me and us time. When you’re with a big family group for several days, it’s important to take time out so you don’t burn out. Go to your room for a while and enjoy a cuddle or get up early to go for a morning run together. Have a bath to relax and unwind.

DON’T let it fester. If your partner does something to upset you, ask them if you can talk to them in private rather than kicking off in front of the family. If there are guests around, head to the garden or go together to run an errand and discuss things properly then.

DO give people equal attention. You may have your favourite relatives who you prefer to hang out with or a child who you have a particularly strong bond with or common interests with, but try to make an effort with everyone so that people don’t feel left out or unwanted.

DON’T drink too much booze. It can be tempting to get carried away on Christmas Day, particularly if conversation isn’t flowing easily or if somebody has rubbed you up the wrong way. Unfortunately, too much alcohol when you’re already in a bad mood can be a recipe for an unmerry Christmas and an awkward New Year.

Relate’s relationship support services are available across Bedford and Luton. To find your nearest service, visit or call us on 01234 356350.

*These figures show the percentage increase in calls to Bedford in January 2018 compared to an average month in 2017.

**Taken from a poll of 2,298 UK adults conducted online by Censuswide between 19 and 23 October 2018 on behalf of Relate.

***Research from Relate’s It Takes Two: the quality of the UK’s couple relationships report (2017)

Notes to editors:

  • Relate is a registered charity number 207314
  • Relate champions the importance of strong and healthy relationships for all as the basis of a thriving society.
  • Relate provides impartial and non-judgmental support for people of all ages, at all stages of couple, family and social relationships.
  • Over two million people every year access information, support and counselling from Relate but it’s clear many more would benefit from support.
  • Relate celebrates its 80th anniversary this autumn.