It is a well-known fact that divorce rates increase exponentially straight after Christmas, as couples feel the strain of being thrown together to play ‘happy families’ and trying to please and placate everyone involved. For those already experiencing strife in their relationship, this can often be the final straw and ‘getting a divorce’ is all too often added to the New Year’s resolutions list. Although the prospect of a strained Christmas can seem unbearable, there are things you can do to help get everyone through what can be a very difficult time.
Most couples find that it is the same kinds of things that trigger arguments and turmoil. By planning ahead, you can aim to avoid, or at least minimise these things and so reduce the risk of conflict. Work out what each of you wants to get out of the big day, and work out how to compromise so that everyone feels listened to and can look forward to what they like best. Start preparing early so that you aren’t faced with a stressful rush towards the end. Compare diaries to make sure that you can physically make any commitments you agree to – from children’s carol services and Nativity plays to drinks parties, visits to see relatives and Christmas shopping days.
Above all, make sure that you manage everyone’s expectations. TV adverts have us all believing in the magic of the extended family gathering around a dinner table that’s groaning with succulent festive fare. If the telly is to be believed, everyone gets along, genuinely loves their presents and truly values being in each other’s company for hours at a time. Reality can be very different, so make sure that you know how to deal with tricky relatives, have realistic gift expectations and don’t book yourself into too many activities – you need time to unwind and recharge your batteries too!
Let go of the guilt
Couples on the brink of divorce, or who are going through a rough patch can often feel guilt around the perceived failure of a relationship, or how a split could affect children and other members of the family. Don’t waste the Christmas holidays feeling weighed down by guilt. Often, divorce or separation can provide some much-needed clarity to a complex relationship and it can help everyone know where they stand and give a solid framework to help all parties move forward. Feeling guilty over Christmas will affect more than just your own mood – children and others will pick up on your anxiety too. Try to focus on the things that you enjoy about the festive season and think about what has happened in the past year that you can be grateful for.
Watch the budget
Once again, if you are already divorced, or going through the process, it can be tempting to splash the cash to alleviate guilt, make up for any perceived imperfections or to compete with the other parent to be the most generous gift giver. Divorce is a costly process and, added to all the extra expenditure that Christmas generates, you can find yourself in financial dire straits come January if you are not careful. Children will remember your presence long after they have forgotten your presents, and they will cherish memories of a joyful time spent with those they love most. There is much to be said for free or low-cost Christmas fun, such as walks around your local area to see the festive lights after dark, doing some arts and crafts together or going carol singing to raise money for charity.
Go easy on the booze
While Christmas and New Year are a great excuse to have a drink or three, make sure you don’t drink to excess. Too much alcohol can lead to a loss of inhibitions, which might make you say or do things you later regret. Also, drinking too much can lead to illness and hangovers. If you are driving to or from an event, avoid the alcohol completely and stick to soft drinks to ensure everyone gets home safely. Above all, don’t feel tempted to drown your sorrows by drinking too much at Christmas. There are plenty of better ways to seek solace and support, including contacting The Samaritans (www.samaritans.org) or any locally-based mental health charities or support schemes.
Look after yourself
Finally, go easy on yourself at Christmas if you are facing the prospect of divorce in 2019. It can be a gruelling process and you need to make sure you are fit and well to handle it all. Build up a strong support network of family, friends and professionals if needs be, and don’t be afraid to call on them for help, even over the Christmas period. Try to avoid conflict with your partner or their family and focus on the positives happening in your life. Plan some nice things for the New Year and make a list of longer-term goals that you would like to tackle in 2019.