Relationship counselling for guilt is something that I get asked about a lot around this time of year. And it’s not surprising, when you look at the data.
According to a recent study, the second most common time for relationships to break up is two weeks before Christmas (the number one time is, believe it or not, Valentine’s Day!)
So why do so many people need relationship counselling at a time of year that’s supposed to be so full of love and goodwill?
Here are a few examples that may help explain.
New Year, New (Single) You
As the New Year approaches, many people start thinking about a fresh start. And it seems this isn’t restricted to diets and gym memberships. If things haven’t been going so well recently, the thought of a fresh relationship – or simply an opportunity to discover what life could be like as a single person – can be a tempting possibility.
At Christmas, families tend to get together, with people travelling from far and wide to spend time with their loved ones. And there’s something about these gatherings that can make you think ‘does this person really fit in my life?’
If it’s a new relationship, you might not feel ready for them to meet your family, with all the complications that can bring. Maybe they have a different culture or belief system. If your new girlfriend’s vegan and your uncle owns an abattoir, you might not relish the thought of spending your Christmas holidays as chief mediator.
If it’s an existing relationship, perhaps there are arguments and fall-outs if significant others don’t gel so well with parents or siblings. These situations can put huge pressures on relationships.
Christmas brings with it a multitude of stressors, and most of them are related to time and money. The pressure of having to fight through the crowds to find the perfect gift for everyone (especially the kids with their prolific letters to Santa) can leave you drained and exhausted – not to mention your poor overworked credit card.
The thought of all those bills waiting for you in January can be highly stressful. And of course, stress can have a negative impact on relationships.
Regardless of where our stress is originating, we often tend to offload it onto our nearest and dearest. And before we know it we’re at loggerheads, and considering our options for a solo Christmas dinner.
That guilty feeling
The number one emotion I’ve noticed that comes up in relationship counselling is guilt. Maybe they’ve cheated, maybe they’ve been angry and abusive, or maybe they want to end the relationship but just don’t know how to go through with it. Whatever the problem, the guilt is never usually far away.
Even if the present relationship is far from ideal, this doesn’t take away from all that you’ve gone through together. And Christmas especially is a time that brings back all those happy memories. If children are involved then that makes it all the more difficult.
The guilt, anxiety, and confusion around relationships can be quite overwhelming. If a breakup is on the cards, the person who wants to leave can be torn between wanting to ‘do the right thing’ and stay with their family, or doing what they feel will make them personally happy.
And on the other side of the fence, the person who’s being left behind can be just as wracked with guilt that they’ve done something wrong and brought it all on themselves.
Let’s be honest
Whatever the situation, the best thing I can suggest is to be as honest as possible about your feelings. I know it can be tempting to go through the motions and pretend everything’s ok, but ultimately it’s not going to help either of you feel any better. Find a way to open up the lines of communication so the two of you can talk honestly about how you feel.
Relationship Counselling can clarify your thoughts
It can be very helpful to speak to a therapist first, just to clarify your thoughts and start to come to a decision.
The therapy process can help you to work out what you’re going through, what you really want, and how to manage any difficult emotions such as guilt, shame, anger and anxiety.
Learn to talk… and listen
If both parties are open to staying together, then therapy can be really useful in changing the original behavioural patterns that caused the problems. Stress and anger management is very helpful, as is learning to talk – and more importantly – learning to LISTEN to your partner. One thing that comes up time and time again is regret that they didn’t get relationship counselling sooner. After all, there’s often so much at stake.
If you’d like to explore your feelings around your relationship in a private, confidential space, then get in touch to find out how I can help.
Lisa Murphy is a counsellor and hypnotherapist based in Glasgow who specialises in anxiety, anger management, and weight loss.