Let’s face it. There is no perfect time to announce you are leaving. Whilst that is true, there are worse times than others to say “It’s over!”
Christmas is possibly the worst time to say you are going, particularly if you have kids. Whilst your partner’s birthday or a wedding or relationship anniversary are equally painful and calculated, the kids usually don’t suffer any special pain associated with what is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year” (to quote from the Wyle and Pola Christmas tune).
In my extensive experience as a family lawyer, the worst breakups are the ones that happen around Christmas time. The person announcing they are leaving has usually not thought things through. It is more an explosion which has a cascading effect that results in a longer and therefore more expensive separation. It is a boon for litigious family lawyers as their clients are often extremely vulnerable regardless if they are the ones leaving or left. In short, there is a huge resentment and anger on both sides. The internal dialogue goes something like this:
“How could they do this to me?”
“I had family coming and the kids have been crying and hysterical.”
“S/he’s never liked my family!”
“I couldn’t take another moment of being with X.
“If I had stayed one more minute, I don’t know what I would have done!”
“S/he’s ruined Christmas forever”
The bitterness, anger and resentment once worked up into volcanic proportions, it is then extremely hard to find an outlet to dissipate that anger. Often there is a chorus of disapproval from others on hand to echo and reinforce those feelings. Once the genie has been let out of the emotional bottle and whipped into that frenzy, it is hard to stop it or deal with it particularly as professional services are closed over the Christmas period.
Most counsellors, psychologists and lawyers take a break over the Christmas holiday period and understandably so. When the more dramatic separation occurs, one of the first avenues for correcting ill-considered behaviour is to refer one or preferably both parties to therapy/counselling. Legal advice can also temper expectations and provide a road map and information about what happens next which enables the separated person to focus on what next needs to be done rather than focus on the announcement and to ruminate on why their partner chose such a bad time to announce their leaving.
Often Christmas separations occur because of tension and stress of an already endangered relationship and the impending thought of spending all that time with someone with whom you are no longer in love is the catalyst to depart. More often, a Christmas break up happens because someone else is on the scene. The idea of Christmas without that new and exciting person is the reason for the announcement.
I would caution clients on the brink of a marital or relationship separation to stop and think clearly about what sort of separation they want before they let emotion or personal preferences (no matter how strong) get in the way of giving your family a Christmas free of trauma, conflict and sadness. Instead think about what help you need to get through what will be a difficult process. Take a breath, think clearly and get the counselling and legal advice you need to separate at a better time and in a more considerate manner.
Accredited Family Law Specialist, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, Collaborative Professional
Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers would like to thank all of their clients for their patronage this Christmas and wish all families (separated or otherwise) a peaceful Christmas.
Our offices will be closed from 4:00pm 22 December 2017 and will reopen on 2 January 2018 at 9:00 am.