Christmas is a fun time of year. All around us are images of people having fun, in perfect houses with perfect families. The reality of course is somewhat different. Many families are under financial pressure, and these pressures sometimes spill over into intimate relationships and put them at risk. The combination of relationship and family conflict, along with increased socialising and alcohol intake can be a heady mix, and make the world outside the family seem a seductive place. Nowhere is this truer than in the work place, and especially at the office party. By comparison to home, where the kids are screaming, the grandparents are squabbling, and adult siblings are adding to the tension, the office party is an oasis of calm and temptation.

It gives us an injection of glamour when we dress up, and we get a sense of our sexual self. For mums who have babies this may be the first time they have been out without regurgitated milk down their front for some time. Add a few Chardonnays to the mix and you are invincible, you can sing, dance and you are the life and soul of the party. You then notice the person you thought mildly attractive, is in fact a sex god and your resistance is lowered. A snatched moment of pleasure in a brief fling can leave in its wake great turmoil, particularly if the code of your committed relationship is monogamy. At best you have the embarrassment of going back to working with the Sex God, who has sadly returned to Mr Average. At worst, you are left coping with guilt at having broken the code of your relationship, as well as a traumatised partner who, if they find out, may be unsure as to whether they can handle the break in trust.

Remember no relationship is full-proof but there are some strategies that couples can adopt at this time of year and through the year to make this less likely.

* Do not ignore conflicts, always communicate, this is vital.

* Christmas can be a difficult family festival. Be realistic in your expectations of the season and keep your sense of humour.

* Maintain boundaries with others, have fun but keep the boundary clear.

* Take care with relaxants such as alcohol. We easily become a person who in the cold light of day we do not recognise.

* Do not be egged on by others. Some folk love to see others make a fool of themselves, do not be that fool!

If your relationship is under stress because of an affair, or any other reason, seek help in working through this. A Sexual and Relationship Therapist can be key in helping a couple recover. Relationships can recover and grow but it needs both parties to honestly appraise the relationship and work forward so the trust can be rebuilt.

Relationship Therapists can be found through Local Counselling Centre www.localcounsellingcentre.co.uk

Or contact Kathy Freeman on 01462 674671 option 2 or email hello@localcounsellingcentre.co.uk

Jo Coker

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