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The month of January often sees a surge in divorces, as couples re-evaluate their lives during the rollercoaster ride that is Christmas and New Year’s. The increased family interactions and financial pressures brought on by the holiday season often result in heightened emotions and the unearthing of underlying relationship issues. Couples largely “put on a brave face” for their families during the festive period and attempt to maintain a semblance of normalcy. However, once the holidays conclude, the desire for a fresh start and the pursuit of personal resolutions often prompt people in relationships to confront their long-standing problems.

The financial stress from holiday spending along with the significant symbolism of a new chapter that a new year brings, can serve as a catalyst for those contemplating a significant life change, leading to a spike in divorce filings and separations in January, otherwise known as ‘divorce month’.

Financial Pressure 

The holiday period sees the average Australian spending upwards of $1,500 on presents, food, alcohol, eating out, and travel, totaling about $30 billion for the entire population.

The cultural expectation to exchange gifts, and to an extent, the expectation to not be outdone, is the leading factor behind extravagant spending. Couples may feel compelled to purchase expensive gifts for not only each other but also, family members, friends, and colleagues, which can strain budgets.

There’s also often pressure to travel to exotic locations, or to host guests, resulting in additional expenses for transportation, accommodation, and entertainment. The desire to create memorable experiences and uphold traditions during the holiday season, also contributes heavily to an individual splurging on goods and activities, even if it means sacrificing their financial stability.

This pressure can be alleviated by effectively budgeting throughout the year and discussing with your partner budgets for presents, food, and travel.

The Dreaded In-Laws 

Over the holiday period, we often see an increase in time spent with the in-laws, this may result in a clash between different dynamics and traditions. Each family’s own way of celebrating the holidays, from what dishes to cook for Christmas lunch, to gift-giving rituals, will often cause a clash in the expectations of the couple, leading to misunderstandings and disagreements about how the holidays should be spent.

Spending an extended period in close quarters with in-laws can exacerbate pre-existing tension or unresolved issues within the family dynamic, especially where one person finds that they are having to compromise. Conflicting strong personalities or unresolved conflicts bubbling just below the surface may show themselves when spending increased time with each other, often abruptly, leading to unwanted, and frankly unnecessary arguments or friction.

Furthermore, the quintessential pressure to navigate competing loyalties between one’s partner and their family can create stress. Couples may feel torn between prioritising their partner’s desires and maintaining harmony with their in-laws or their own family.

Increased Time Spent with Partners 
There is always going to be the pressure to create the perfect holiday experience for your partner, with there being a significant emphasis on meaningful gift-giving, and hosting friends and family.

Couples are often busy throughout the year and may not have had enough time to spend with their partners, which does not allow them to address underlying issues and instead sweeping them under the rug in the hopes of maintaining tranquillity during the festive period. With a significant number of couples taking leave over the holiday period, the increased time spent together can give rise to these previously unaddressed relationship issues, leading to arguments and discord.

Furthermore, the pressure to navigate the previously mentioned family dynamics and conflicting obligations can add stress to the relationship. Differences in expectations about how to spend the holidays can create tension between partners, especially if they struggle to find a balance that satisfies both sides.

Conclusion 

Ultimately, the combination of heightened expectations, financial strain, unresolved conflicts, and family pressures will very likely put stress on a relationship during the Christmas period, potentially leading to arguments and, in severe cases, the breakdown of the relationship. Effective communication, setting realistic expectations, and prioritising quality time together throughout the year, as well as during the holidays, can help couples navigate these challenges and strengthen their bond during the holiday season.

However, where these things have not yielded positive results, it is important to consider separation while the relationship is still amicable and appropriate arrangements can be made regarding, property, finances, and most importantly children, without resentment clouding your judgment.

We sincerely hope that you haven’t found yourself in this position of ‘divorce month’, but if you or someone you know has done, we’re here to help!

Lynn and Brown Lawyers encourage anyone needing help to negotiate post-separation arrangements to get in touch with one of our experienced family lawyers. You can contact us through our website www.lynnandbrown.com.au or by calling 08 9375 3411.

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