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The importance of Healthy Relationships this Winter

Guest blog from Relate NI

Stephen Maginn shares his thoughts and advice on how and why it is important that we look after ourselves and our relationships, especially given the added pressure at this time of year. He shares some fabulous services & online resources that can help get your relationship back on track.

Families are under pressure like never before. While Christmas can be a time to invest in our relationships and the well-being benefits that they bring, it can also be a time of immense pressure because of money worries, unrealistic expectations, lack of time to yourself etc. 

This year, the Cost of Living Crisis has exacerbated some of the pressures people are feeling. Reduced disposable income means that we may not be able to spend time with our friends and families or we may be feeling anxious about the situation and how it affects the ability for us to deliver the fairy tale Christmas for our children and loved ones.

The good thing is, that our relationships have a unique power to act as a protective factor which can support our physical and mental health. If we can utilise the power of our relationships, we can get through this winter, and even spread a bit of joy in doing so.

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What can be defined as a ‘Healthy Relationship?

Healthy relationships don’t necessarily mean that you have a friendship group of 30 or that you see every member of your family daily. It’s the quality of our relationships that matter most. Essentially, it’s better to have a couple of supportive friends than a large amount of detached relationships. 

Embracing your strengths and weaknesses, as well as valuing yourself as a person, builds a healthy relationship with yourself. Our ‘Relieve The Pressure With Yourself’ Resource has some great hints & tips on how you can do some of this work. Often if someone has poor mental health, they find it difficult to express emotions and connect with others. It’s important to recognise the factors that restrict someone from forming healthy relationships and find the support to encourage interpersonal interactions. 

The link between healthy relationships and well-being

Healthy relationships build a crucial foundation for our wellbeing. Strong, healthy relationships can improve trust and have been known to improve stress, anxiety and some forms of depression.

Children who grow up with parents with a healthy relationship and low levels of parental conflict, whether together or separated, show lower chance of risk taking behaviour and higher educational attainment.

In comparison, unhealthy relationships can have a harmful effect on our mental health, as evident in cases of bullying, abuse and domestic violence. Research shows that living in conflict or in a toxic relationship is more harmful than being alone. It is therefore important that we put healthy connections at the heart of everything we do. 

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How Can I utilise the power of my relationships to Relieve the Pressure on my relationships?

Effective communication will key to navigating this winter. In fact, in 75 years of supporting people and their relationships, Relate NI have found that ineffective communication is a key cause of relationship breakdown.

That’s why we’ve launched the Relieve the Pressure Campaign. Each week between November and January, we are sharing weekly Conversation Prompt Cards which will help you navigate the difficult questions which this Christmas might bring. How can we manage the expectations of children and potential disappointment for example? The prompt card below from week 3 of our campaign can help you do just this.

On our website we also have a range of other helpful hints, tips & resources, in written & video format, to help you Relieve the Pressure on your relationships, like the one below.

You can sign up to receive our weekly conversation prompt cards by email here


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As well as the Self-Help Resources, there are services available to support you and your relationships

Relate NI offer a range of therapeutic counselling services in person across NI as well via webcam or over the phone. Our highly- skilled counsellors focus on a relational approach to provide a safe and confidential space to talk about the issues that have made you seek therapy. 

Relationship counselling is an effective and crucial intervention, especially where there is continuing relationship distress for a prolonged period of time. However, it can also provide the tools to navigate relationship pressures, and prevent relationships falling into crisis when individuals, couples or families reach out for support early. Our services are available online and across Northern Ireland.

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The Relationship MOT

The festive period is a busy time, and in all the hustle we sometimes forget what it’s all about – connections! One way to connect with your partner is with our Relationship MOT Service.

This 50-minute session is an accessible way for couples to check in with each other, and carry out some relationship maintenance and maybe even add some sparkle.

Your counsellor will help you identify the strengths in your relationship, as well as areas for improvement, before you leave with some activities and resources you can do together to help you address any issues and move forward together.

Want to tell them how much you love them? Tired of doing the majority of the household chores? Want to have better sex? Book your Relationship MOT today. 

“Okay I’d like some relationship support – what next?”

Relate NI offers face to face counselling services at locations across Northern Ireland. We also offer our professional counselling services through webcam and telephone.

50-minute counselling sessions are available between the hours of 9am and 9pm Monday to Thursday, 9am – 5pm Friday and 9am-1pm on Saturdays (depending on the location).

Check out our online relationship resources that could be useful to you, from short read self help tools, relationship support videos & longer read relationship education articles.

For any more questions on our therapeutic services or Relationship MOT, don’t hesitate to contact us, you can find all our details on our Find Help NI – Relate NI profile.

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