8 Relationship Survival Tips for Stressed Couples this Christmas

hannah busing zhdren4oqy8 unsplash

8 Relationship Survival Tips for Stressed Couples this Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly but ‘tis also the season for careless remarks from the in-laws, petty little squabbles, and countless hours spent pounding pavements in search of miscellaneous items you’ve been led to believe will create the ‘perfect’ Christmas. 

From receiving gifts you hope to God come with a receipt to discovering that a mouse has spent the year eating your beloved table centrepiece, plenty can go awry over the festive period and cause unnecessary relationship stress!

But it’s also a time of togetherness where we’re encouraged to create precious memories and cherish our loved ones – so how can we suppress spousal stress and make the most of it? I’m sharing 8 relationship survival tips for stressed couples this Christmas. Feliz Natal! 

Why might Christmas be a stressful time for couples? 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s not without its stressors. Our schedule fills with seasonal activities that disrupt our daily routines, to-do lists become never-ending, and decisions take on extra significance. That’s before we’ve considered the enormous expectations put on us by family, social media, peers, and advertising, to make this time of year especially magical! 

Christmas can magnify cracks in our relationships that we’ve been wilfully avoiding throughout the year, and consequently, arguments can escalate. Pair this breakdown in communication with people who aren’t getting enough rest, drinking and eating more than usual, and scrolling through timelines filled with people playing happy families, and it’s easy to see why so many couples come to blows.

But all is not lost! Recognise your yuletide triggers, set clear expectations and work on the following ways to avoid relationship stress over the coming weeks.

How to Avoid Stress at Christmas

Stressful scenario #1:

The quest for a picture-perfect Christmas

In this digital age where we’re privy to social media highlight reels and sickly-sweet adverts that portray idealistic cosy Christmases, it’s easy to obsess over the idea of a ‘perfect’ Christmas. 

Design your own dream Christmas

In our quest for the best, however, we tend to lose all sense of perspective and set lofty expectations that we’ll never comfortably achieve. Do you really need matching pyjamas, elaborate stair garlands, and expensive serveware to be happy? No, of course not! Sit down together and discuss what’s most important before figuring out how you can make your dreams a reality. If your ideas differ slightly, be ready and willing to compromise and remember that cutting corners is more than okay! 

If you’re struggling to shake the need for everything to be perfect, ask yourselves if there’s something you’re trying to compensate for. Do you need to bring more magic to your relationship across the year to help relieve the pressure, or is it pointing to something much deeper? 

If you’re clinging onto the veneer of togetherness, have the difficult relationship talk you’ve been trying your best to avoid. Clients often find that it takes a weight off their shoulders, and communication improves tenfold. 

Stressful scenario #2:

Travelling here, there and everywhere

There are plenty of discussions to be had about where you’ll be celebrating the holidays and how you’ll be splitting your time between your family, their family, and all manner of yuletide engagements. Traditionally a time of rest, it can feel like you’re being dragged from pillar to post, which can lead to exhausted arguments at the end of some incredibly long days. 

Embrace the 12(+) Days of Christmas

Ask yourselves how you want to spend your time and who you want to spend it with! Would you rather base yourselves in one place, sofa hop between houses or visit your relatives separately? Or maybe you’d prefer a quiet few days just the two of you?

Embrace the 12 days of Christmas and spread your visits across December – or switch in-person gatherings for chilled video chats instead. The best of both worlds! Don’t lose sight of what you want – even if that means sitting in front of the telly with a box of chocolates instead of attending spirited family gatherings. 

Stressful scenario #3:

Too much to do, too little time!

You always enter the festive season with plans to be more prepared. Then you find yourself baking shortbread, cutting a grotto’s worth of paper snowflakes, picking family members up from the airport, and watching your child ace their starring role as ‘third chicken’ in the nativity within the space of a day. 

Stick to a seasonal schedule

Sit down at the start of December, for ten minutes here and there, and make plans. Avoid launching into these discussions at inopportune moments when you aren’t in the right headspace to make decisions. Set aside dedicated time, and you’ll feel all the more prepared. 

Keep spousal stress at bay by finding time for your relationship and taking care of one another amidst the chaos. If your partner is working over Christmas, make sure they return home to a comforting plate of food and a glass of wine. If they’ve been rushing around all weekend, run them a soothing bath with candles and plenty of bubbles to help take the edge off. 

Stressful scenario #4:

Friction with family and friends.

Socialising with groups of family and friends that we don’t see eye-to-eye with can be complex at the best of times. Add in full bellies, glasses filled with fizz, and a divided sociopolitical landscape, and it’s no wonder couples get caught in the crossfire!

Allow yourselves space to vent

Careless remarks and thoughtless gestures can get under our skin when tensions are running high. Raise a glass to loved ones and all of their funny quirks, and let it go. If what was said really irked you, hold an emotional show and tell with your spouse where you’re free to vent and make space for big emotions. When your partner is sharing their feelings, don’t try to lessen them with assurances that people ‘didn’t mean’ the things they said as that only serves to shut down the conversation.

Remember that it’s not always helpful to jump straight in with a solution when your partner is looking to be heard. Once they’ve vented, find acceptance with their feelings, even if you see the situation differently, so they don’t feel discouraged from being vulnerable with you. If your family members are causing them grief, acknowledge your appreciation of your loved one’s efforts to keep the peace with responses that show you’re not oblivious to the situation.

Stressful scenario #5:

Petty little squabbles with your partner.

The finer details take on more and more significance as the big day draws near. From designing the perfect tablescape to styling matching outfits, ordering the ‘right’ cranberry sauce to sourcing emergency chairs, there are plenty of elements that can cause back-and-forth barbs in the heat of the moment. 

Have a cup of tea and a slice of perspective

Set a time-out code word that calls for you both to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Bring humour to the situation and remind yourself that some things aren’t worth arguing over! 

Avoid sweating the small stuff, and you’ll soon put an end to squabbles. 

Stressful scenario #6:

Your partner isn’t pulling their weight.  

A lot of additional labour goes into creating Christmas, from present buying to schedule managing, house cleaning to menu planning, and it’s easy to slip into the role of critical parent when you feel like the effort you’re putting in isn’t being reciprocated.

Communicate your needs

Contrary to popular belief, our other halves aren’t mind readers! Communicate your needs and take on the job together by dividing up tasks with a Christmas chore chart. Who serves the drinks? Who checks on the spuds? Who’s in charge of popping the Bucks Fizz bottles in the recycling?

Even if there’s no obvious tension, share the load and bring more balance to your relationship – and, remember, ‘thank you’ goes a long way. If you’re doing the bulk of the work, and subsequent hidden labour, learn to delegate before you let resentment build to a fiery crescendo. 

Stressful scenario #7:

Buying the ‘wrong’ gift. 

Remember last year when your partner surprised you with an elaborate scavenger hunt that ended in tickets for an all-inclusive getaway, and you bought them an electric toothbrush? Yikes! 

Speak your partner’s love language

Every gift deserves to be met with gratitude – even if you plan on returning it once the shops open – but you can avoid awkward gift-related stress altogether by gifting presents that speak your partner’s love language. 

  • WORDS OF AFFIRMATION – Fill a card or the first page of a beautiful journal with a heartfelt message reflecting on the year gone by and the joy you have up ahead. 
  • RECEIVING GIFTS – Give them the gift they’ve been dropping not-so-subtle hints about. Not great at getting the hint? Ask your partner what they’ve got their eye on, or reach out to their pals for intel. 
  • ACTS OF SERVICE – Present them with a handwritten invitation for a delicious home-cooked meal (made from scratch or courtesy of M & S’ Dine In For Two). Make the evening extra special with menus, table settings and a request to dress to impress!
  • PHYSICAL TOUCH – Gift them a cosy blanket for you to snuggle under together, a luxe bottle of massage oil, or the ingredients for the perfect intimate night in. 
  • QUALITY TIME –  Create handmade vouchers they can cash in for creative dates across the year – a picnic in the park, a romantic night away, breakfast in bed, etc. Check out A Year Of Dates for ready-made options.

The best holiday gifts don’t come with a hefty price tag. Take a leaf out of Mariah’s book and remember that spending time with one another is more than enough, especially as we navigate turbulent times! 

Stressful scenario #8:

Clashing rituals and traditions. 

From presents on Christmas Eve to festive movie marathons, Christmas is a time for honouring familial, cultural and religious traditions, but what happens when those traditions clash? 

Create your own yuletide traditions

Sharing treasured holiday rituals with your other half can be an excellent way to increase intimacy in your relationship, so it’s important to get involved – whether you understand their significance or not. Make time for all your traditions across the month, so there’s no need to compromise. You could even blend them to create special memories of your own, like so…

  • Decorate the tree with meaningful trinkets you’ve inherited before watching your partner light their advent candles. 
  • Whip up a batch of sweet treats that remind your spouse of home and wash them down with a homemade hot toddy, made using the recipe that has been in your family for years. 
  • Walk around the twinkly light displays in your neighbourhood, as you’ve done for many moons, before attending your loved one’s annual ‘Friendsmas’ gathering with a bottle of wine and a tub of said treats in tow.  


The weather outside might be frightful, but the festive season doesn’t have to be. Avoid unnecessary relationship stress by setting clear expectations, banishing misplaced guilt and cherishing your time together – however you choose to spend it.

Whether you plan on celebrating with your nearest and dearest or enjoying quality time snuggled on the sofa, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! 

I’m Carla Devereux, an experienced psychotherapist and hypnotherapist helping couples and individuals explore challenging emotions, behaviours and deep-rooted issues with an integrated therapeutic approach. Book your 90-minute couples therapy session by emailing carla@carladevereux.com or calling 0121 745 9044.

Share this post

Psychotherapy delves deep into the root causes of your symptoms.  Psychotherapy in Solihull, encompasses a multitude of approaches, each offering a wide range of tools that help different people.