You will have heard of 'Divorce Day'. It's that bleak Monday in early January when the tinsel's back in the attic, the tree is turning to kindling outside the backdoor, children have packed off back to school for the new term and parents have returned to work. Well, according to countless press articles, that is the day that, for many, enough is enough, and they pick up the phone to a divorce lawyer.
At Vardags, we've found that the story can be a little different. January is indeed busy for divorce lawyers, but we find that the busiest day is not that first Monday back at work, or even the second - very often it's the third Monday in the month, after things have had time to settle down a little and the January blues have properly descended. We also find that many of the people who come to us really don't want a divorce. So, why are they there?
Christmas is undoubtedly a melting pot of stress, splintering the cracks in an already shaky marriage and threatening to destroy it. Families are forced to spend hour upon hour with each other; and not just nuclear families but extended families too. Having to cater to the whims of an eccentric uncle or a demanding Grandma causes tempers to fray no matter how strong the family bonds.
There's often a similar situation at the end of the summer holidays, though Christmas is unique thanks to the abundance of alcohol and overwhelming expectation.
But, we find that, after this festive period is over and the relatives have disappeared and left the marital home in relative peace, husbands and wives often come to us because they're feeling a bit despondent. They need some support; to discuss whether their marriage is truly over or whether they're just getting cold feet because of the cold weather.
We frequently find that once that person has come to us, discussed their marital problems, laid out what they want and got a feel for how it would all work if they did divorce, that they don't want their marriage to end. They may well want some changes made, of course, but all is not lost. Sometimes the act of coming to see a divorce lawyer, of crystallising that reality, puts the idea of breaking up into perspective. It can be very emotional, but also emotionally useful.
It's no wonder that this happens. New Year brings with it its own particular pressures: to make plans, to go to the gym, to take up that hobby that will revitalise you and change your life. These may be noble aims but couples can get swept up in the 'out with the old, in with the new' mantra and find their relationship at a crossroads.
The best way to guard your marriage against defeat is to know that this is usual, that it happens to many couples and it is in your power to change it. Firstly, take into account how you behave towards your partner and family at Christmas. If you try not to let the tensions get out of hand in the first place, the comedown after the festive season won't be so brutal.
Secondly, come New Year, don't rush. Just because the papers are telling you that it's 'Divorce Day' doesn't mean your marriage is done for. Acknowledge that it's normal for your mettle to be tested as a couple over Christmas, that it can be tough and stressful for everyone. It may mean that you and your spouse need to take stock, to recognise your problems and work through them. By all means seek advice for that and get the information you need, but don't automatically give up. Divorce can be 100% the right thing for you and your family, but it's never a decision to make on a whim.