Surviving the post-Christmas blues


January is a time of new beginnings and resolutions to do things better and differently than before. That all sounds positive, but when you look at it in the context of a family that is struggling with money worries and relationship stresses, it can take on a darker meaning.

A survey commissioned by Zeek interviewed 2,000 people and found that an astonishing 500 of them find the Christmas period more stressful than going through a divorce. Little surprise, then, that the season of peace and good will can deteriorate into a marital battle ground before the Christmas tree is back up in the loft.

The cost of Christmas

The survey was carried out in the run up to Christmas and showed how family and societal expectations seem to render us powerless to resist getting into financial strife over the festive season. More than half of those surveyed said they were dreading the latest Christmas phenomenon of Black Friday – in fact, one in five said it is the most stressful day of the year. But that doesn’t stop us hitting the high streets and punishing our credit cards to the tune of more than £700 on average over the Christmas period.

Happy New Year for divorce lawyers

With that context in mind, it is perhaps unsurprising that the first working Monday of January is known as “divorce day” in the family law community. Another survey found that an incredible one in five married people start the new year contemplating divorce, after limping through a stressful and combative festive season. The number seems astonishing, but when you consider that almost half of all marriages end in divorce, perhaps it is not so surprising.

Typically, divorce lawyers receive twice as many enquiries in early January as they do at any other time of the year, and the figures tail off towards the end of the month. Last year, they were approached by 1.8 million couples who were contemplating a new year divorce.

This is not always a gut reaction to having spent two weeks under each other’s feet with the heightened emotion of Christmas and the worry of difficult financial times hanging over you – although that is certainly a factor. Many who file for divorce have actually had it on their minds much longer and have decided to give it “one more Christmas together” then pull the plug in the New Year.

Is it just about the financial stress?

Financial worries put a strain on any relationship, but the pressures that are put on a relationship over Christmas go beyond that. The change in routine is something that should be a positive, but if you and your partner have not been getting along so well, then suddenly spending more time together without the distractions of work, the school run and all the rest of it can cause the cracks to widen.

There is also the family factor. Over Christmas, we spend plenty of time visiting extended family – well and good when everyone is on good terms, but if there are tensions between one partner and the in laws, these can easily spill over and poison the relationship too.

There is also the factor that we place such high expectations on Christmas, and not just in financial terms. The TV ads start up from early November, showing these perfect families, and joyful children with sparkling eyes enjoying a magical time. As you eye up the bomb-site of a kitchen, the drunk partner snoring on the sofa, the broken toys and the children in tears – and then you look at the credit card bill and realise you will be paying for it till July, it is unsurprising that frustration and recriminations can follow for somehow failing to make Christmas as magical as the media tells us it should be.

Getting over the hangover

Some people take a day or two to get over the real hangover of the new year celebrations, but even those who don’t drink can feel somewhat hungover from the whole festive experience for the first couple of weeks in January.

There is an old saying that goes “marry in haste, repent at leisure,” and the funny thing is, you can apply this to divorce as well. Filing for divorce is not a complicated thing to do, but it is a line over which you should only step after long, calm and sober reflection.

So let the dust settle and make January the month that you allow life to return to its normal routine. That doesn’t mean just living on in misery together if the marriage is really not working, however. Instead, you should use the month to try and see your life from an outsider’s point of view. Make an effort to assess how you and your partner interact, and what your life together is really like from a completely objective point of view.

You will almost certainly learn something, and be surprised by what you see, and it is likely to go one of two ways:

  • You’ll realise things are not so bad, and identify some faults on the part of yourself as much as your partner that would make everything so much better if you both made a little effort.
  • You will wonder how on earth you have put up with living like this for so long and realise you definitely need to make a change

Getting help

If you arrive at the second conclusion after a period of calm reflection, that makes far more sense that a gut reaction to file for divorce immediately after Christmas. And if that is the road you decide to go down, be aware that help is at hand.

At Hylton-Potts, we have our friendly and experienced team have helped thousands of people through the divorce minefield and come out the other side ready to start anew. You can call us on 020 7381 8111, or get in touch via email at law@hylton-potts.com.

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