You may have heard that early January is the busiest time of the year for divorce lawyers. They report on average an increase of 30% in new enquiries post Christmas/New Year break compared to the rest of the year. Relate, the leading organisation providing relationship and couple counselling in the UK, also records significantly higher than average calls and demand for appointments in January than in any other month of the year.
So why is that? People have generally high expectations for this time of year, thinking they will have a wonderful family time putting themselves and their loved ones under a lot of pressure if things don’t go according to plan. Or you may have to spend Christmas with your in-laws or other relatives you may or may not get on with, creating tensions between you and your partner. Crucially, Christmas is an idealised family time when couples are expected to spend their time together with their children (and enjoy it!). The usual avenues for escaping or hiding from a less than satisfactory relationship i.e. office, hobby, friends, etc…, may not be available during that time, making it all the more obvious that something has to change.
In the weeks leading to Christmas, I ask my clients if they are anxious about Christmas. For the vast majority, the answer is yes. In this case, couples find it helpful to explore those anxieties, whether stemming from previous negative experiences or just worries that their still recovering relationship may struggle under the added pressure. Discussing how they can support each other and what they can do to make life easier for them during that time is key i.e. if they are hosting and relatives are staying with them, what are the house rules? When will the presents be opened? Is there a rota for cleaning up? Most importantly, remembering that they are working as a team so that they, as a couple, can have the best possible Christmas. Making sure they allocate a little bit of time just for themselves away from the chaos tend to help too…
If you feel that, unfortunately, your relationship is not quite as good as it could or should be, then help is available. Relationship counselling is a great resource and can offer couples insights into what is happening with them and their family, leading to opportunities for change.