Workplace dilemmas: Help! I’m dreading spending Christmas with my husband

Each month, our agony uncle responds to your concerns. This time: what to do if the Christmas break brings horror, not cheer

Dear Tim,

Everyone in my office is getting really excited about Christmas. There’s tinsel hanging from the partitions, a Christmas tree in the staff kitchen and Christmas music blaring from the radio. There’s a palpable air of anticipation as people discuss their Christmas plans, talking about the fun they’ll have with family and friends and sharing ideas for Christmas recipes or traditions.

    He moans about work, about his friends, and about all of us. It’s really tiring...  

Not for me, though. I’m afraid I’m dreading Christmas and would happily stay at work for the duration, if only they weren’t closing the office.

It’s funny, really. When my boss sent an email saying they were closing down from Christmas Eve all the way through to 2 January, a cheer went up from the workforce. But I just felt even more anxious about the coming festivities. I was banking on escaping to work for a break on the days in between Christmas and New Year.

The problem is my husband. He’s not violent or abusive in any way, so please don’t get the wrong idea. But I’ve come to realise that he’s an extremely selfish person. He rarely thinks of other people, including our children and especially not me. Which means that, so far as he’s concerned, Christmas is all about what he wants to do.

That’s well and good. I’ve long come to terms with the fact that all the Christmas prep falls to me, including choosing, buying and wrapping presents for the kids and wider family members, sorting out what we’re going to eat when and making sure the house looks festive.

But there’s a new dimension nowadays, and that’s his incessant whingeing. He moans about work, about his friends, and about all of us. It’s really tiring and I’m not sure I can cope with pretty much two whole weeks of it.

What do I do? We’ll spend some of the time with other people, but I know he’ll be just as bad in their company. I can’t find words to tell you how much I’m dreading it all. Can you help?

Tim says:

It’s probably small comfort to hear that you’re by no means alone in feeling this way. According to Relate, the number of people making contact for relationship advice and counselling spikes by more than a third after the Christmas holidays.

    If there’s something deeply wrong in your relationship, you’re going to need to confront it.  

It is hardly a surprise that relationships are tested during the festive season. As you’ve rightly said, you spend more time in each other’s company than at any other time of the year, and the pressure is usually intense. There’s entertaining to plan, presents to sort, food and drink to buy.

Then you have the added stress of hanging out with people who you may not normally choose to see – extended family, long lost friends. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Add into the mix an inability to escape to the office for a bit of peace and the potential impact of alcohol on your judgment and it’s easy to see why there’s no shortage of advice online about surviving the big day.

For what it’s worth, my advice is straightforward. If there’s something deeply wrong in your relationship, you’re going to need to confront it. The sort of anxiety that’s eating away at you in the run-up to Christmas is just a magnified version of what you must be feeling all the time. And it’s not healthy to be using work as a form of displacement activity.

I’d recommend taking your feelings seriously. At some point, you and your husband need a full and frank discussion about your relationship. Do you want things to improve? If so, seek relationship counselling sooner rather than later, before it’s too late.

If you feel you’re already beyond that, then you probably need to think about separating. Sorry to put it so bluntly, but a break from one another may be the only way for you to get back on an even keel.

I wouldn’t advise tackling this issue the week before Christmas. It’s likely to prompt some difficult conversations and could well put even further strain on your celebrations. And if you have kids, you’ll clearly want to protect them from damaging memories associated with this time of year.

But plan to have the conversation in the New Year. Try to be open and honest with your husband about how you’re feeling and what you want to happen next. Use the expert advice of Relate to help you.

It’s not going to be easy and there will be some hard times ahead. But the thought of taking positive action after Christmas, either to save your marriage or to make a clean break, maybe just what you need to get you through the fortnight ahead.

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

Published: 19 December 2019

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