The last two years I was married, I packed up the Christmas decorations into separate boxes – his and hers – anticipating that a divorce would occur that year. We had made it through the holidays, with too-high expectations dashed and me choking down the bitter resolve to take action in the upcoming year to find a happier place for my family. I was acting out the very cliché I see every year in January.
The first Monday of the new year is sometimes referred to as “Divorce Monday.” The theory is that people contemplating divorce will wait until after having one last Christmas together as a family before taking action. I see this in practice. We have an increased number of filings in January, more consultations with potential clients, and cases that may have been on hold for reconciliation attempts move into action.
In an early December consult, a client relayed the following: “The holidays are coming up. Valentine’s Day is in February. Then in March we go on our annual family ski trip. April is our daughter’s birthday. May is our son’s graduation. Then in June we have a family wedding. So I am not sure when I will get back to you.” He said this after telling me how he and his wife had been struggling in their marriage and had been in counseling for over 7 years.
The truth is there is never a good time to file for divorce. Marriages do not suddenly crumble in January. Marriage is not black and white, good or bad. It is always on a spectrum. Good days and bad days. Divorce enters the discussion when the bad days start to significantly outweigh the good ones. And once this weighing has begun, and clarity found, that is the time to move toward filing despite all of the good excuses that are hanging around to support avoiding it for just a while longer.
The year I finally did file, it was in April. My birthday and my daughter’s 7th birthday were in the month I filed. The following year, my daughter recalled that we got divorced on her birthday. Not exactly accurate and she wasn’t saying it out of a place of upset, but what it reaffirmed for me was that there is never a good time to file and notwithstanding the moment divorce action is taken, you and your family will move through it.
The filing becomes a marker in your history. Regardless of whether it is born from courage, sadness, strength or anger, it signals the start of tremendous transition. It signals the beginning of the end of longstanding suffering in your marriage. It signals the path to new independence and authenticity. It signals, like the new year, a new life ahead.