Tuesday 20 February 2018

Mistletoe and whine: how married couples can avoid the most common festive flashpoints

On the naughty list: Getting through the festive period can be a challenge
On the naughty list: Getting through the festive period can be a challenge

Shane Watson

RTE's recent documentary Golden: Our 50 Years Of Marriage has got us all thinking about what it takes to stay the course. Or, alternatively, how we can make it through the next few weeks without getting divorced (January being PEAK divorce season).

Christmas is the ultimate test of marital harmony, so it pays to identify the key stress points and some basic damage limitation strategies. For example...

Phone a friend

When you want to discuss exactly what you are feeding everyone on Christmas Eve - and naturally you do need to talk about this, in some detail, now - phone a friend. On no account attempt to talk to 'him' about the Christmas menu plan. You will only catch him, minutes in, stifling a yawn or trying to watch I'm A Celebrity... over your shoulder.

And then, when challenged, he will say: "Sorry but I don't know why we have to talk about peas now. It'll be fine… we'll all muck in." Like I said, phone a friend.

Keep calm about the 'we' word

At some point he will start on 'we' in earnest. 'We'… meaning "you, on your own, with me right behind you" is always infuriating, but at this time of year, it takes on a special grating quality: "I know, why don't 'we' have goose this year for a change?" (when you ordered the turkey under his nose three weeks ago); "I know, why don't 'we' put the Christmas tree in the kitchen?" (no words). "Why don't 'we' get some of those lights to put in the hedge?" "Why don't 'we' do the roast potatoes Heston's way - here's the recipe - and the Brussels sprouts with nduja and Romanian straw… ?"

And of course, "relax, we'll all muck in" (translation, I will ask at various intervals "what can I do?" while holding a glass of Champagne and watching a YouTube video of a jealous golden retriever mauling a toy dog).

The best strategy here is to imagine the words 'Only Joking!' tacked on to the end of every we-ism. If you can manage that.

Deal with the present crisis head on

Every year is the same. You want a plan. You would like to get the critical presents asap to avoid disappointment down the line. He wants to take it to the wire, put it off until the shirt the youngest son wants is only available in XL in orange, and anyway it can't be delivered before the 27th.

Then, just before the shopping due date, he goes rogue during his lunch-break, usually in Debenhams, and comes home bearing carrier bags full of presents, including a family size Thermos, a head cam and a giant Toblerone. The solution: buy the presents you want right now, no discussion. Hurry.

Prepare for his 'spontaneous' Christmas party

When he wafts through the door on the 18th and casually says: "I've asked a few people for drinks on Christmas Eve. I thought 'we' could get a ham and then they can eat if they want to…." Just say: "Lovely! Who exactly?" Then send a group email to the 36 invitees, telling them you have double booked/he has a prescription painkillers problem.

Take precautionary measures

When you get to Christmas Eve and realise he has been working his way through the goodies (those Medjool dates he keeps offering you... from your secret Christmas stash) - don't panic. Think of it as a last minute shopping opportunity. Check everything.

Check the turkey's still got both legs. Double check the chocolate gingers. Then send him out with a list and the youngest and the oldest (to keep him to the list). Alternatively, lock everything away now in a sealed cupboard.

Hiding it all under cous cous bags at the back of the larder does not work. Also, avoid looking in his side of the chest of drawers from about December 20 because when you find the Bluetooth ear buds with built-in heart rate monitor, it may tip you over the edge.

Good luck.

Irish Independent

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