Should I Wait Until After the Holidays to Ask For a Divorce?

Sometimes the decision to divorce coincides with the arrival of the holiday season. In some cases, the decision has been made and the separating couple has to decide if they are going to keep the news a secret from friends and family until after the New Year.

And other times, the decision has only been made by one spouse and they face the difficult decision of telling their partner immediately or waiting until the holidays are past. It makes the process of asking for a divorce even that much more complex and painful when it happens to correspond with a season that is all about family and tradition.

So what is the right call? Do you tell your spouse before the holidays? Or do you keep your mouth shut and play the part until the season passes?

As you may suspect, there is no “right” answer, no one way to act. In fact, each option has its own pros and cons.

Telling Your Spouse You Want a Divorce

Before the Holidays

Pros

Possibility of Increased Support

In today’s world, families are often spread across the country. Your partner’s parents, siblings and even friends may live in different cities. The holidays are a time of gathering. And even if there is nothing planned, this is a time when people tend to be available and may be able to rally to support a person reeling from the realization that their marriage is over.

Natural Break From Work Demands

You have been processing this decision for a time, whereas it may come as a surprise to your spouse. The holidays often offer a break from work for a few days. Days that can be coming to terms with the new reality while they do not have to sit in a cubicle while wearing sunglasses to hide teary eyes.

No Pretending

If you have the discussion sooner rather than later, you are spared from the performance of “Everything’s Fine,” a challenging role to assume at any time and even more so when the entire world seems to be celebrating.

Cons

Impacts Any Family Traditions

The consequences of the announcement will be felt immediately and the aftershocks will spread. Any family gatherings will be altered, not only for you, your spouse and your children, but also for others in attendance. The holiday will become less about any celebrations and traditions and more about dealing with the immediate fallout of the end of the marriage. Obviously, this impact is most important to consider if you have children.

Changes the Meaning of the Holidays, Possibly Forever

Christmas, etc. will forever after be known as the “Season When My Husband/Wife Asked For a Divorce” (or, “When Mommy or Daddy Left”). That is a link that once made, cannot easily be undone.

Professional Support May Not Be Available

While family and friends may be more available, professional support – counselors, doctors and even attorneys – may not be on call. And there are some services that are best left to the professionals.

 

Waiting to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce Until After the Holidays

Pros

Maintains Family Traditions

The get-togethers and rituals are preserved for one more year, giving time for those impacted to adjust and prepare before the holidays circle around again. Comfort and restoration can be found in those traditions.

Calmer After the Holiday

The crazy, over-scheduled weeks leading up to the holidays often settle down dramatically once January arrives. And this can be important since divorce brings with it its own crazy demands on time, money and attention.

Potential of Lessened Guilt and Anger

By waiting to deliver the news, you may reduce the guilt you feel about announcing the end of your marriage and you may mitigate the anger that your spouse feels. This can make the following months more amicable.

Cons

Have to Fake It

If you keep the news a secret, you have to be willing and able to fake your marriage for a few weeks or months. This isn’t easy and, if your spouse sees through your act, can result in an ugly confrontation.

Spouse/Kids May See the Holiday as a Lie

When you announce divorce in January, it’s pretty clear to everybody that you were simply biding your time (after all, there’s a reason that it’s nicknamed Divorce Season). That realization can make your spouse and kids feel as though the previous holiday was a farce and they may wonder what else you deceived them about.

Waiting is Difficult if You Feel Compelled to Act

If you have been contemplating divorce for awhile and you’ve now reached a decision, you may feel driven to act upon your choice. You might find it difficult to stay patient and refrain from making forward progress on your decision while you wait for the calendar to cooperate.

 —–

The truth of the matter is that there is no perfect time to broach the topic of divorce. There will always be a birthday, an anniversary, a graduation or a major holiday just around the corner. Worry less about what is coming and focus more on the specifics of the conversation :

DO be clear in your intent and your timeline.

DO allow your spouse time to process and space to respond without being defensive.

DO deliver the news with a counselor’s support, if needed.

DO be kind. There is nothing to be gained by seasoning the news with insults and injury.

How to Have the Difficult Conversations

DON’T allow the news to be a complete and total surprise; your spouse should know the relationship is in trouble first.

DON’T deliver the news in a public location without any chance of privacy.

DON’T expect a positive reaction. They will need time to adjust to the idea. Allow that time.

DON’T proclaim divorce in anger. It’s not a barb to throw during a fight; it’s a deliberate and important major life decision.

The Best Ways to End a Relationship, According to Science

 

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Should I Wait Until After the Holidays to Ask For a Divorce?

  1. This is great advice. I gave my former husband the separation papers in early December and he waited until Christmas eve to get them signed and notarized. I came home from a party with my daughter and he left the papers on my pillow with a note that says congratulations you are divorced. I was so angry. That can never be changed. Clearly he was angry and it was on purpose. He had them notarized on that day. What an ass!!! We told her in the spring a month before I was moving out. She was 9 and she sobbed for a half hour. It was heartbreaking. It was tough to hold it together that long but we didn’t want to tell her until it was close to moving out bc she would have been anxious for months and she has anxiety.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s