Avoiding Relationship Stress this Holiday Season

With the holiday season quickly approaching, many couples find this time of year particularly stressful. A recent Facebook study reported that most breakups occur two weeks before Christmas (1), and accordingly, dating site activity begins to spike from Christmas Day. So why at a time when we are supposed to be relaxing and enjoying ourselves with loved ones, are we finding it the most difficult to maintain our relationships? In this blog entry, we will attempt to answer this question and provide some useful strategies to avoid common holiday season relationship pitfalls.

Don’t spread yourself too thin
The Christmas period is often the busiest time of year for many couples. We over-commit ourselves to work, social, and family events, making us tired and stressed. According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, a clinical tool used to measure how stressed we feel, holidays score 13 while Christmas scores 12, giving a total score of 25. To put this in perspective, the death of a close friend scores 37 on the scale, while divorce scores 73. As stress is cumulative, any existing issues currently in your life can be exacerbated by the holiday season. This is why it is important not to spread yourself too thin over the Christmas period. Having realistic expectations of what you can and can’t do, and making time to practice self-care such as exercise, enough sleep, and relaxation, can relieve stress levels which, in turn, will reduce strain on your relationship.

Set a spending limit
Financial issues are the leading cause of stress in relationships (2), and as we know, Christmas can be a very expensive time of year. On average, Australians spend $600 per person on Christmas gifts, and half of this is purchased on credit (3). Therefore, if money is an issue in your relationship, excessive spending around Christmas can cause you to feel stressed, angry, and even resentful towards your partner. This is particularly true if one party is more frugal while the other is more imprudent. Why not offset your holiday, by renting out your house whilst you are away?  If your holiday costs less, the stress will be less too. The best strategy to avoid conflict caused by financial issues during the holiday season is to communicate effectively with your partner. Discuss your spending expectations and what you can sensibly afford, and set a Christmas spending limit.

Plan quality family time
Every year couples struggle to divvy up their precious holiday time between their families. In an ideal world, you might spend Christmas eve with your family and Christmas day with your partner’s family; and then alternate the order each year. Unfortunately, more often than not, it’s not that simple. Family can be spread across the country or even the globe. Further, you and your partner might have children from previous relationships that have their own schedule of commitments to attend to. Or, it might not be financially viable for you to attend both ‘do’s so you must choose one, meaning that one party gets to spend Christmas with their family while the other misses out. Feeling like your partner is not sensitive to your wishes to spend quality time with your family, or not acknowledging your sacrifice by missing your family Christmas, is a common source of tension in relationships during the holiday season. To avoid such conflict, communicate honestly with your partner about your holiday expectations, and empathise with one another’s desire to be with family at Christmas. Try to come up with a compromise so that both parties are satisfied with the holiday plans.
If your relationship is in need of support this holiday season, one of our qualified couples counsellors can assist. Contact us to make a booking today.



  1. Bradbury, T.N., Fincham, F.D., & Beach, S.R.H. (2000). Research on the nature and determinants of marital satisfaction: A decade in review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62
    (4), 964–980. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2000.00964.x.
(02) 8002 1020
Mon-Fri: 9am – 6pm Sat: 9am – 1pm
Appointment Enquiries

We’ll reply within a few hours to help you book with a qualified relationship counsellor near you.