Why do people cheat?

When someone’s cheated on by their partner, they’re often left asking: why?

How could someone they trusted and loved – and who they thought loved them back – betray them in such a shocking and hurtful way? There’s usually not only a sense of anger and upset, but also total disbelief.

The reasons people cheat are varied, but there are a number that crop up time and again in the counselling room. If you’re currently struggling to understand why this has happened to you, you may find it useful to think about some of the following.


One of the most common reasons for infidelity is the feeling that you and your partner have drifted apart. In this case, cheating can feel like a way of finding something new and exciting when your relationship has become predictable and familiar. A sense of disconnection from one’s partner can happen for a variety of reasons. There may be a lack of proper communication in the relationship (talking about specific issues or just generally keeping in touch about how you feel). Or life may have become dominated by work or looking after kids, so time together has become more functional than loving.

Feeling unloved

In counselling, we often use the term ‘love languages’ to describe how people express affection to one another. Some partners communicate more verbally by saying nice things, whereas others might prefer to express affection physically by cuddling or kissing. If your love language is different to your partners, that can leave you feeling unloved – and potentially more open to the affections of someone who seems to understand you better.


If there’s a lack of balance in a relationship, one partner can begin to feel a bit like a parent and the other like a child. For example, one partner may feel like they have to be the responsible one, making all the decisions, organising the home, managing the finances and so on, while their partner doesn’t pull their weight. An affair might then be tempting in order to feel appreciated and equal. Equally, the partner in the ‘child’ position may feel criticised and as if nothing they do seems to be enough, meaning an affair might feel like a way of reclaiming some sense of independence and authority.

Fear of commitment

Sometimes, affairs occur at times when you might assume people would be the most secure in their relationship, such as after getting engaged or when someone is pregnant. But worries over commitment can be very destabilising. Sometimes, people can sabotage what they have, consciously or unconsciously, as a way of rejecting feelings of responsibility.

Issues related to self-esteem

Affairs can also arise from personal insecurities. Low self-esteem can cause people to be very dependent on the attentions of others—and in some cases, the attention of just one person isn’t enough. It may also cause someone to feel insecure in their own relationship, so much so that they might cheat as a way of rejecting rather than being rejected.

Sexually addictive behaviour

Affairs can commonly be linked to problems with sexually addictive behaviours. This is where someone habitually engages in sexual activity as a way of satisfying desires and relieving negative feelings they find hard to control. These desires can be compulsive in the way that a drug or alcohol addiction might be. For some people, this can mean they end up engaging in affairs repeatedly or in multiple relationships. For more information on sex addiction, visit the NHS choices page.

So what now?

As hard as it might be to believe, an affair doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. If your partner truly regrets what has happened, is willing to end the affair and you’re both prepared to put the work into finding your way back, there’s no reason why you can’t save your relationship. Of course, many couples come to the conclusion that their relationship has run its course—with the affair being a symptom of what was wrong, rather than the cause.

Whatever the case, trying to examine the issues together is your best chance to make sense of things. The person who has cheated will need to take responsibility for their own their behaviour as wrong and not make excuses and—although it can be very difficult for the person who has been cheated on—both partners will need to acknowledge their responsibility for what was wrong with the relationship prior to this happening.

In terms of next steps, our article on what to do if your partner has had an affair also has lots of useful information. Beyond this, it’s likely you’ll need some form of help to process what’s happened. Relationship Counselling can help you talk about the affair and what caused it in a safe and confidential environment.

Your counsellor won’t take sides – they’ll just listen and help you to make sense of what made your relationship vulnerable to an affair and fully explore your feelings and the impact of the affair.

I feel insecure in my relationship

Feeling insecure in your relationship can be really painful and upsetting. It can manifest itself in all kinds of ways. You might feel like your partner is about to break up with you all the time. You might have trouble trusting them to not cheat on you. Or you may feel like your connection has been getting weaker and weaker for a while, and that the foundations are beginning to fall away.

Feeling like this can make it really difficult to have much faith in your future together – and can sometimes leave you wondering whether the easiest solution would be to break up. It can also begin to have really negative effects in other areas of your life. Your self-esteem and confidence can become undermined and this can make it difficult to feel able to address any problems.

Where does insecurity come from?

A sense of insecurity in your relationship can stem from a number of different places.

If you and your partner haven’t been communicating effectively about issues or making an effort to maintain your connection, you might start to feel like you’re drifting apart.

Insecurity can also stem from changes in your relationship. For instance, if you’ve moved in together or recently married, you may be feeling all kinds of new strains and pressures. If you aren’t able to discuss these together, you can start to feel less confident in your ability to work as a team.

It can also come from issues surrounding self-image or self-esteem. For example, if you’re feeling particularly low after a series of disappointments in your work life or less happy with your physical appearance after putting on weight, this could make you worry about your relationship.

We can sometimes carry feelings from past relationships into our current one – including ones with family members. If we didn’t have very secure or loving relationships with our parents or primary caregivers when we were younger, we might carry this feeling with us as adults. Past romantic relationships where your trust was broken can make it difficult to trust someone else. You may find yourself looking for ‘patterns’ or assuming that history is going to repeat.

What can you do to address insecurity?

The first port of call is talking things over together. This, of course, can be tricky – particularly if you haven’t been talking properly for a while or you feel hurt or angry with your partner.

However, if you do feel able, you may find the following tips useful:

  • Keep things relaxed. Hearing the words ‘we need to talk’ can make even the most laid back person feel defensive! Framing things more positively can get things off to a better start. You might like to try something like ‘I’d really like to talk about our relationship together when you have a chance’.
  • Pick the right moment. Try to talk when things are going well, not badly. Bringing things up in the middle of an argument is only likely to create more conflict. If you introduce the topic when you’re both feeling good about the relationship, you’re more likely to move in a positive direction.
  • Say how you feel, not how you think they make you feel. If you’re both simply trading blows and blaming each other for everything, you’re not likely to get anywhere. To keep things under control, it can useful to use ‘I’ phrases (‘I sometimes feel worried that…’) rather than ‘you’ phrases (‘you always make me feel worried because…’).
  • Listen. Even if what your partner has to say is difficult to hear, try to stick with it. A conversation has to go both ways for it to work. Try to start by acknowledging their perspective may be different to yours.
  • You could even plan. It might sound a little clinical, but it can be useful to think beforehand about what you want to say. That doesn’t mean preparing a shopping list of grievances, but just gathering your thoughts on what you want to talk about.
  • Come back to it. These things are rarely solved in one chat. It takes time and effort to work on relationship issues, so you may need to revisit things in a month to see how you’re each getting on. After a while, this kind of conversation will seem much less scary!

How we can help

  • If you feel like trying any of the above would do more harm than good, you might like to consider Relationship Counselling. A counsellor would take an objective view and help you both talk about things that you might find it difficult to express.

I’m bored with my relationship

When you start a new relationship, everything can be exciting. Those early flickers of attraction, feeling butterflies, your first kiss… it can be a rollercoaster of emotion.

But after you’ve been together for a while, things tend to level off a bit. The fizz and pop are replaced by a sense of partnership and familiarity. As the routines of life, work and living together begin to settle, your relationship might start to feel a bit more predictable.

And while there’s nothing wrong with not always feeling like you did at the start – after all, falling in love is only the beginning of building a long-term committed relationship – if being settled also means starting to feel bored, you might soon start to wonder whether there’s anything more interesting out there. You may even start to question if you and your partner were ever that compatible in the first place.

But looking for solutions elsewhere is rarely the best place to start. It’s much better to begin by thinking about what’s happening in the here and now.

Keep talking

Boredom can be linked to bad habits when it comes to communication and maintaining your connection as a couple.

If you aren’t regularly talking openly and honestly about the things you like and don’t like about your relationship, or one or both of you are preoccupied with your own concerns and perhaps aren’t as emotionally or physically available as you could be, it’s easy to start to feel a little disconnected from your partner.

Try to express gratitude for the things your partner does that you like. Let them know you’ve noticed if they’ve made an effort and pay them compliments from time to time. These frequent positive interactions are important when it comes to feeling like you’re on the same team.

Likewise, don’t allow negative feelings to fester. If there’s something that’s bothering you, try to talk about it at an early opportunity – before resentment start to build up. If you’re feeling tense about your relationship, it can make you forget what it is you like about being with your partner.

Build in the positive beats

As counsellors, we often think of a relationship where one or both partners are bored as like a heart monitor that’s almost flatlining. You might get the occasional blip of activity, but for the most part there’s not a lot going on. For a relationship to be vital and interesting, you need to put in the effort to build in those positive beats.

This could be something as simple as a day or evening out together. You could try an activity together that you haven’t done before or just spend a few hours of quality time in each other’s company. It doesn’t have to involve spending money: you could just stay in bed on a Sunday reading the papers together. It’s about giving yourselves something to look forward to and taking the time to bond without interruptions (and that includes TV and phones!).

Likewise, boredom can be related to problems when it comes to sex. If you find you’re always doing the same things, you might like to try something new together.

Dealing with change

Sometimes, boredom can also be linked to difficulties or changes outside of your relationship. If you’re struggling financially, you might find that the only conversations you’re having with your partner are ones about money – and fraught ones at that. If you’re working all the time, you may be feeling tired and frustrated.

Or if your role in the family has changed – you’re at home all day looking after the kids, for instance – you might feel like you’re losing your sense of place in the relationship. Think about any external factors that could be causing tensions – and whether these could be at the root of how you’re feeling.

How we can help

If you’re finding it hard to talk about any tricky issues, Relationship Counselling offers a safe and confidential space where you can be open and honest.

We’ve just had a baby and we’re arguing all the time

Having a new baby can be such an exciting event. But it can also mean a whole host of new pressures on your and your partner’s relationship.

Establishing a feeding regime, changing nappies, adjusting to interrupted sleep patterns… New babies can be demanding as well as adorable, and in those first few months even the best prepared couples often find themselves feeling drained and over stretched. It’s not surprising that many find themselves arguing a lot more.

While this can be frustrating and worrying, especially if you’d assumed that the baby was going to bring you closer together, it’s perfectly normal for you to take time to adjust to your growing family. Conflict can be a natural part of adapting to change.

How do we argue less?

If you’re finding things difficult, you might like to think about the following:

  • Try to have realistic expectations of each other. Trust that you’re both doing the best you can under the circumstances and be aware of how your partner’s physical state and emotions might be affecting them. This will help prevent you taking petty squabbles too seriously and make you more likely to want to say sorry if you have been arguing
  • Work out how you can both get enough sleep. It could be that you could take it in turns to soothe the baby at night or that you rest together during the day while your baby naps
  • Try to maintain intimacy together. If you’re not too tired, you might like to use time when the baby is sleeping to re-establish your connection. It doesn’t have to be anything really active – it could mean cuddling on the sofa, rubbing each other’s shoulders, having a hot drink together or running a warm bath. When you feel relaxed, you’re more likely to start talking, sharing feelings and reconnecting as a couple
  • Make lists together. Being clear about what groceries are needed and which tasks have to be done helps prevent miscommunication. Highlight the priorities and tick items off as you go – it might also feel good to decide that certain things aren’t absolutely essential
  • Agree to manage visitors to reduce pressure on yourselves. If this means asking them to wait for an invitation or come a little later than planned, so be it. Don’t be afraid to explain that you’ve had a difficult night or that it’s taking a while for your baby to settle
  • Ask for help when people do come over. Perhaps they could grab some shopping on the way or pop out with the dog when they arrive. Those who really care will be happy to help and won’t mind taking out a few bin bags or hanging up the washing when they visit. Close family members might jump at the chance to change or bathe the baby while you both put your feet up
  • Talk to your midwife/health visitor. They will offer reassurance and have tips up their sleeves to help you through the first weeks of parenthood. They also understand the signs of more serious issues like postnatal depression and will refer you to your GP if you need further help
  • Understand that this time will pass! Babies don’t stay tiny forever and, like most children, yours will start to sleep through the night. The intensity of looking after a baby will ease and you’ll soon be able to look back proudly at how you managed to get through it as a team

