It’s always sad to me how many new readers I gain in late December and early January. From a blogging perspective, sure it’s nice to see an uptick in stats, but from a human perspective, every new reader represents one more person facing a painful (and frequently unexpected) divorce. I often wish I had no readers.
In family law and counseling circles, the period after the holidays is sometimes referred to as “divorce season,” a several week period characterized by an increase in couples filing for divorce and/or revealing their intention to divorce. These decisions are rarely sudden, rather they are a compilation of growing dissatisfaction partnered with the demands of the holiday season. Even in the case of a tsunami divorce, where one partner was blindsided, the other usually had been planning his or her exit for some time.
So what exactly is it about the holidays that leads to an increase in divorce?
Once More For the Kids/Family
For those with kids or traditional family gatherings, the thought of announcing the demise of a marriage shortly before the holidays is fraught with questions and dilemmas. Do you show up at Aunt Dorothy’s asa couple even when you both know you’re not? Do you allow the kids one more Christmas under the family tree before you alter their world? The holidays are often seen as a time for family and togetherness; it can be easier to feign this rather than fracture it right before the season.
Trying to Soften the Blow
If you have made the decision to leave and you want to try to make it as easy on your partner as possible, you may make the decision to wait until after the holidays to hopefully lessen some of the pain of being alone. Or, the exiting spouse may fear the thought of being without the kids or family on the holidays and postpone the announcement until after the festivities. Divorce is rough regardless, but being alone when it seems like everyone else has someone is especially painful.
New Year/ New You
For many, the new year contains a sense of renewal, of promise. If you feel like you’ve been stuck in a marriage that is holding you back, the spirit of the season may be the deciding factor on when to call it quits. Holiday advertising campaigns can compound this drive, as they continually bombard us with messages of “trading up” to a newer and better model.
The Tipping Point of Holiday Stress
You and your spouse may enter the season with no thoughts of divorce but with marital stress already pulling at the seams. In these cases, the added pressure of travel, family and financial stresses can act as a tipping point in the marriage. When a faltering marriage is exposed to outside demands, it is all too easy to take it out on your spouse and allow contempt to take hold.
Expectations and the Media Message
Despite the media portrayal of perfect holiday cheer, the holidays are a difficult time for many, especially those who have experienced family trauma or are prone to depression. The gulf between reality and expectations can grow exponentially during this season, leaving some feeling hopeless and disconnected, withdrawing from the marriage out of pain.
No matter when your marriage ends, divorce is rough. Don’t underestimate its impact and take care of yourself.
Did any of you experience the end of a marriage that coincided with the holiday season? What factors led to your divorce at this time of the year?