There is a common perception out there that relationships seem to take a turn for the worst during the holiday-season…and we can attest to that!

After all; our busiest times are after long weekends or holidays…

But is it really a case of relationships going wrong over December times, or might there be something else going on entirely?

In one of the many books I have read this year, someone said – (sorry; I can’t remember who it was) – some of the key components to a successful relationship/marriage include friendship, commitment, trust, social support, similarities and a constant determination to create positive affect, and I completely agree with this list of attributes. I would, however like to add a few of my own; communication, intimacy and quality time for instance.

So let’s assume that; for your relationship to be a healthy and successful one, most of these attributes listed above should, ideally, be present and accounted for in your relationship with your partner/spouse. Agree? Now, let’s just focus on the present. At the moment everything is absolute chaos. Its year-end functions and Christmas parties, its school concerts and rapport cards…everyone is struggling to get everything done work-wise before closing shop for December. Everyone is battling with what to get whom for Christmas, where are we going to spend Christmas and who with… as I said; chaos.

But let’s take a few steps back, focusing on the rest of the year as well – excluding holidays that is. To me it seems like our lives have become one huge race against time. Not because days are getting shorter or we are getting older, but because we fill it with so many things. I find that in many – not all but many – people, there is this need to be busy, a need to, almost be able to brag about how absolutely drenched we are in all that is going on in our lives. It’s almost as if we are in competition to see who has the most on their plate!

This goes on year round…except during school holidays, or long weekends for some, and December months for most…During December holidays, everything slows down, the “commitments” and every day “responsibilities” seem to…vanish…and all we are left with to fill the void is…each other. For the first time in almost a year, we have the TIME on our hands to really focus on one another and our relationship…or lack thereof.

You see; relationships are hard work, they really – truly, honestly are. And, in order to put that kind of effort into a relationship, we need…you guessed it – TIME.

Go and read through the list of attributes/components of a healthy relationship again. How many of those are truly possible when you switch your computer off at 02h00 in the morning, getting 4 to 5 hours sleep a night? How much quality is present in the little time we do have for one another, in between the multitude of play dates and extra-curricular activities our kids just “have” to be involved in or the work reports that cannot wait another day as we could not fit them in yesterday? How much determination is there to be positive, to actively listen to our spouses, to make someone feel loved and cared for, to personally stand up and take responsibility for our contribution to a healthy and successful relationship? I would guess the answer to these would not be positive ones.

December times, force us to stand still and take a long hard look at the person we are “committed” to.  And for some of us, what we see is not all that pleasant. We see someone that we barely know any more, we see a relationship that is just not cutting it, we are disappointed and dismayed…and we start focusing on the negatives that are so blatantly obvious and it starts spiraling out of control (also read: Change – The Finger).

In my opinion, therefore, it is not December times that are to blame for the downfall of so many relationships, it’s the lack of actively working on relationships during the rest of the year that cause us to be emotionally disconnected by the time we get to December.

So how do you holiday proof your relationship?

You start actively implementing the list of attributes I gave you earlier (also read: Onvoorwaardelike Liefde).

But don’t go demanding your partners’ undivided attention the moment you’ve finished reading this article. If you are one of the many couples faced with the dilemma that we are discussing; you need to realize that you cannot expect stuff to just change overnight; it’s not going to happen. And, by forcing the situation or putting too much pressure on someone, you might actually have the opposite of your wish granted – more distance, rejection, withdrawal…

Rather take it slow, day by day; getting to know one another again, but also giving each other a little space. And when January comes rolling around; don’t make the same mistakes again. Renew your commitment to one another and make a true effort to spend time together; to stay emotionally connected, to be an active listener, to take control of the one and only thing we have some control over – your own thoughts, words, actions and choices…

Good luck!