Divorce at Christmas can be an incredibly difficult time for everyone involved but it can be possible to get through it. Read our top tips to find out more.
Surviving Christmas in the Midst of Divorce
Going through a divorce at Christmas is not something anyone would plan, but, for many, it is a reality. In fact, Christmas is the time of year when relationships tend to come under the most strain, and for some this will prove irreparable. This is a position supported by research conducted for 'The Visual Miscellaneum' (David McCandless and Lee Byron) who, after analysing countless Facebook profile relationship updates, found that the Christmas period is the time when a relationship is most likely to end.
For anyone who has ever had a family, let alone a marriage, the reasons are pretty obvious: December is the final month of the year and is therefore the time in the calendar in which it feels natural to bring an end to the relationship cycle; it is also the coldest time of the year and a bit of depression brought on by Seasonal Adjustment Disorder is to be expected; it is also a time of enormous stress, as Christmas’s practical and financial pressures intersect with the playing out of complex family relationships.
But for those who are already facing divorce or who are coming to terms with the reality of a full and irrevocable relationship breakdown, how is it possible to negotiate and survive Christmas without locking ourselves in a darkened cupboard and banging our heads against the wall?
The truth is that if there are no children involved and there are not too many family members whose Christmas plans are contingent on you, you may wish to hurry the relationship through to its bitter end, regardless of the conflict and contention this will invite. However, if there are children involved, the unavoidable truth is that their needs and feelings must be respected and accommodated and this is likely to require that you hold fire until the decorations have been returned to their boxes and the Christmas tree taken for recycling.
By respecting the needs of children and prioritising their interests over your personal feelings, it is likely that you will have a less lonely and embittered Christmas and are less likely to become fixated with hate for your ex or soon-to-be-ex. And, crucially, you are also less likely to fall foul of feelings of parental failure and self-loathing.
Inevitably, this will mean agreeing not to talk about the divisive issues during times when the children are around and agreeing to present a unified front so that there is a safe space for everyone to enjoy Christmas. Try to not allow resentment and recrimination to reign, no matter how much you might feel you have been wronged by your ex.
For many, however, it will simply not be possible to soberly plan the end of a relationship. As such, if you find that far from being under the mistletoe you are in fact in the midst of relationship breakdown, consider the following tips.
Now is not the time to introduce your new partner: If the break-up is relatively fresh or indeed has only just come as a revelation, in no uncertain terms should you use this as the opportunity to introduce your new partner to either your ex-partner or any children you might have. Doing so can be catastrophic and may prove explosive for obvious reasons. Imposing a new relationship when people are still coming to terms with the end of the previous one lacks respect and sensitivity and is likely to tar Christmas and cause lasting damage to relationships, both the familial and the romantic.
Get cancelling: Unfortunately, it sometimes takes just as much effort to cancel plans as it does to set them up in the first place. However, if you have recently embarked upon divorce or separation, you may have to cancel family gatherings, holidays, gifts, flights and more. Don’t delay, the sooner you take action, the easier it will be to enjoy a fresh start in the New Year – and you don't need to feel guilty, you are going through enough!
Stay (relatively) sober: No matter how easy it might be to give way to the temptations of Christmas tipples, it is helpful to stay relatively sober throughout the Christmas period. We don’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy yourself, simply that a little too much to drink can leave you in a slump and may even precipitate depression. Staying relatively sober is also a good way to avoid making ill-advised phone calls or regrettable displays of frustration.
Spend prudently: Divorce and separation inevitably involves adjusting to a new financial reality and it is not always possible tell what this will look like. However much you might want to spend your way to happiness over Christmas, we recommend that you don’t let Christmas burn a hole in your pocket. You may have to pay divorce solicitor fees, you may be without your ex’s income and you may have to take on mortgage payments on your own for a while. Whatever the case, there is nothing quite as dispiriting as waking to the hollow aftermath of the post-Christmas splurge (particularly if you also have a hangover).
Stay connected: It can be all too easy to wallow in solitude post-breakup, but doing so at Christmas can be a really isolating experience. Try to stay connected with friends and family as spending too much time on your own is very isolating and is only likely to leave you feeling the void created by the other person’s absence.
Be cosy: We said don’t wallow, but it is also important to let yourself enjoy all the cosiness of Christmas. Light a fire, sip some Baileys, read your new hardback and remember, you may be grieving for the end of your relationship but life goes on.
Be active: whether you are going for a Christmas run, a Christmas cycle or are spending half an hour in your bedroom doing Yoga through YouTube, keeping active can stave off any unnecessary physical and chemical slumps over Christmas. At Christmas, a little bit of exercise can go a long way.
Have a happy Christmas
We hope that you can have a happy Christmas and a revitalising New Year. If you need a divorce solicitor or indeed any other kind of family law specialist to help you negotiate the most important challenges in your life, Oratto can help you find the solicitor who's right for your needs. Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.