Christmas can be a tough time for many people, either triggering problems or highlighting existing problems in relationships, not just with distant family who we may only see at Christmas time, but on our relationships with our close family. It’s therefore no surprise that January is the most popular time for a couple to file for divorce in the UK – not a great start to the New Year is it?
It’s common for most of us at one point on another to have experienced difficulties or challenges in our personal relationships. While these feelings are common, and on the whole, not an issue, its once they become entrenched or habitual when real issues start to arise, such as experiencing anxiety, irrationality, anger, hurt, depression and unhealthy jealousy. Once we start to experience these feelings, that run in to Christmas can take us to breaking point – hence November being the most popular month for couples to start talking to solicitors…
It’s quite well documented that divorce rates are on the rise, and this trend hasn’t changed with 2010 seeing 119,589 divorces in England and Wales, up from 113,949 in 2009. The numbers are highest amongst couples in their early 40s, typically between the age of 40 and 44, with the most popular reason for divorce often given as unreasonable behaviour.
Couples who are struggling find that the onset of the Christmas period really doesn’t help. Everything that comes with the festive season results in increased financial demands being made on couples, as well as having to spend more time together and with the in-laws.
Combine all these facts and feelings with the fact that the festive season provides people with time to reflect and make a final decision on the state of their marriage; it’s perhaps no surprise then that final applications for divorce are made in January.
The current financial climate has a role to play – not only in adding pressure to our daily lives (money matters always adds strain on relationships) but also by influencing our decision about divorce. Many couples feel forced to stick together simply because they cannot afford to get a divorce. This recent trend though is probably set to change, as there seems to be no end of the economic gloom, couples wish to take control back of their lives and are starting to prepare to cut their losses.
How do things get that far?
The majority of couples get married with no fear of a possible end in sight – which is how things should be, however the stresses of modern life, financial pressures and general day to day life make us often forget the more important things in life. It’s normal to face challenges in our relationships, these challenges are common place, and in many ways help us grow as a couple. But challenges that we don’t overcome, or ignore are dangerous. Negative feelings are common place, but once they become entrenched in our daily lives and become the “norm”, then real issues have started to appear with any relationship.
It’s common to experience hurt where you think that your partner’s insensitive behaviour towards you implies lack of care or love. It’s also common to experience guilt regarding your past behaviours and wrong doings. Many individuals may also feel anxiety about a whole host of reasons, ranging from anxiety about irrational jealousy to anxiety about our partner’s anger. So you see there are so many things to deal with when we look at relationships – what’s important is that we deal with these feelings sooner rather than later. For some, divorce may be the only safe and viable option, for others, a little time and investment back into their relationships is all that is needed.
Relationships that are generally successful and work well in the long term tend to have the following ingredients; good communication between the partners, compatibility and shared values and last but not least emotional stability of the partners. It is more likely than not that love will last in a healthy way this way.
Addressing our emotional state
At the heart of CBT and CBH is a belief that our thoughts and beliefs are the key drivers of our emotional state and cause our behaviours. If your thoughts or beliefs about your partner are unhealthy, then your relationship will become unhealthy. Essentially the message is that we are responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, our behaviours and the types of relationships that we tolerate. When we don’t take responsibility, it will more than likely be projected onto our partner – with you now believing that they are the cause of these feelings.
So some basic techniques from CBT which you may find helpful as a starting point are listed below:
- Accept that you are responsible for your own emotions and actions
- Communicate without pointing a finger, use expressions like, “I feel angry about…” and not “You made me angry about…”
- Accept yourself as a valuable but imperfect human being. Judge your behaviour rather than your worth, for example, accept you are a fallible person, but you can learn from your mistakes
- Be assertive but not aggressive. Communicate thoughts and feelings appropriately and not defensively
- Always keep in mind the bigger picture and remember to focus on your partner’s good qualities.