My partner hit me… I’m devastated

Ask Ammanda Domestic Abuse

After 15 years with the love of my life, things have imploded. I believe my partner is either a functioning alcoholic or alcohol dependent, and things have been getting worse since her children left home for university. Two weeks ago for no reason during a row she hit me. I’m in my fifties, I have never been violent and am devastated by what has happened. We live in a house which is in my partner’s name so now I’m temporarily with my daughter and her husband so this is far from ideal.

Ammanda says…

The shock of being physically abused by someone we love and who we thought (or hoped) loved us back is devastating. Let’s not make any bones about this: what has happened to you is wrong. Any domestic abuse in any relationship is not OK and of course, it’s not just about the physical stuff either. Emotional, sexual and financial abuse all come under this heading.

From your letter it sounds like your relationship had been under considerable strain for a while. Stresses like children leaving home often result in relationships going through a difficult time because when children move on issues that have been previously ‘managed’ can suddenly get put under the spotlight.

You’ve also mentioned that your partner may have a relationship with alcohol. I don’t know if this is a point you both agree on or whether it’s been something that bothers you but you haven’t spoken about together. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in the role of making things ‘ok’ for her – something that often happens in in adult relationships (and in families too) where one person is drinking a lot. Depending on individual circumstances, this can mean literally mopping up the faeces and vomit, buying alcohol for a partner and lying for them to quietly feeling worried about the extra glass/can or bottle that seems to be making a more regular appearance.

Alcohol causes major problems for lots of people and is often present when domestic abuse happens. It’s not surprising that we’re currently devoting a whole week nationally to alcohol awareness and the risks of drinking. It’s not unusual for a partner to blame the alcohol for their abusive behaviour either but this really doesn’t wash and should never be accepted as justification.

I don’t know if you’ve had any discussion about what’s happened. Maybe you’ve tried to talk together, maybe she’s sorry for what happened or maybe (and very understandably) you’re too scared about getting into any sort of conversation with her in case the same thing happens again. I’m guessing you’ve gone to your daughter partly due to this worry and also to give yourself time to sort out in your own head what you want to do now.

I can completely understand how upset you are with what’s happened and how the ‘pull’ towards hoping it’s a one off (if it was) may be feeling very powerful. But this is not the answer. All relationships are complicated and the first port of call for making important changes is to sort out ‘what belongs to who’ emotionally. Sometimes Relationship Counselling can help with this as you can both explore what you each contribute to your relationship, what’s helpful and not helpful and find ways of dealing with problems differently.

Whether or not you access professional support, making changes often means accepting responsibility for certain types of behaviour. Domestic abuse and misuse of alcohol are definitely issues your partner will need to address for herself. You didn’t cause them and only your partner can address them. This is often a very tricky point for the non-drinking or non-abusive partner to take on board: sometimes it’s easier to accept the responsibility for our partner’s behaviour – especially if they aren’t inclined to work on resolving the issue for themselves.

I’m afraid there’s no easy answer to your problem. But what is good is you’re asking for help at a very difficult point in your life. There are a number of things you might want to consider doing from here. Firstly, recognize that it’s your partner who must address any alcohol related issues. Secondly, make contact with the CAB about your living arrangements. They will be able to advise you about any rights you may have regarding housing. Thirdly, think of being with your daughter as the safest way of protecting yourself at the moment. At one level, you may be feeling desperate to be with your partner, especially when from your letter, you’ve clearly had many good years, but things have taken a serious turn now. I’ve worked with many couples where alcohol misuse and/or domestic violence have been experienced by one or both of them. Sometimes, couples are able to recover from the legacy that both issues bring but usually not until each of them has received appropriate support and help.

