It’s a strange fact, but divorce lawyers across the country can tell you that January is a very busy month for divorce filings. Couples that have “held it together” through the holidays for the sake of the children, or to “keep up appearances” for extended family, or who weren’t quite yet ready to give up on their own visions of their relationships, flip over their calendars to January and start making real moves toward divorce. They begin researching divorce on the internet. They start asking around about lawyers. They start writing checks to attorneys. It’s as if someone, somewhere, flipped a switch – New Year, new life. A life without their spouse.
On the flipside of this, those of us who specialize in couples therapy find our phones ringing off the hook when we return from our New Year’s holidays. Couples who have not yet decided to take that ultimate step toward divorce and still want to work on their marriages seem to feel a sudden sense of urgency about marital therapy when the new year rolls around. Just as some birds feel the strong pull to migrate, and some animals feel the annual drive to hibernate, these couples seem to hear nature saying “you can’t do what you’ve been doing for another year.” The start of the new year gives them the extra push they need to finally pick up the phone and make an appointment with a couples therapist.
While it is an excellent thing that these couples seek help at the start of the year, it is a sad irony that they are unable or unwilling to recognize the need for that help the rest of the year (and perhaps in years past, as well). Sometimes, by the time they make that first phone call to our offices, they are dealing with anger and resentments that have had time to grow from small sparks to four-alarm fires.
Many of us make New Year’s resolutions– to lose weight, quit smoking or maybe even take up a new hobby. We often do better at keeping some of those resolutions than others. As each new year turns over we feel an urge to make something better out of the new year that we are given, and to try and be our best selves.
For those of us in committed relationships, perhaps the best resolution–and the most important one to keep in order to become our best selves–is to be vigilant about our relationships throughout the coming year. To have a truly great relationship, this means acknowledging that where there is smoke there is fire– any time of the year, and doing something about it in the here and now.
Copyright © 2012 Fayetteville Psychotherapy Associates, PLC