This holiday season, you are thinking: “Just one more time.” One more time around your mother-in-law’s nasty snide comments; one more draining day of yule-tide “merriment”; and one last New Year’s hurrah. After the confetti settles, the weight of the relationship will be too much. In fact, the stress could do you in. So you will say “never again,” and spend the next year (or more) getting divorced. And you are not alone.
The statistics overwhelmingly show that you, and many others like you, are struggling through one last marital holiday season. Every year, we in the divorce industry know that January 1 is met with a spike in divorce filings. After the tree lights come down, my phone lights up. The holidays have a special magic that no one wants to disturb. Divorce conversations are intentionally avoided, because who wants to mar this season with bad memories? Trust me: you can make it through this holiday.
Aside from being a divorce lawyer, I understand this waiting game in a personal way. I was once like you: waiting for that one last trip (because we already paid for the tickets and my parents would be so disappointed if we canceled); waiting for that year-end bonus to hit (because it will free up some of the debt and make a separation easier); wanting to have some holiday magic and waiting to see if we could save this marriage.
But what is the price-tag for holding out through the holidays? I recently watched Ash Beckham’s TedX, where she talks about her coming-out-of-the-gay-closet story. But more than that, she makes the point that everyone is in a closet, whether it is telling your spouse you want a divorce, or telling a friend you are gay. “All a closet is, is a hard conversation,” she says. “The experience of being in and coming out of the closet is universal. It is scary, and we hate it, but it needs to be done.”
When you avoid hard conversations, you prolong the body’s production of stress hormones that ultimately can lead to anxiety, depression and heart disease. According to Beckham, “When you do not have hard conversations, when you keep the truth about yourself a secret you are essentially holding a grenade. . . . And if you do not throw that grenade, it will kill you.”
This time of year, not only are you being confronted by the stress of the holidays – travel, party obligations, gifts and forced merriment – but you are also holding a divorce grenade.
So, as the holidays approach and you wait for that fight about how much to spend on gifts or whose family you should visit first, know that you aren’t alone. Know that you are like many, stuck in the holiday-induced “divorce closet,” just trying to wait for the right timing.
Some things to focus on in-between forced family gatherings and faked merriment:
- Be aware that your guilt — from knowing that you are waiting to drop the D-bomb in January — might lead you to make promises you can’t keep or buy lavish gifts that may run up credit cards and land you with more marital items to fight over.
- Avoid fights, after all, you are holding back to make this holiday special, so keep the bickering and arguments to a minimum. Otherwise, what’s the point?
- Gather your financial paperwork: tax returns, paycheck stubs, billing statements. These are documents that will help in your divorce case. Also consider how you will handle the coming year’s income taxes.
- Cut yourself some slack, the holidays are stressful and so is divorce. Don’t commit to making the school cupcakes this year and pass on a few of those parties.
Do you feel like you are waiting “in the closet” until after the holidays to have a divorce conversation? Are you a holiday hold-out survivor? Got any tips – share them in the comments.