Why The Family Test should be at the heart of government policy

Tomorrow Caroline Ansell MP will put forward a bill for debate in the House of Commons that calls for the government departments to give greater consideration to the impact of their policies on family life.

Her Private Members Bill calls for the Government to extend and embed its use of the Family Test during policy making processes to identify the impact policies have on families. The Bill:

  • Requires the Test to become a compulsory step in the policy-making process
  • Asks for a report on the costs and benefits of spreading the Test to the local level
  • Calls for objectives and indicators to be established to measure the Government’s wider progress in promoting family stability.

What is the Family Test?

The Family Test is a tool the government uses to assess how a policy proposal will impact on family life. Introduced in 2014, the aim of the Test is to introduce an explicit family perspective to the process of making policy.

This is not a ‘pass or fail’ test. By highlighting the range of impacts that policies have on families early on, the Test will allow government departments time to identify and take action to mitigate the impact of policies that could undermine family relationships. The test itself is comprised of 5 questions, which Relate was involved in developing.

This is a really useful tool that has the potential to achieve focus across government departments on the stability and quality of family relationships. However, to achieve this it needs to be implemented meaningfully, consistently, early on in the development of policies and in ways which are accessible and open to scrutiny. If we don’t know how the test is being used, how can we tell if it’s making a difference?

What is a Private Members Bill?

A Private Members Bill is a proposal for legislation that has been put forward by an MP or a Lord who is not a government minister. They rarely become law as it is hard to get sufficient time for them to be debated, but they provide an opportunity for an MP to raise an issue that is close to their heart.

Previous Private Members Bills have ranged from serious issues like banning smoking in the car where a child is present to and more unusual issues like moving the UK time zone forward an hour. Some raise controversial subjects like when Conservative (and later UKIP) MP Douglas Carswell introduced a bill to leave the European Union and the debate was dubbed ‘historic’ for the raising the question in the House of Commons.

When Caroline Ansell was chosen in the ballot to put forward a Private Members Bill she decided to use the opportunity to celebrate the introduction of the Family Test and to call for it to be used more effectively and extensively by government.

Friday’s debate

Caroline Ansell’s Private Members Bill aims to put the Family Test on a clear statutory footing, making its use compulsory. The Assessment of Government Policies (Impact on the Families) Bill, to give it its full name, also requires the Secretary of State to establish objectives to improve family stability and ways of measuring progress, and to report on the costs and benefits of applying the Family Test at a local level.

In a time of increased devolution and localism, applying the Test solely at a national level is out of touch with how the decisions that affect families are made. By applying the Test to local as well as national policies we can ensure that more is being done to support families across the country. By making the Test compulsory we ensure that government continues to consider the impact of policy on families even if it stops being politically popular to do so. These are real opportunities to increase the impact the Family Test has and ensure that government policies have family at their heart.

Although it unlikely that there will be time for a long debate tomorrow, we are really pleased to have the opportunity to raise awareness of the Family Test and are hopeful that the Bill will get through to the next stage in the long (and winding) road to becoming law. The Bill sets out the case for transparent and consistent use of the Test, taking us a step closer to ensuring that all policy makers carefully consider the impact their policy will have on families.

Am I addicted to love?

Ask Ammanda in love

I’ve only had one serious relationship, it ended some years ago but I still can’t get over it. I miss my ex often, sometimes in a physical and overwhelming way that feels like a kind of madness. The only respite is when I meet someone new to be crazy about. I recently realised I have feelings for a friend. But what worries me is how much this friend has replaced the ex in my mind. I can’t tell whether these feelings are real or whether I want so much to be in love that I’m constructing it. I spent my younger years absorbing Rom Coms and love songs while my main real life role model was my parent’s unhappy marriage. How do I tell if my feelings are real?

