The holidays bring out some of the best, and worst in people! During the holiday season, the world gets a dusting of glitter and magic that seems to make ordinary life pale in comparison to the merriment of carols, gifts, social gatherings, and other trimmings that are reserved just for holiday time. It’s as though humanity and life, itself, is raised on a pedestal with a big red bow on top. The expectations are set high, and the period of time after seems all the more bleak and depressing.
The struggle to live up to the glorious expectations of the holidays can lead to feelings of despair and surrender. It has to be perfect, yet it can’t always be! Perfection can come at the cost of draining the bank account and straining relations with loved ones under the pressure of presenting the perfect gifts, meal, and all the other trappings of November and December.
No wonder, then, that filings for divorce skyrocket in January, February, and March after the festive lights have dimmed and the credit cards bills start rolling in. For some, the post-holiday let down and shock to the system that is January reality may be enough to call a lawyer. For others, the holidays may have been the last hurrah of faking family togetherness and happiness before the final straw breaks.
I recall my last Christmas married to my ex. I pulled out all the stops to make it merry for my kids from the decorations to the food and seasonal fun. Perhaps I thought the splendor of the season could give me a much-needed infusion of happiness to pull me out of my marital misery? No matter what, though, I felt compelled to make them happy, even if I wasn’t.
What I found, however, was that the joyful tunes, sparkling trees, and merry wishes from those all around me seemed to taunt my pain and highlight my sadness. I was like a fragile blown glass ornament hanging from the boughs of a tree. On the outside, all appeared to be glittering perfection, but inside my life felt dark and hollow. All it would take was one clumsy jostle for me to tumble and shatter!
That last Christmas, my ex and I had decided to gift our children with an experience rather than presents. We planned a small weekend trip to a kid-friendly destination with the intent of making fun memories together. That trip became a three-day hostage situation wherein the suffocation of being stuck in a car, then a cramped hotel room with a person I could barely stand became fuel for officially ending our marriage after the new year.
Pasting on happy faces for the kids was both painful and tedious. The final remaining give-a-damn that we had to continue in our crumbling marriage hit its breaking point amidst the lofty expectations for a dreamy family vacation and the vice grip that our dysfunction had over us. Once we returned home, the tree came down, the temporary glow and joy borrowed from the holiday dissolved, and we were left to face what we really had in the harsh and unflattering light of the new year.
Will your marriage be swept to the curb like the crumpled gift wrap and dried-out Christmas tree you will soon dispose of? Here are some warning signs of trouble that could erupt as the holidays wind down:
Holidays are expensive! It’s not at all uncommon for holiday spending to inspire arguments between couples. It can be hard to fill everyone’s stocking on our wish list without dipping into the red. The added stress of increased spending may be good reason to disagree, which can carry right on into the new year when regular bills suffer under the weight of holiday debt.
Holidays are the perfect setting for family drama. Many of us don’t see family members outside of the holiday season. And, let’s face it, not all of us get along with in-laws and others in the family. All that extra family time can bring out bad memories, past rivalries and bad blood, or simply make us snap from all the pressure to please.
Holidays inspire unrealistic expectations. The holidays can be beautiful and fun, but it takes a lot of time, money, and hard work to pull off the perfect celebration. This can be a tall order when we work, parent, or are on a tight budget. It’s easy to feel disappointed when we don’t live up to our Martha Stewart-like pals or the way grandma used to do it, which can make us more irritable or depressed about how our life really is.
The holidays are blue for many. Holidays can stand as a painful reminder of lost loved ones or the fact that our family isn’t as close and happy as we would like. A marriage that is on the rocks can be one more situation that inspires the holiday blues because we may remember how it used to be or mourn the fact that it never was what we hoped for. What many of us think of as a joyful time surrounded by loved ones can feel desperately sad and lonely for others.
Celebrating for the kids. Some couples will hold the appearance of happiness together just long enough to survive the holidays because they fear ruining such a special time for the kids. Enduring over two months’ worth of holiday meals, family portraits, and forced jolliness may be all a troubled couple can withstand before pulling the plug.
The promise of a clean slate. New Year’s always dangles the promise of fresh starts and happy beginnings, which may become a siren’s call to a miserably married person. If one’s marriage is falling apart, the allure of making resolutions for a new beginning- alone- might be just what the doctor ordered, and plenty of inspiration to phone an attorney!
The holiday season may sparkle and dazzle, but it is a miserable marathon for many marriages that are simply riding out what’s left until the holidays end. If the holidays have lost their luster, know that you are not alone in suffering while the rest of the world is aglow with celebration! It’s really no wonder that so many marriages meet their end shortly after the tinsel is put away. The holidays are enmeshed with some extremely stressful situations that are challenging for even the healthiest marriages to hurdle. A marriage in trouble is simply no match for the hidden hazards of the holidays!