How to manage relationships over Christmas

It’s often said that we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our family. And never does that saying ring more true than at Christmastime, when your home suddenly feels overcrowded and tempers begin to flare.

For most, family life comes straight out the box, ready made, no batteries or pre-assembly required. And so often, many of our family – particularly the ones you only ever see once a year – are practically strangers. Unless you are very lucky, you wouldn’t regard most of them as your friends or people you would want to spend time with. It sounds harsh, but everyone knows it.

Managing Expectation

Christmas, when you’re surrounded by practical strangers in a small space, looks like a recipe for disaster. So how can you manage these relationships?

As with most things, the key is expectation. Or better still, managing and minimising expectation. Don’t let your expectation for the ‘perfect’ Christmas damage your relationship with others, and mostly with yourself.

Wanting things to be perfect, according to what you think or what you’ve been told and then spending all of your energy trying to make Christmas match the one in your head or on TV adverts is both exhausting and debilitating. Simply don’t do it. Instead, stay present and make sure that you have moments where you can reset and bring yourself back to how things really are.

Staying Sane at Christmas

One of the best things you can do at Christmas to maintain your sanity is to avoid falling into a trap of overthinking. Don’t expect things to be perfect for you or your relatives (because it won’t be) and part of staying focused and present and enjoying things as they really are over the festive period is to know that there is no good or bad, no right or wrong – it’s just Christmas.

We’d also suggest taking a few moments over the break to just stop and reflect on what’s happening and be grateful for where you are, what you have and who you are with. We know there are plenty of people at this time of year who will be feeling lost and lonely over the holidays. So make sure that gratitude is also part of your Christmas.

Finding space over the holidays

By far the best way of maintaining and enriching relationships over Christmas is to find a space of balance and harmony. Contrary to what you might believe, that status is not found in perfection. There is nothing in the human-made world that is perfection; it’s impossible to achieve. That’s the whole point. So when domestic goddesses such as Kirstie Allsopp and Nigella Lawson show you how to create the perfect Christmas moment, or Marks and Spencer’s convey the perfect family Christmas, they are lying to you. Or as we say these days, it’s fake news. It’s not real.

So try to approach Christmas in a realistic way. Balance spending time with friends and family and do something special with a loved one. But also take moments for yourself too. Managing relationships at Christmas is about managing yourself first. It might be a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Meditation, no matter how short, can enable you to find moments of space at Christmas. It can be a vital tool for resetting how you are feeling and what your mind is telling you to do.

Our guided meditation below can help you to manage moments of stress and expectation that come from Christmas, give it a try:

Learning to accept things as they are – and most importantly, accepting others as they are – can bring you into the present. And that’s where the real Christmas can be found.

If you’re worried about whether your personal relationships can survive Christmas, take this useful quiz from Relate. It could help you to identify constructive steps you can take to manage the holiday season in a positive way.

Written by: Mick Timpson

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Tame holiday stress and anxiety

The best gift this Christmas: a happier you

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