Ammanda says…

Well, I would say that your feelings are real because they’re just that: your feelings. You seem to searching for the ‘truth’ about them, and my overwhelming sense from your letter is that this process is wearing you down – and possibly out.

First of all, let’s normalise some of this. Lots of people seek the thrill of falling in love. Let’s face it, it’s intoxicating and usually makes us feel good about ourselves. That exclusive one-to-one connection that only the ‘other’ can provide is heady stuff – so much so that sometimes people find it difficult to let this feeling go.

As you suggest, your upbringing may have a part to play in all of this. Your parent’s relationship sounds like it may have been a difficult to be around. As kids, the adults in our lives are sometimes destructive towards each other in a way that can leave us feeling vulnerable and helpless. Sometimes we can take this anxiety into our own adult relationships, so, for example, some people can find it really painful if they’re not in a relationship at any one time, whereas for others being in one at all is fraught with worries about the possibility of it ending.

You say you watched a lot of rom coms and listened to lots of love songs. Obviously I don’t know exactly what was happening for you, but perhaps you did that because you wanted to see an alternative to your parents’ relationship. Perhaps those movies and songs felt inviting because they suggested a different way of being with someone – one in which people were loved and cared for by each other.

I don’t have much information about the serious relationship that ended, but it’s very clear that its loss has been incredibly difficult to come to terms with and that, unless you have something or someone else to focus on, you’re confronted with very powerful feelings that are difficult to manage.

But if I could say something here that will might sound a bit challenging: on my first reading of your letter I thought it read as if you were concerned that your feelings towards your friend might actually prevent you from yearning for your ex, rather than helping you to accept that the previous relationship had concluded and that new possibilities might be available. I found myself wondering if you might feel worried that any other relationship you embark on might never match up to the one you had.

While it’s probably true that we all have an image of our ‘ideal’ partner, this can sometimes be a pretty tall order for prospective ones to live up to. It might be a good idea to think back on the ‘craziness’ you describe to see if perhaps this has become your way of making sure there’s no time to think about your previous partner – but then maybe you start making comparisons anyway, and, in the end, the person you’re with just doesn’t live up to them.

You may be wondering if you’re ‘addicted’ to love – or rather to falling in love. While it’s true that some people do develop compulsive behaviours in this area, it’s often far too easy to pigeonhole yourself in this category. Of course, if you’re worried about it, please do talk through your concerns with a counsellor. But what I’d really like to you consider is this: why not try trust your feelings about your friend and see what unfolds?

It sounds as if you may have a belief that the one serious relationship you’ve had so far was so special that, although it’s very painful, you have to keep in touch with the feelings you continue to have about that person. But, as you’re finding out, that isn’t really helping. While taking a chance with your friend may involve dealing with uncertainty about how it will all work out – as well as requiring you accept them as a whole person (not just the bits you think you see when you’re falling in love) – it may also offer the chance for a new beginning. If you can hang on in there, you may just give yourself the opportunity to see whether this friend, while they may not be the same person as your lost love, could be able to offer you something just as valuable as they did.

Co-parenting Christmas – how to deal with the holidays if you’re separated

Mother and daughter opening Christmas presents

If you’ve recently gone through a divorce or a separation, Christmas can be a stressful time of year.

What was once a chance to spend quality time with the family can now serve as a reminder about how much things have changed – and can bring up some complicated emotions for you, your ex-partner and your children.

Whether you’re spending time with the children this Christmas, spending it alone, or a combination of both, it’s entirely normal to feel a little overwhelmed or upset.

Spending it with the children

Your first family Christmas following a separation or divorce might feel a little strange. Familiar rituals will take on a different feel, and it may take a little time before you’re able to settle into things.

For now, all you can try to do is make things as normal as possible. Try to help your children feel that you’re going to learn to adjust together. It’s worth remembering that, in years to come, things will be much easier.

You may find the following tips helpful.

