There is never a good time to break-up, but it seems more and more couples are choosing December – around the Christmas period – for the big split. What should be the happiest and most exciting time of the year for children, and young couples; often ends with sadness, conflict and confusion for some, and a new found freedom for others.
So why do most couples break-up in December?
Psychotherapist Dr. Karen Phillip says the Christmas period is strained for a number of reasons, and relationship breakdown is one of the main factors. “The reason this occurs is we may have tolerated our partner, their behaviour, family or friends, and once the end of the year is upon us we reassess what the year has been like and often make a conscious decision to start the new year fresh,” explains Dr. Phillip, who has just released her new book, OMG We’re Getting Married – 7 Essential Things To Know Before We Say I Do, which focuses on safeguarding relationships so couples are able to learn basic steps to avoid split-ups.
According to Dr. Phillip, December is the month we tend to assess the year that was. “We reflect on our past year, our accomplishments, reassess our goals and we look at what happened and how we feel about all that,” she explains. “If we feel angry, upset or disappointed and we are not able to see any resolution, we may then decide to walk. You don’t want to be burdened by worries or ongoing pressure, you don’t want to be worrying about the continued rollercoaster in your relationship – you just want to feel free.”
Here, Dr. Phillip explains some of the relationship trigger points couple’s should be mindful of, and how to deal with breakdowns when children are involved…
What December stress points should couples be alert to – to avoid a relationship breakdown?
“Research tells us that the end of the year is the most common time couples separate, and December is a very high stress month. Money is often tight, as we try to gather our finances to purchase required presents. We spend time with extended family, need to travel usually to ensure we include all family members, anxiety is heightened and time is stretched. We are also planning our future year ahead, our goals, our desires and wants. We consider how we will achieve these goals and what we may need to do or change to achieve this goal.
The other reason some partners choose to leave prior to Christmas can be the desire not to purchase an expensive gift for the person they no longer want or love. Also, they don’t want to put on the façade of pretending to be happy in front of family members – sometimes they can’t live the charade any longer.”
How can couple’s deal best with these issues?
“Many couples in this situation know they are in crisis. I would suggest they speak to each other openly and either make a decision to seek counselling support after the Christmas and New Year break to either resolve the issues in the marriage or relationship, or have them assist you both to uncouple in a more accepting manner.
Often it is not just the two people in a relationship – it is the children, extended family, friends and sometimes work colleagues who are affected too.
If you decide to remain in the relationship until after the Christmas period, prepare yourself – this will be the final time you need to put on the façade and you will be moving on and forward soon. With this mindset we are able to tolerate more than when we felt trapped or suffocated in the relationship.”
If children are involved, is it better to wait after Christmas to breakup?
“When we have children it is always best to wait until after Christmas, even New Year. Every child deserves to have an excited and happy family Christmas. When a parent decides to pull the pin on the relationship prior to Christmas it is usually done out of self-want instead of child necessity. If you are unhappy in your relationship, does it really matter if you wait another week or two until after Christmas? As a parent you have a responsibility to your children and allowing them to perhaps spend one last united family Christmas with both parents is essential. Children usually always remember their last Christmas as a family unit. By waiting, this can also alleviate some of the anger and conflict that can be generated from the other parent, extended family and the children.”
Explain the impact on children?
“If children are involved the impact on children is enormous and sometimes destructive. Children can become angry with the parent who ended the family unit and this may last for years. While it is important not to include the children as to the reasons why you separated, it is imperative to advise them the separation is occurring and it was a decision by both mum and dad, assure them they will see both parents all the time, and that both parents love them.
Be sure if you do decide to separate you have family or friends around to support you. We need support at a life changing time such as this and this support can enable a faster recovery for both partners.”
Are there any benefits to a December breakup?
“There is no great time to break-up and it is always hard. Christmas usually sees us having friends and family around so we can hope to have a number of supports close. Being the warm summer months, we can go for long walks to clear our mind, enjoy summer evenings sipping wine or enjoying a beer with friends. This is also a time to make plans for the year ahead, new directions, new goals and a fresh start. This is the beginning of a new identity for yourself.”
What advice do you have for couples coping with a break-up?
“If you decide to separate it is always wise to attend a few counselling sessions to aid your recovery. Regardless if you were the person left or did the leaving, it is a huge life-changing event, a loss of your family unit and time is needed to recover. The more support you receive the better positioned you are.
A break-up can also result in a feeling of depression or anxiety, so it is vital you look after yourself and obtain the professional support you need. Statistically, New Year presents one of the highest suicide times. The reason this happens is that we have the myth that this is supposed to be a happy and wonderful family time, but when this crashes, we question ourselves and our whole life meaning.
People are thinking about New Year’s resolutions this time of year and how they can improve their lives. Sometimes the best improvement you can make is setting yourself free from the restraints you have been experiencing.”
ABOUT Dr. Karen Phillip International author, speaker and leading relationship expert, Dr Karen Phillip, has been working as a professional Counselling Psychotherapist for almost 20 years. She holds a PhD in Sociology and specialises in Relationships and Parenting. Dr. Phillip works with families who are experiencing problems with communication, conflict and child behaviours and has worked with clients all over the world including industry leaders, high profile entrepreneurs and sporting and celebrity clients. Her new book, OMG We’re Getting Married – 7 Essential Things To Know Before We Say I Do, details the ‘need-to-know’ relationship topics before couple’s get hitched.