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 pretences 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 break-up 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 break-up?
Well 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 - 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?
- 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).
- Ask for their help - It may be that they simply don't 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 that you're on the same team - Remind them 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 this 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.
...and what if you do break-up?
...and 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?
- Why does heartbreak hurt so much?
- Does a broken heart ever mend or do we just end up living with the scars of heartbreak?
- What changed my experience of heartbreak forever?
- What's the difference between feeling your emotions and wallowing in them?
...and 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.