Christmas strains the limits of relationships

Zenoyise Madikwa

Zenoyise Madikwa

Christmas can be a stressful and fraught time of year leading to cracks in relationships.

Doctor Alan Strydom, a stress specialist, says stress, anxiety and depression are common during the festive season, providing the final straw for those relationships where cracks were already apparent.

Why does Christmas bring so much strain to relationships?

Strydom says there are two main reasons for this.

"First, each person's expectations have been building up throughout the year. Secondly, because the end of the year is such a significant event, each will also have their own expectations of what the holidays will mean for them. Then, when couples or families start spending more time with each other, the pressure of the undelivered communication builds up and expectations are suddenly not met."

Strydom says that since the necessary communication skills are usually missing, the frequent results are arguments and break-ups.

He adds that the traditional visits of relatives can also be the greatest source of stress at Christmas.

"Many people usually feel like they have to spend every minute with the family at Christmas.

"Rather take a break or go for a walk on your own to give yourself some emotional space if it all gets too intense.

"You could also call a good friend and let off steam if you need to," advises Strydom.

Financial adviser Andile Somdaka says the expence of buying gifts, the pressure of last-minute shopping and the heightened expectations of family togetherness from in-laws and siblings can leave couples emotionally and financially drained leading to breakdowns in relationships.

Somdaka adds that many people stress about coming up with Christmas money for their fami- lies and friends and then having to struggle to choose the right gift for their friends and family.

"From a psychological point of view, it's worth bearing in mind that people often believe that spending a lot of money will compensate for neglecting friends and family, but this will rarely be the case," he says. "At this time people are prone to manic spending sprees in the hope that new clothes and money will alleviate their potential feelings of loneliness and anxiety."

Marriage counselor Felicity Ntintili says many couples find Christmas shopping with their partner or spouse stressful and one in five women regard the yearly experience an absolute nightmare. "Usually, in January to March we counsel many couples with cases where marriages are falling apart because of the holi- day stress."

She says money worries, being forced to spend more time together, partying, constant organising and planning, excessive amounts of food and alcohol and time at home are just a few other festive factors that can kill relationships.

She points out common reasons for relationship killers during the festive time:


Ntintili says massive credit-card bills that can take months to clear put a lot of strain on relationships causing blame shift and eventual divorce or separation.

2. Too little personal space

Christmas holidays bring couples together for longer than usual which can mean issues that are normally ignored are often magnified and tiny tensions can become massive.

3. Soul Searching

Ntintili says research has shown that one person in five thinks about leaving their partner over Christmas.

"For many people this is the time to take stock about things like jobs and relationships and new year resolutions include the end of a relationship," she says.

'Usually, in January to March we counsel many couples with cases whose marriages are falling apart because of the holiday stress.'

'It is common that people usually feel obliged to spend every spare minute with their family and friends over the Christmas period, which is stressful'