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When Christmas puts a strain on relationships

The end of Christmas and things 'returning to normal' can't come soon enough for people struggling with their relationships. But what then? Reporter Georgina Bishop spoke to relationship counselling service Relate Mid Thames and Buckinghamshire which says that whatever the situation 'the sooner people feel the need to come here and do something about it, the better'

Anyone adhering to tradition will take down their Christmas decorations this weekend.

But while dismantling the tree and packing away baubles on Twelfth Night will be a task tinged with regret that it’s all over for many, some will breathe a sigh of relief.

The annual spike in people filing for divorce every January is testament to the fact that the festive period can be a fraught time for relationships.

At Relate Mid Thames and Buckinghamshire (MTB), based in Marlow Road, the number of people calling to enquire about their service rose by 44 per cent in January 2018.

Relate is the UK’s largest provider of relationship support and helps people strengthen their relationships.

Research by the charity found money worries are the number one strain on relationships, with 26 per cent of people experiencing this pressure.

Relate MTB counsellors say that at Christmas, arguments about money tend to be even more common.

Jane (not her real name) is a counsellor at Relate MTB and explained that the high expectations of a perfect family Christmas ‘can give people a slap in the face almost, a reality check about what is actually happening’.

Different life stages and events can also mark a significant shift in a relationship that may have lead to a couple experiencing difficulty.

Having a baby, changing jobs, retiring, children leaving home, a big birthday, illness and affairs can all cause problems.

“Coming here, the aim is to try to achieve some change,” said Jane.

“You can’t go back and sort of fix the past in any way but, you can think about how those things have impacted each individual and what can be done to support them as a couple to move forward.”

She added: “People get caught in a pattern of behaviour and what we’re trying to do is change that pattern, reverse it in some way, but if you’ve been running like that for years and years, it gets increasingly difficult to reverse it.”

People aren’t always looking to stay together when they contact Relate though.

“We work with couples who are not coming necessarily because they want to rebuild the relationship but because they want to find a different way forward,” said Jane.

“It may be that they want to talk about how they can split up in an amicable way or how they can parent their children more effectively.”

Relate also helps families resolve issues, which can be worked on in individual and group sessions or a combination of both.

Individuals too seek counsel from Relate. Jane said: “It gives them an opportunity to delve a bit deeper into their thinking, their feelings, their motivations, to understand a bit more about what has happened and why.”

Whatever the situation ‘the sooner people feel the need to come here and do something about it, the better’.

Anna (not her real name) had counselling at the Marlow Road centre. She said: “I had put extra pressure on myself by doing so much for other people and now I know it’s OK to say ‘no’. There are still challenges in my life and I’m dealing with them.

“I now have a better relationship with my parents, I know what a loving relationship with a partner is all about and I am really happy, I am so much better at being able to tell him how I feel. I am getting to know myself again, I feel confident about life and I want to enjoy it.”

To find out more about the support Relate MTB can provide go to or call 01628 625320.


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