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Surviving Christmas as a couple with maximum love and minimum heartbreak: Expert reveals how to holiday-proof your relationship this festive season

  • December and January are the most popular months for couples to break-up
  • Expert Melissa Ferrari reveals what causes people to part during pressured time
  • Shares some strategies for surviving, including a focus on 'love values'  

We all imagine Christmas as a joy-filled time spent peacefully with those we love – but sadly for some it's a time of tension and heartbreak. 

A Relationships Australia Survey revealed that couples face high stress levels over the holiday period which can lead to arguments and relationship difficulties. 

'December and January are the most popular months for couples to break up – it's an extremely emotional time with so much social activity, excitement, downtime and stress,' said relationship expert and psychotherapist Melissa Ferrari.

'Even the happiest of couples or good family relationships can become strained and affected at this time of year so it's important to be mindful of potential issues.'

Relationship expert and psychotherapist Melissa Ferrari

Relationship expert and psychotherapist Melissa Ferrari

Here, FEMAIL looks at five ways you and your significant other can survive the stress. Ms Ferrari also offers some simple strategies for 'holiday proofing' your partnership.

RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO OVERINDULGE

Alcohol tends to flow in abundance at this time of year, and while there's no harm in enjoying a festive tipple, taking it too far can cause problems.

Ms Ferrari outlined office Christmas parties, family gatherings and New Year's celebrations are all situations where alcohol is consumed – sometimes past the point where people can control themselves.

'Heated arguments as well as regrettable actions often result,' she said.

'Remember to take it easy and be mindful that people under the influence can say or do things they don't mean.'

Office Christmas parties, family gatherings and New Year's celebrations are all situations where alcohol is consumed which could lead to unpleasant behaviour

Office Christmas parties, family gatherings and New Year's celebrations are all situations where alcohol is consumed which could lead to unpleasant behaviour

EMBRACE LOVE VALUES

In the lead-up to Christmas, stress and tension begin to mount in ways that can often cause disagreements or divisions. 

The expert said people who are anxious or busy at this time of year may unintentionally come across the wrong way, and cause conflict without meaning to.

Her recommendation: 'Understand loved ones might be a bit more stressed than usual and give them a bit more allowance for this.

'Recognise people are stressed, and don't take the bait.'

COMMUNICATE CLEARLY

Open communication in relationships, helps couples, or family members, manage expectations.

Ms Ferrari said her mantra: 'Clarity creates calm' prevents genuine disagreements over the trivial matters from becoming the breeding ground for larger resentments.

'Discuss prior things such as where you'll be on the important dates, what you'll be doing, expectations around presents, who's driving and who's cooking.

'That way there will be no mixed messages between couples (and family members).'

Communicating your expectations with your partner helps prevent trivial matters from blossoming into full-blown resentments 

Communicating your expectations with your partner helps prevent trivial matters from blossoming into full-blown resentments 

STAND BY EACH OTHER

During this potentially difficult time, letting your partner know you're there for them can make the world of difference, said the psychotherapist. 

'Often people can feel anxious or tense about seeing certain relatives and letting them know you've got their back can be extremely reassuring.' 

Ms Ferrari explained a 'couple bubble' – a concept developed by Dr Stan Tatkin – functions as way to protect partners by keeping each person safe and secure.

She also adds: 'When stress goes up, communication often goes down. Remember to bring up any concerns you have around the holidays before they become an issue, and don't forget to let your loved ones know how excited and happy you feel – good vibes are contagious!'

'Often people can feel anxious or tense about seeing certain relatives and letting them know you've got their back can be extremely reassuring,' said Ms Ferrari

'Often people can feel anxious or tense about seeing certain relatives and letting them know you've got their back can be extremely reassuring,' said Ms Ferrari

PRACTICE GRATITUDE

Though a simple act, remember to be thankful for your life, including those you're fortunate enough to be spending the holiday with.

'Acknowledging those less fortunate is an easy way to feel gratitude for your own relationships and circumstances.

'This will make you less likely to argue or become upset. Reaching out to estranged family members or friend, and other acts of kindness can work wonders,' she concluded.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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Everyone went outside to smoke cloves and bitch about having to stay after for the State.

Jon Stewart on events following Charles — January 19, 1999