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6 Tips For Not Ruining Your Relationship This Christmas

Christmas. When families get together and realise why they don’t do it more often. Add in kids, roasting houses, banging hangovers, heartburn and in-laws, and it’s amazing we don’t all end up divorced.  Not to worry. Our resident Dad, Pat Fitzpatrick, is here with six top tips to make sure you greet the New Year with your relationship intact. 

1. The Hangover 

There is only one thing worse than having a hangover during the festive period. And that’s having a hangover that isn’t as bad as your partner’s hangover. You see, whoever has the bigger hangover basically wins Christmas. All you have to do is mope around, sighing every now and again, until herself says, “Would you ever just go back to bed, you’re ruining it for the rest of us.” Talk about a result. 

The only harmonious solution here is for both of you to have exactly the same hangover. Some say it’s a little extreme to keep a bottle of wine by your bedside, so you can top up when your partner arrives in drunk from a Christmas party. I say it beats being the sole parent in charge the following day. (Please drink responsibly.) 

2. Keep Your Cool

There is a thin line between ‘cosy’ and ‘I want to kill everyone’. It’s usually crossed soon after your mother calls in and says, “There isn’t half enough coal on that fire.” (Mammy loves a fire.) 

Or, if you don’t have a fire, where she says, “It’s a shame there’s no fire in this house. Go in there now and turn the thermostat up to ‘Volcano.’” Either way, the house is more uncomfortable than a pair of velcro underpants. So here’s my advice. Set a reminder on your phone for 4:30 pm every day over Christmas. It should pop up a phrase that might just save your relationship - “Open the windows for half an hour”. There, that’s better. 

3. To Walk, Or Not To Walk

Two important definitions here:

Cabin Fever: A disease where you stay in the house even though you are going mad because the alternative means dressing the kids and getting them into the car and why would you be bothered anyway, when there are two tins of Roses left and there is a Star Wars movie on 43 different channels?

Relationship Counselling: Where you pay someone 75 quid an hour to tell you that a short walk on Stephen’s Day would have been enough to prevent that fight, where you said that thing about your sister-in-law, that can’t be taken back. And, by the way, kids aren’t used to watching movies on normal TV and tend to cry when the ads come on. 

In other words, get up and go for that walk.

4. The Telly Question

Some people don’t let their kids watch TV as if this is a good thing. Seriously, they might as well wear a t-shirt that says “Proud to be Bonkers.” 

The rest of us know we’d have to hand our kids back, if it wasn’t for Peppa and Paw Patrol. That said, there is a limit to how much TV a child can watch, before they go bananas. (Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.) This can cause untold aggro over Christmas, when one parent thinks they’ve had enough and says the dreaded words, “Turn that off and do a jigsaw.” (Usually followed by, “with your father”, in my experience.)

So, here’s a guideline. The correct amount of screen-time for kids at Christmas is directly proportional to your hangover. A good rule of thumb is they should be allowed to watch one movie for every bottle of wine you drink. (If they end up watching all four Shreks, I can get you a number for Alcoholic Anonymous.)

Also, the only reason you watched Willy Wonka at Christmas time was because no one had invented YouTube. It was a weird movie then, it’s a weird movie now, and your kids won’t like it. Worse again, you’ll have used up a chunk of their daily TV allowance. And now it’s jigsaw time. Disaster. 

5. The Chocolate Question

The only thing they got right in Willy Wonka is that kids will do anything for chocolate. 

They don’t have to do much to get their hands on junk food over Christmas; your authority is kind of shot given that you’re having seven fun-sized Lion bars and a bag of crisps for breakfast. This works for everyone until bedtime, or ‘I can’t see them going to bed for the next four hours’ time, as it’s known over Christmas. (Chocolate is like a triple espresso that way.) You’ll need a joint approach to solve this. Nothing starts a fight faster than one of you suddenly going all Jamie Oliver and turning on the other with,  “Stop poisoning my kids with Celebrations”.

One solution is to give kids their daily chocolate ration at 10 am, and let it up to them when they eat it. This usually leads to tears at 10:17 am, when it’s all gone. Far better is to allow them a burst of junk after every meal. (Particularly if you can use it to bribe them to eat that meal.) How much you give them is up to you. The main principle in our house is to make sure that whatever we give them, there should be a box of Roses each left for use, when they finally go to bed. (We’re trying to cut back.)

6. The Presents

I can’t believe there are still men out there who exchange presents with their partners every Christmas. Seriously, what is wrong with you? Don’t you realise that the key to an enjoyable Christmas is a no-presents pact with herself; that there is nothing good in that moment when she unwraps your present on Christmas morning, and smiles a bit too thinly because she already has a BaByliss Curl Secret? (Fair play to her for not mentioning it, but you know you’ve messed up nonetheless.) 

It’s probably too late to bring in a no-present pact for this year. But my guess is a set of dumbbells from Aldi could be just enough to tip her over the edge, and insist on a pact for next year. You better hurry though.  A lot of other guys have the same idea. 

Happy Christmas!


About the Author

Pat Fitzpatrick lives in Cork city with his wife and two small kids. He gave up a decent job in I.T. in 2008 to head for the lucrative world of writing. So don't hire him as a life coach, investment advisor or anything to do with your career. His Sunday Independent newspaper columns have been entertaining Irish people through some tough times. Pat is a regular on the on the RTE Today show with Maura Derrane and Daithí O’Sé and pops up frequently on radio shows such as the Right Hook. All of this is a bit too much like hard work, so he has started writing novels which will hopefully fund an early retirement to a hammock in the back garden. His first novel, Keep Away from those Ferraris, is available online and in shops outlined here http://www.patfitzpatrick.ie/novels/. Pat’s kids are both under two, so if you don’t mind, he is now going for a quick lie down.

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