Busy festive time ahead for marriage guidance counsellors

MARRIAGE guidance counsellors are bracing themselves for an increase in calls from warring couples over the festive period.

Relate North East, which set up support sessions in Hartlepool earlier this year, expects to see a 35 per cent increase in calls from town couples at-odds with each other.

Bosses at the service say money worries are a major trigger, as well as arguments about all the work to create a “perfect Christmas” being heaped on one person in the relationship.

It comes as figures from Relate show 68 per cent of respondents in a survey expect to argue over the festive season and 39 per cent cite Christmas day as the time they are most likely time to have a bust-up over the holiday season.

The relationship experts say Christmas is a time for families – but it can also be a time for tempers to fray.

The organisation is offering a range of advice on how sparring spouses can get along over the season.

Carol Walker, centre manager for Relate North East, told the Hartlepool Mail: “The main causes for arguments are money and all the work falling on to to one person, generally mum feeling other people around her aren’t pulling their weight.

“There is also the fact that people have this image in their heads of what the perfect Christmas looks like.

“It often falls short and people are often disappointed.

“In areas like Hartlepool, where there are quite a lot of single-parent families, there can be more conflict as it’s about who the child spends Christmas with.”

Relate North East has recently started a counselling service, which is held at the Lynnfield SureStart centre, in Elcho Street, and the Stranton SureStart Centre, in Southburn Terrace, and has eight families on its books.

Ms Walker said the number of sessions in town are being increased in the run-up to Christmas.

“Quite often money worries are big things and how to afford Christmas and couples argue about whether they should go into debt for Christmas”, she added.

She said over the last few years, the service has seen a 35 per cent rise in calls from couples after Christmas, though this seems to have had an early surge this year, with 15 to 20 per cent more already recorded.

Ms Walker added: “The first week in January is normally manic.”

She urged couples to seek advice, urging them to “talk about things”, “spell out what your idea of Christmas should be”, not to mix alcohol with arguing, and try to diffuse a heated situation by walking away or using humour.

For more information on Relate’s services in Hartlepool, call (0191) 3841198 or visit www.relate.org.uk