'I don't want to spend Christmas with my partner's family'

My partner and I are clashing over Christmas.

I agreed to go to my sister-in-law’s house when I didn’t actually want to go and now she’s causing problems about another issue so I’ve said that I’m not going.

I’ve been falling out with her for years and my partner says he’s tired of our grudges and being stuck in the middle.

I know I have a habit of not saying how I feel and then getting upset later but my intention is not to cause problems.

I just want to go along with the easiest option for everyone else.

Christmas has now become a big drama. What’s your advice?

Not wanting to spend Christmas at your in-laws is, well, normal.

‘They do everything differently,’ says James McConnachie. ‘They can be so busy being a family that they forget to include those who are Not Of Blood, which will feel even worse if you’ve made a sacrifice to be there.’

Admitting to your partner that you don’t want to go is also common. What’s unusual, though, is not going at all.

‘Your intention to not cause upset may be true of your conscious mind but on an unconscious level you’ve created a brilliant way of keeping everyone on tenterhooks,’ says Rupert Smith.

Agreeing to something and then going back on that arrangement means you’re controlling situations by disrupting them while ensuring you remain the centre of attention.

‘There seem to be two things going on,’ says Smith. ‘Firstly, you don’t have the confidence in your wishes to express them clearly and, secondly, you’re so worried about being ignored that you’re sabotaging things in order to get noticed.’

People-pleasing is usually created in childhood, where we were taught to suppress our needs by our parents, leaving us feeling unloved. As you are repeatedly experiencing as an adult, saying yes when you mean no continues to create these feelings and resentment.

‘This dissatisfaction is then aimed towards your partner while triggering deeply held beliefs that others are not thinking about what you need,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘As you have discovered, the short-term relief of going with the flow ends up with sadness in the long term so start being clear about what you want and need so others have a chance of caring for you as you deserve.’

At the end of such a challenging year, it is even more vital that we are kind to each other, so unless your in-laws are really awful, do your best to grin and bear it.

‘If you don’t want Christmas to become a drama, don’t get up on stage yourself,’ says McConnachie.

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