New Year's Separation
Whilst many of us welcomed 2023 with excitement and thoughts of New Year’s resolutions or goals we wish to achieve, there are also many of us struggling with the state of our couple relationship and close to ending it.
This is no surprise for family lawyers who traditionally see an increase in client numbers in January with high numbers of partners seeking legal advice for how to separate. Some lawyers see an increase of 30%. For family lawyers January is traditionally known as Divorce Month, and this usually begins in the second week of January when many of us head back to work after the Christmas break.
Therapists are also typically inundated at this time too. I know in my clinic we always experience a huge spike in clients contacts, and many of these are related to partners having increased depression, anxiety, or loneliness relating to issues in their couple relationship.
What we don’t know is whether this New Year will be any different. Many lawyers have already experienced these spikes following the lifting of Covid restrictions and lockdowns. Therapists similarly saw major spikes last year, as Covid related anxiety, depression, and stressors pushed many more people to seek help. I hope this January is different, as relationships have already been heavily tested during the pandemic.
I’m not against couples separating. No-one walks in anyone else’s shoes and can determine just how unhappy they are in their relationship. I do, however, believe we need to try everything to fix it before leaving, especially if there are children involved. Sadly, there are many relationships that could have been saved if partners knew how to get the right help.
New Year's Resolution
If you’re going to make any New Year’s resolutions, I believe you would best be served by working on your couple relationship. Unless there is violence or abuse occurring, then it may be worth trying again to resolve issues in your relationship. Just make sure you’ve done everything you can before you open the door to separation.
Separation processes are nearly always anxiety provoking and exhausting, and typically it takes 2 years to feel yourself again following a separation – and that’s if it’s a friendly enough separation. I have some clients who have to deal with continuously hostile and belligerent exes even years after the actual separation. They are dragged into multiple court processes, racking up massive legal fees, leaving them unable to properly get on with their lives.
Unfortunately, financial stress can lead many couples to separate, however this doesn’t solve the financial problem as separation leaves everyone worse off. On top of this, many couples have already been financially hammered by the pandemic. Separation brings the standard of living down a notch or more for everyone. See if there are other ways to solve your financial stress, even if it’s a long-term plan such as studying part time or skills development.
If you are a couple with regular cycles of conflict, then you can work through the conflict to make sense of it and understand where it really comes from. You can learn why you are triggered by your partner. You can also learn strategies to calm yourself down once you have been triggered.
If you are a couple with communication difficulties, then you can work to overcome the differences between you. Communication is tricky and we can easily take our partner’s communication style personally. As a therapist, I can tell you that our partner’s communication style is all about them, it’s hardly ever personal, even though it can feel very personal indeed.
If you are a couple struggling with decreased intimacy and connection, then you can improve this too.
Therapy is a helpful avenue for many couples to go down. Learning about each other in couples therapy is an intimate experience and leads to greater joy and connection between partners. Take the time to get to know each other and why you react to each other the way you do.
There are also online courses and even podcasts that can decrease your conflict, improve the way you both communicate and increase intimacy and joy. If money is tight, these are cheaper options than ongoing therapy and can provide you a wealth of information. They really can set you on a better path in yourself and your relationship.
Make it a priority to resolve your relationship difficulties in 2023.