All the excitement is over. Your friends have gone home and your family has disappeared. The children are back in school and back into their routine. What are you left with but a great big Christmas hangover? Maybe even a marital hangover that just keeps coming back like a stubborn weed you keep pulling up by the roots only to find it peeking up again and again.
January is statistically proven to be the month with the highest divorce filing rate. Why?
There are various reasons of course and not any one couple are the same as the other. Every divorce is as different as the marriage it came from. Without generalizing too much, there are some common occurrences in the deep, cold month of January.
Divorce and Christmas simply don’t go together. Many couples feel that addressing the topic during December or prior to Christmas is terrible timing for the children so, they procrastinate until the new year. Hello, January. Now it’s time to face the reality of our everyday lives.
January is reality month. The bills are coming in and only add to what might have been a disappointing holiday season.
I remember the last Christmas we had as intact family. I watched everyone open their stockings (that I had lovingly stuffed for six people) while mine hung empty. Tears stung my eyes and I felt deep down this undeniable pain. Yet, I chastised myself by saying don’t be petty. It’s only a stocking but the truth is those are the little ways someone show you they care… by filling your stocking or writing you a love note and putting it on the tree. Those are almost more important than an expensive gift.
That same year, my husband’s best friend and his wife (whom I was also good friends with and very fond of) made a request for us to change our plans on Christmas Eve and while I was usually amenable to last minute changes it meant I would be entertaining all day and night. It would affect other people as well. After agreeing to accommodate them, they didn’t show until way later and my early prep for them was for naught. All of these types of things really show us that we’re not important. I was taking care of everyone else but me. If you have a Christmas like that, then you might find January has you reflecting upon these misdemeanors of the heart. What is a mere oversight to one person can be heartbreaking to another especially the ones left with the short end of the stick.
Family commitments are over. For a while, giving people time to focus on their own situation and problems. In January we’re not pretending anymore. We don’t have to worry about putting on a show for the in-laws or our own family for that matter. How many times had you thought of having that 'd' word conversation when you refrained because your parents or his parents were scheduled to arrive?
Resolutions may prove counter to your marital status. Personal goals of self improvement and happiness may not include your spouse. Maybe you want to quit smoking or drinking, something your spouse will not consider. These changes can mark the beginning of the end. At the very least they remind us we have different goals, which make living together even more difficult.
I remember the emptiness of that January of 2005. It would be the last one I would spend married. I didn’t come to that realization quite yet but it was niggling in the back of my mind. I sat in a chair in my master bedroom, in a beautiful home. The halls echoed and so did our voices. I hadn’t counted on that when we designed, built and eventually moved into that dream home. No one told me that you can fill a home with top of the line appliances and all the furniture you want but if you don’t have any love to give, it will remain empty. The incessant echo served to remind me and so did the month of January. The cold, bitter temperatures and deep snow seemed an appropriate reflection of my heart.
I sat and dreamed of a different life. One in which I could listen to my own heart. One in which I could be valued and loved (if only by me). I felt depreciated, undervalued, unloved and neglected. Reality was setting in. It seems that Christmas was only the precursor and calm before the storm.
The start of a new year makes us realize our marriage isn’t worth saving. How can we accomplish the things we want or change for the better if we’re stuck in an unhappy marriage? I remember a friend of mine saying to me, “Well, we tried counseling last year and that didn’t change anything. So, what am I supposed to hope for this year?” In other words, what else can I do for this dying relationship? I felt terrible for her and I could see the hopelessness in her eyes. She had already been around that mulberry bush a dozen times and didn’t care to resolve to fix her marriage at the start of another new year. That was plain to see.
Changes that were promised by our spouse last year are evidently still unfulfilled reminding us of the lost hope for improvement.
January is like the first day of school as a child or the first day on a new job. We want to put our best foot forward. We want to imagine ourselves changing for the better and accomplishing and trying things we’ve never done before. That’s a healthy perspective and if it means changing our marital status, then so be it but don’t rush into anything too quickly.
Realize that some of the feelings are the Christmas disappointment hangover but if these feelings have been predominant throughout the last number of years, now might be the right time to make those changes. Pulling up the weed by its root and making sure it doesn’t reappear in a few months or next January might be the final and only resolution in moving forward in your life.
Do you remember the moment when you realized your marriage was over?
photo credit: Cedric Santarromana via photopin cc