The festive season can be wonderful.
…it can also be a really challenging time of year.
Family commitments, present-buying, Christmas parties, money-worries, end of year deadlines…
It’s a recipe for a stress-cocktail.
It’s no surprise that according to Facebook, December is the month of the year with the highest number of breakups.
The problem with stress is that we have a tendency to take it out on the people who are closest to us. They are the people who see every side of us…the good, the bad and the very ugly.
We don’t put on pretenses for those who are closest to us…and we don’t tend to pull our punches.
You see, when we’re under stress our bodies jump into fight or flight mode.
Why is this the annual breakup season?
We learned our stress responses many years ago when ‘stress’ was caused by coming face-to-face with a saber-toothed tiger or a woolly mammoth. It was a matter of survival. Us or them.
Unfortunately our stress responses have not evolved with our lives…so we get the same rush of adrenaline and hormones when dealing with an urgent deadline as we did when being considered as a Paleolithic beast’s lunch.
So when we feel stress we see the world as a threat…including our partner.
When we see someone or something as a threat, all compassion and understanding tends to fly out of the nearest window. We have two go-to responses; protect & defend ourselves, and attack.
…and when one person gets defensive or confrontational, the other person often isn’t far behind.
So how can we avoid the stress-loop that often leads to a breakup?
The biggest problem when we enter this stress-pattern is that we forget that we are on the same side.
We’re on the same team.
They aren’t your adversary, they’re your team-mate.
Think about a football team. How successful do you think a team would be if they spent all their time tackling each other rather than focusing on the opposition, or the goal?
You see, our response to stress often has us drawing battle lines against the person with whom you could instead be creating a battle strategy WITH.
So if you notice yourself dropping into ‘confrontation mode’ with your partner, here are a few simple steps to help you get back in each other’s corner again.
- Stop – So many of our troubles at this time of year start because rather than responding to what’s happening we react. We fire right back at the moment we feel upset or triggered without taking a moment to stop and consider how we want to respond, or the consequences of our reaction. Take a pause…it could make all the difference.
- Breathe – Take a deep breath, and allow yourself to let go of some of the tension in your body. When we go into fight of flight mode our muscles tense in order to be ready to swing a right-hook, or run for the hills. Taking a deep breath and shaking out your body can release some of this tension and help you to relax.
- Ask yourself a question (or two)…(or three) – When we feel this way, it tends to be because we’ve attributed a meaning to our partner’s behavior (what they’ve said / not said / done / not done) that might not be in-line with the intention behind it. So ask yourself “What else could this mean?”, could there be another reason than the one you’ve got in your mind? The other question to ask yourself here is “What is my outcome?” what do you really want in this moment? Do you want to be right? Or Do you want to be happy? Do you want to fight? Or do you want to build a bridge with the person who is usually your biggest ally? The final question to ask yourself is “How do I REALLY want to deal with this?” Your reaction has the potential to create a battleground or a dance floor, to fire an attack or wave a white flag, to metaphorically slap them in the face or reach out to connect with them. This is your moment to choose how you show up, which has the ability to completely transform the situation.
- Apologise – At this point you may be a little confused. Apologise? But they’re the one who’s upset me! While that may be true…step back a little bit. Is there something that you’ve said or done (or not said or done) that might have caused a reaction in them? Might they have misinterpreted your actions or words? If you can see how they might be upset, apologise for your part in what’s happened, without reservation, and without bringing how you’re feeling into it (for now). When you do this for another person, they go from attack and defend mode to putting both their weapons and their defences down. This is the first step towards working together to find a solution.
- Ask for their help – This situation could simply be happening because they don’t really know what you want or need, and how to give it to you…so the easiest way for them to be able to do this is for you to tell them. But barking instructions at them is probably not going to help them feel you’re on the same side. Instead ask for their help…ask for what you want and need, show them how to help and support you.
- Remind them (and most importantly yourself) that you’re on the same team – Remember that you’re on the same team. Remind them (with kindness) that you’re on their team…and that you know that they’re on your team too. Just verbalising this can make such a difference to how you both perceive what’s going on. It might be a misunderstanding, it might be a difference of opinion, but if you’re on the same side, you can figure it out together.
When you’re on the same side, dealing with the stress of the season seems so much more manageable…and you know you’re not dealing with it alone. Navigating your way through the festive period can both pull you together, or tear you apart…choosing to be on the same team can make it more likely to be the former.
…but what if you do breakup?
If you do break up this time of year, there are a few things to bear in mind.
If the choice to separate wasn’t yours, then the other person has done you the favour of walking away from you. You want to be with someone who chooses you, who sees you, who values you…who wants to be with you. If this person has made another choice, you deserve more.
But knowing that doesn’t make the process of dealing with it any easier…so you might want to check out a couple of these articles to help you through the process:
- How to deal with heartbreak
- The 5 most important things to help you deal with a broken heart?
- When to say “F*ck That” to Gratitude?
- Why Is Rejection Awesome?
- What does rejection really mean?
- Does a broken heart ever mend or do we just end up living with the scars of heartbreak?
The new year is a good time to move start afresh, to go through the process of letting go of the past and to begin to attract and create the relationship that you desire and deserve.
…and if you think the advice in this post could help someone you know, I would love for you take a few seconds to share it.
Would you like some help in navigating the annual breakup season?
Often when we’re dealing with relationship challenges, whether it’s stress, money, arguments, worries about trust or infidelity, it can be tough to do it on your own. It can feel isolating and lonely, especially when everyone around you seems to be enjoying a challenge-free festive season with their loved ones.
Or maybe you’re single and worried about how to enjoy the festivities without a special someone to share it with? Maybe you’re worried about the comments or questions from family about ‘When are you going to find someone?’ Maybe you’re just fed up of the thought of another Christmas and New Years Eve on your own?
So if you’d like to find out how I might be able to help you with your specific relationship concerns, worries or challenges at this time of year, then either send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or book a discovery session here to find out how you can avoid or reduce the relationship challenges that most people face at this time of year.
It can be a tough time to navigate, and it’s so much easier when you know you’re not doing it alone.