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New Year New Start

It comes as no surprise to me, as a divorce lawyer, to learn that Tuesday of this week was regarded as Black Tuesday for marriages and the end of the road for many dwindling relationships. For as long as I’ve been handling divorces, some twenty nine years, it has always been the same – the first working day after the Christmas break is the busiest of the year for us. It’s a bit like the stampede on the first day of the sales, except we have them queuing up round the block for divorces, not discounts.

On Tuesday my phone was ringing off the hook with distressed clients wanting to make appointments, with seven women and two men demanding divorces by the end of the day.

So why is it that January is such a bleak time for relationships? In simple terms it’s the fact that Christmas and New Year is the only period of the year when husbands and wives are really forced to spend a lot of time with each other. For the same reason September is also a busy time for divorce lawyers, coming straight after the long summer holidays, and it seems to be the same complaints uttered every year.

A lot of people – especially women – get very excited about the build up to Christmas and New Year, having an image in their heads of a perfect family Christmas – a beautifully decorated house, stress free cooking, charming children and happy family board games in front of the tree. Naturally the expectation is far better than the reality, leaving many frustrated and disappointed that their dreams and hopes for the festive season have come to nothing.

By far the greatest number of phone calls in the first week in January come from women anxious to put into effect the premise ‘New Year, New Start’ with their complaints being mostly inter changeable. Many women complain that their husbands spend most of the Christmas and New Year festivities in the pub, not in their company – depriving them of the love, attention and support so many of them crave. Having believed that the holidays were the one time that they could isolate their men folk from work and other distractions, the distractions seem to win.

One woman who called me on Tuesday morning cried down the phone as she described how her husband had fobbed her off all year with reasons why they could not go out, have holidays or spend any time together. He promised her that they would have time over Christmas.

When he went to play golf for most of the entire Christmas week she just exploded. She said she knew she was entitled to a better quality of life and wanted to grab it now rather than waste another year of fruitless waiting and emptiness. For the husband this will probably be the most expensive games of golf he has ever played.

Other women complain that their husbands do not do their fair share with the children, leaving them not only to do the shopping, cooking and clearing up but providing endless entertainment for the little darlings as well.

My first phone call of the day on Tuesday came from a lady I shall call Cindy. She said that she was expected to run around like a lunatic all holiday while her husband found time for all of his hobbies, endlessly and patiently sticking his stamps into his collectors’ book.

When he was not arranging his stamp collection, she said he was snoring like a warthog in front of the television while she was practically on her knees cooking, cleaning and caring for their three children, and relatives. She had formed the view that anything was better than this and that 2007 will be her year. After I discouraged her from shredding his stamp collection, she made an appointment to start proceedings.

My third call of the day was from a woman who felt that her husband’s contribution to Christmas started and finished with carving the turkey. Their two children were desperate for time with him, but he showed not an iota of interest in them. She said that she felt overwhelmingly angry and disappointed in him, that he was selfish, self centered and having gone through many years like this, something had to change.

There is a distinct feeling of battle lines being drawn when both husband and wife feel that they deserve a rest over Christmas, each believing that the other will deal with the chores. What inevitably happens is that both get annoyed and frustrated and feel undervalued. However, by far the major incitement to matrimonial warfare at Christmas involves family issues. There is nothing more divisive in a family than fights about other family members. It brings out a ferocious need to protect and defend especially when accusation centre on mothers.

Typically most arguments centre around the unfairness of present giving – whose mother got a better present, for example – or a situation where a mother was rude to her daughter in law, and the partner didn’t stand up for his wife. In fact, the word ‘mother’ can be interchanged with brother, sister, aunt, uncle and any other family member.

Many women complain that other women members of the family in particular can be extremely rude, but the husbands’ don’t ever seem to notice. The offensive behaviour can take place right in front of them, but they seem to be oblivious to the nuances that other women can immediately sense. What many women fail to understand is that even when women are being particularly spiteful to each other in front of the husbands, the men will not notice, and will seem bemused and confused when confronted with this afterwards.

Further there are the infidelities. Christmas and New Year is the time when many women discover that their husbands have been having affairs, becoming suspicious after the men have disappeared for long periods of time with their mobile phones switched off. With the public holidays, the absences can’t be explained away by work.

Women will search for clues over the Christmas period, more often finding love letters, condoms, earrings that aren’t theirs and credit card receipts for presents they didn’t receive; in the most obvious places such as men’s pockets and brief cases. They will also find all their husbands secrets set out in black and white in emails or texts sent and received. There is always the flurry on 1st January of distressed women whose worst fears become realised.

Phone calls from the men at the beginning of the year are somewhat less with the ratio of 4:1 women phoning, but the phone calls that have been received centre on the fact that men tend to be upset when they are regarded purely as Mr Wallet, rather than a person with any value to the family. They complain that the efforts they make all year seem to go unappreciated and whatever they do, seems to be not enough.

For men who have been having affairs, they are quite happy to have their cake and eat it: to stay in a relationship with their wife even if it is unhappy, so long as they can see their lover at the same time. However, with forms of communication being so much more open for discovery by women in 2007 it is unlikely to be the year for the adulterous husband who is very likely nowadays to be discovered.

Whilst some people knee jerk react to their Christmas rows only to kiss and make up in the second week of January regrettably for most the Christmas row is the last straw and the death of their marriage dreams.

If you have any family law enquiries please contact us on 02083 432 998 or complete the enquiry form online.

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