Family law firms always see a sharp rise in clients in the New Year. In fact the first working Monday of the year is known as Divorce Day as they receive so many enquiries about getting a divorce. So what is behind this peak so soon after Christmas? Why are there so many people wanting to start divorce proceedings as soon as the festive period comes to an end, a time traditionally known for being together with family?
It's a sad fact that as many as 42% of couples find themselves heading for divorce in the UK. This figure is as high as 50% in the USA. Divorce is not an easy process, in fact it's known as the second most traumatic life experience after death of a loved one. It involves a rollercoaster of emotions and many new practical challenges so we need to give it careful consideration when we decide to leave a marriage.
The new year peak in starting divorce proceedings is the same every year. There are several factors that cause this and things to look out for:
• Spending quality time with the family in the holidays if you have a solid relationship can make it even stronger. However if the foundations of the relationship are rocky spending increased amounts of time together can increase the pressure and the cracks will start to show.
• Over Xmas the usual routine of work and school runs is disrupted. We are no longer distracted by them and so we have more time to focus on the relationship and how it is going. It is under more scrutiny as couples are spending more time together.
• Many people have actually decided to break up well before Christmas will have made the decision to get through the festive period as not to upset the family, especially if there are children involved, and then leave in the new year.
• Spending time with extended family often puts a lot of pressure on a couple. Tensions can mount if they don't get along well or have to walk on egg shells around each other's family.
• Couples often have different expectations of the Christmas holidays. If one sees it as a chance to put their feet up as they are not at work and the other is left to entertain the kids or cook for everyone it can cause arguments.
• Financial pressures can mount over Christmas as pressure to provide the latest gift for the children and feed the extended family for days on end can be extremely high. This can inevitably cause arguments and tension for couples.
• It's the season for parties and drinking and if your relationship is already on the rocks it can sadly be a trigger for infidelity.
All these festive period pressures can reach a crescendo, what I call a switch flicking moment, when something tips the balance and you decide you just can't do this anymore. Enough is enough and you want out. Unfortunately this is the case for many couples and why the divorce rate peaks in the new year.
However if you are aware of this there are things you can do to help your relationship survive Christmas. Here are my 7 top tips to avoiding breaking up over Christmas:
• Don't let problems fester. If there are any issues raise them with your partner and work together to sort them out before any irreparable damage is done.
• Set aside some time to discuss what you want from the holidays and how you see it working. Make a plan that you both agree to and are happy with.
• Agree a financial budget for the Christmas period in advance and stick to it.
• Make a conscious decision to stay calm and to keep spirits up over Christmas. Don't be the person who brings the mood down.
• Do your best to get along with the in laws and extended family. Agree to keep visits to a minimum if you know they always cause unnecessary stress.
• Keep the love alive: Be affectionate and playful with your partner. Arrange quality alone time over the holidays where you spend time together doing the things you love.
• Don't take things too seriously: Keep perspective on the magnitude and significance of things that might trigger an argument. Remember you can diffuse an argument before it happens by choosing to react with love. For example giving them a hug or telling them you love them can diffuse the tension in a heartbeat if you do it sincerely.
The key to any successful relationship is good communication. Find a way that works for you both and remember that you will both have different methods of communicating how you feel. Sticking your head in the sand isn't a great way to deal with issues and it's always best to nip them in the bud right away. However it's never too late to start communicating better with your partner. Be kind, respectful and empathetic towards each other and you will find that your relationship can overcome many obstacles.
Sara Davison is an expert break-up, separation and divorce coach, author, and speaker who has developed the UK's first Divorce Coaching program providing individuals with the tools, techniques and support needed to help navigate and cope with the process of divorce.
Also on HuffPost: