These married stars will spend Christmas apart - here's how to cope if you're doing the same

·6 min read
Eamonn Holmes and  Ruth Langsford pose for photographers upon arrival at the National Television Awards in London, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)
Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford will be spending Christmas separately this year (AP)

Christmas is a time for family, or so we're regularly told. According to the adverts, we're supposed to be snuggled with our nearest and dearest with no arguments, no problems beyond which Quality Street to pick next, and absolutely no need to be apart until New Year.

Sadly (or perhaps thankfully), real life isn't quite that easy. Alongside single people, single parents, divorced parents navigating Christmas without their kids, ill people, people with ill loved ones, and all the other millions who are not doing Christmas in fairytale fashion, there's another issue that's rarely discussed - having to spend Christmas away from your partner.

Married This Morning presenters Ruth Langsford and Eammon Holmes, both 63, told December's issue of Woman and Home magazine that they often spend Christmas apart, because Ruth's mum lives in England, while Eamonn's lives in Belfast, and both want to see their mothers at Christmas. 

Woman feeling alone during christmas holiday
It's not the end of the world - honest. (Getty Images)

Eamonn said, "We have this issue now that we've got a sea dividing us. We often have a dilemma of whether I go to Belfast, whether Ruth comes with me. 

"But Ruth wants to be with her mum; (and) my mother is 93 this year. It's easier for us often to be apart."

Ruth added, "Being apart for Christmas has never been a problem. I wouldn't be going to Belfast this year because I need to be with my Mum. It's about family for me." 

Watch: Heartwarming moment couple married for 54 years were reunited after spending Christmas apart

But while the couple, who married in 2010, seen sanguine about spending the festive season far away from one another, many struggle to feel jolly when their loved one is miles away sharing a mince pie with an ageing relative, or even at work for the duration.

Photographer Paul David Smith, 38, from Newquay, says, "My partner Rhian and I have been together for nearly seven years and have always spent Christmas apart as our families have always lived in in different cities.

Read more: Sharon Osbourne to spend Christmas apart from Ozzy for first time in 40 years amid health issues

"We’ve always taken the view that we see each other every day, but Christmas is family time and it’s hard to see both families without a lot of travelling on everybody’s part - when we’d really rather be spending it with the people we love," he goes on.

Paul and Rhian will be spending Christmas apart. (Collect, Paul David Smith)
Paul and Rhian will be spending Christmas apart. (Collect, Paul David Smith)

"We now live in Cornwall and my family are down here too. Rhian’s family live near Kettering so as ever, she’ll travel up there and spend it with her family and I’ll spend it with my parents down in Cornwall.

"Rhian will always join my family in December at some point and we’ll do an early celebration with them and likewise, I always make the effort to visit her family to spend New Years Eve with them. In an ideal world we’d have everybody in the same place, but this works for us."

For others, though, being apart can make it feel as though Christmas is ruined.

"My husband's dad isn't well enough to travel and we're worried this could be his last Christmas," says Nadine Jarvis, 42. 

"He lives in Wales and we're in Newcastle, with three under-tens. There's not enough room at his house for us all, and besides it would be too much for him. So reluctantly, we've decided that my husband Steve will go to spend a few days there over Christmas, and the kids and I will spend it with my sister. 

"It will be the first time we've been apart at Christmas in 15 years, and to be honest, I'm dreading it."

Mom and daughter have fun with cartoons on a laptop during Christmas. Christmas tree in the background
"Hello daddy... we're having a lovely time without you." (Getty Images)

It doesn't have to be a disaster, reassures psychologist Gemma Harris. She recommends that you keep in touch regularly - "If possible, share significant moments together, like unwrapping gifts by video call.

"Look for rituals you normally enjoy at Christmas, like putting up the tree, singing Christmas songs and drinking Baileys and either set aside a time earlier or later to do them together - or do them together virtually," she suggests. 

Read more: Christmas-Proof Your Relationship: How Not To Break Up During Holiday Season

"Try to enjoy something different - being away from your partner might actually add a new dimension to the celebration and encourage new ways to enjoy the season!"

Don't fall for the advertising hype that everyone else is having a wonderful, romantic time - most people wish something could be different, are struggling with difficult relatives, missing their children or melting with stress. They are not kissing by a roaring fire in a snow-covered log cabin.

Stylish couple playing with snow in wooden cabin on background of winter snowy mountains. Happy joyful family having fun and smiling in snow. Emotional funny moments together
First of all, this is a lie. (Getty Images)

"The holiday season is marketed as the 'most wonderful time of the year'" says relationship expert Sarah Louise Ryan. "This can leave couples feeling a pressure to perform romantically, to feel both really connected and happy and this, often subconsciously, can feel like a pressure cooker."

If you’re spending Christmas apart and are struggling with the idea, Ryan suggests:

Manage each other's expectations of how often and exactly how you would like to communicate with each other. Understanding the holiday pressures and expectations from family members, peers or maybe even professional ties keeping you apart will ensure you both feel like you can manage a frequency of connection that works.

Talk about how you’re feeling beforehand. Sharing your feelings with your partner before, during and after any hurdle that comes up for you both will ensure you both heard and valued. You can support each other this way, ensure you’re on the same page and deepen your levels of communication. 

Joyful African American family using sparklers while having lunch and celebrating Christmas at dining table.
You can hold another Christmas afterwards. Merry January! (Getty Images)

Talk about the time of reconnection. Make a plan of what you would like to do and how you would like to spend time together after you've both been apart. This will enable you to both shift the focus away from the feelings of missing one another, onto something more exciting and positive. 

Understand your love language - knowing how you both communicate love - words, affection, gifts or gestures - (even if your love language isn’t the same) will help you both know how to communicate with one another and understand each other. This will deepen your connection and also help to avoid conflict or seek quick resolutions in time of strain. 

Watch: Elderly couple forced to spend Christmas apart for the first time in 70 years

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