Five Arguments Not To Have This Christmas

Five Arguments Not To Have This Christmas….

Family and relationship tensions get plenty of airtime over Christmas (though I’m yet to see a Christmas ad that really leans into this. What is that about? I don’t think it’s just having more things to do and having more time with extended family, though these things add to pressure and create contexts in which we might feel frustrated or upset. I think though at a deeper level it’s also connected to a time of year in which our more childlike longings and feelings bubble to the top. We all have our own personal relationship with Christmas, our wishes and dreams of what it might bring. This might mean we have quite big ideas and hopes about what Christmas should be like or what it should look like or how it should go.  I also think Christmas frees us up a bit, and perhaps removes a layer of strictness we have about ourselves, and so perhaps it’s easier for those more raw or childish feelings to show themselves in our relationships. These different aspects might mean we are being more open and honest with each other in some ways but perhaps this means we are more likely to clash over our differences.

I appeared on BBC 5 Live this week to talk about how it can be healthy in our relationships to have arguments which you can listen to more here . If someone is feeling upset about something or anxious, often what happens is that it comes out in anger and finds its way into an argument, so sometimes what’s really important is to hear more about the upset or the anxious feeling and our arguments can be a brilliant flag that reminds us that there might be more we need to understand. Taking time to repair arguments after the event and reflect on them can be the moment that we learn more about each other.

We can get on the front foot with tensions related to Christmas so that things don’t erupt on Christmas day by becoming more connected with each other about what the Christmas season means and what concerns it brings up.

So here are five issues you might want to consider thinking about in your relationships now to ensure that things go more smoothly between you. They are all really about communicating more actively with each other – being clearer with each other and listening better to each other, but by doing that you will help yourselves to feel good about your relationship over the Christmas period.

How are we communicating?

With everything that fills up the diary (and frankly each minute) of December it’s very easy for couples to start operating on separate tracks, focusing on the things on the to do list, socializing in different contexts, and starting to feel disconnected with each other.  At the top of the to do list you need to make sure there’s time to check in with each other even if it feels mundane or not an efficient use of time. In fact it’s the best use of time because it keeps you connected and also crucially means that you are keeping in touch with each other’s expectations and minimizing the possibility of wires getting crossed.


I dedicated a whole chapter in my book to tensions with family and in-laws and Christmas is a perfect setting in which to ignite all the tensions that go on with each other’s families. People can feel quite anxious about it.

One way to start to tackle these difficulties is to be really curious with each other about concerns.

The question – What are your concerns about Christmas with your/my family? – is a good open one to ask each other.

Crucially, when you or your partner says their concerns, don’t dismiss them. Don’t try to talk each other out of them. Don’t tell them they’re wrong or over-reacting. JUST LISTEN and acknowledge each other.

It sounds like nothing but by showing you’ve heard each other and acknowledged these concerns it can help you to feel like you are more on the same page. Only once that has happened are you then able to think creatively together about how to manage the situation.

Things that couples find helpful is thinking together about what boundaries could help them

  • can we check in with each other during the time we are spending with family
  • can we have a look or a wink or a squeeze of the hand that shows we are in this together
  • can we agree on timings that work for both of us
  • can we agree how we will handle it if relatives say something we find upsetting about the children

Just because we don’t find something concerning that our partner does worry about doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. You are going to feel different about things but fighting about who is right isn’t necessarily going to get you anywhere.

Five Arguments Not To Have This Christmas

Who’s doing what

The workload of Christmas is huge and lots of it is an invisible load that one person in the relationship is holding. All the planning and thinking that goes with feeding family and buying presents involves a lot more than just the moment of cooking or the point of purchase. Acknowledging the work you are both doing towards Christmas and showing positive gratitude for it is a way to insulate your relationship from resentments building up. You may need to sit down first to actually find out what the work you are both doing is.


You may really clash on your ideas of how many events or social occasions you both want to do over Christmas and just because it’s December it doesn’t mean that suddenly there’s a free pass to not have to discuss this. Often one person wants to do more than the other; or both people want to do stuff but are also weighing it up with the other responsibilities they have going on or their energy levels.

There’s no right answer here but what’s wrong is you both coming out of the Christmas season feeling frustrated that you’ve had to do it your partner’s way. This might mean doing things a bit more independently than you usually would – perhaps not going to things together or not having an expectation that you’ll do the same thing all the time. Sitting down and thinking about the different events and working through it together builds its own intimacy which may mean it’s easier to come and go a bit more between each other.

And one tip – if you’re the extrovert who wants to be out partying the whole of December make sure you pay extra special attention to the Who’s Doing What question so that you don’t intensify feelings about one person left doing all the work.

Five Arguments Not To Have This Christmas


One of the five arguments in my book Five Arguments All Couples (Need To) Have is about the negotiations we have to do with each other about our bodies. At Christmas alcohol is something that affects us physically that couples often argue about because it wasn’t something that they had discussed expectations with each other about and it links up too with ideas of socializing. Thinking together about the day after is often the bit that gets missed out – if one of you is hungover that’s likely to have an impact on both of you – particularly if you have children, so that needs sometimes more thinking about than people want to give it.

(These five arguments are related to the ones I write about in my book Five Arguments All Couples (Need To) Have – communication, family, roles, comings and goings, and sex/bodies).