  • If you’ve made plans with your ex, try your best to stick to them. Being able to negotiate effectively together is a big part of learning to parent apart. It’s important everybody demonstrates their commitment to making the new situation work.
  • Present a united front. If you do mention your ex-partner, describe things in a way that shows you’re on the same team. Likewise, when picking up or dropping off the kids, be civil. Scoring points off each other won’t make the situation better – and will likely make the children feel they’re being put in the middle.
  • Keep rules that the children are used to. It’s important they’re held to a consistent set of expectations regardless of who’s looking after them.
  • If your children have questions, be honest – within reason. You need to be able to talk with them about what’s happening, but no child needs to know intimate details about their parent’s separation.
  • Be positive. You’re creating new family rituals and routines that you can enjoy together for years to come.
  • Learn to forgive yourself. You may not get things right straight away.

Getting by on your own

Equally, spending time apart from the children over the holidays can make you feel lonely, isolated or even angry.

You may find yourself mourning the family situation that you used to have or resenting the fact that it’s your ex who is with the kids and not you.

What’s important is you take care of yourself and take the time to process how you’re feeling.

  • Look after yourself. Eat, rest and sleep well when you can.
  • Talk about your feelings. Confiding in friends, family or people trained to listen, such as Samaritans, can help you feel less alone on Christmas Day.
  • Appreciate the good memories. It’s OK to feel sad when a song comes on the radio, but remember the happy times too.
  • Cry if you need to. This is part of coming to terms with your loss.
  • Consider avoiding alcohol. Christmas is the season of merriment, but drinking can sometimes make things worse, especially if you’re already feeling upset.
  • Remember: just because you’re spending Christmas alone this year doesn’t mean you will be next year. Your relationship with your ex may have moved on by this point – or you may be able to plan things differently.
  • Treat yourself. Do something that you enjoy this Christmas – be it seeing friends, going for a day out or just taking the time to relax and forget about things for a little while. You need to reward yourself for getting through these tough times, one step at a time.

You aren’t alone

Samaritans are open throughout Christmas and you can call them on 08457 90 90 90.

How to cope with loneliness and loss this Christmas

Young woman looking upset

Christmas can be a wonderful time of year if you have lots of close family and friends around to celebrate with you, but if you’re alone, don’t get on well with your family or you’re generally feeling down it can be really hard.

You’re ‘supposed’ to be having a great time and everyone around you is ‘supposedly’ enjoying themselves and it seems like you’re the only one who isn’t and that can make you feel even more isolated.

I see clients all the time who really struggle at this time of year – and I can totally empathise with them.

For me, Christmas hasn’t been the same since my dad died. He passed away around this time, so every year is a stark reminder of his absence in our family.

He was always the one who came up with quirky party games and then forced everyone to take part. Even though his antics were always met with groans of resistance, we always ended up enjoying ourselves. I can still remember crying with laughter over a game he came up with that involved trying to pass each other peanuts with chopsticks. Since then no-one has really taken up that mantle from him.

Around the same time that my dad died, I was also dealing with the end of a long-term relationship – so there was loss all around me that year. I still remember how painful it was to be sitting in a room trying to be happy and festive but just being in pieces inside.

I tried to deal with it by keeping busy. When I didn’t have any plans with friends or family, I volunteered at a local charity. It helped to be around other people who were all focused on doing something useful together. I also went for counselling, which gave me a space to talk about and process my emotions. Time and talking were the things that helped me to move forward and deal with the pain I felt.

Get the support you need

If Christmas is a difficult time for you, talking to someone about how you feel can be the first step to feeling better. Having someone to listen to you is the greatest gift, because suddenly you don’t feel so alone with everything you’re feeling.

Remember that there are lots of people that are here to listen and who can offer you support. You can talk to your GP, or if you want to talk to someone face-to-face you can contact Relate MK on 01908 310010 or email appointment@relatemk.org to book an appointment.

Who else can help

If you’re feeling low and need someone to talk to, here are some other sources of support: