Is It Ever Okay To Separate Around The Holidays?

Is It Ever Okay To Separate Around The Holidays? Experts Weigh In

By Kelly Coleman for

Getting divorced is hard whenever it happens. But a relationship that crumbles around the holidays can seem unbearable, especially if kids are involved.

Unfortunately, we can't always time these crises and it's that time of year, whether it's convenient or not. Should you just get through the holidays, no matter what? Are there times when it's better to end things NOW, for the sake of everyone?

Avoid at all costs?

There are several things one must consider while contemplating separating or divorcing around the holidays -- namely, kids and extended family.

Your choices impact people outside of you and your spouse. GalTime relationship expert Jane Greer, Ph.D. believes that couples who quit during this time may be “subjected to more judgment, negativity, blame and anger” from those around them. Since getting divorced is upsetting even under the best of circumstances, she says it would be wise to avoid the split -- if possible.

Diana Kramer, MA, MHC-LP agrees and speaks from experience. As someone who endured her parents’ divorce over Christmas, she reminds us that, for many family members -- especially kids -- there will forever be an automatic association between the holidays and the divorce.

As far as birthdays and anniversaries go, Dr. Greer believes that choosing to separate or divorce around these occasions depends on how much precedent you give them. However, the association factor remains.

The holiday spotlight

We all undergo the immense stress to make the holidays the most wonderful time of the year. Extended family gathers together and parents want nothing more than to bring joy to their kids with traditions and presents.

The thing is, with all the added activities and duties, the chaos of everyday life still goes on, which equals added stress in the house and potentially on relationships.

Since we have so much to do and want everything to be just right, Dr. Greer points out that there is also an added amount of stress put on the spouse in an effort to get everything done.

Tensions between extended families, likely heightened at this time, may become unbearable. If there is resentment over gift giving (or lack thereof), note that it probably speaks to bigger issues.

Add all this up and if a relationship is already unstable, the holidays may be what send the marriage over the edge.

How to get through

If you are on the fence, take a step back and perhaps make no decision at all. Experts say some tattered relationships CAN be saved if both people commit to fix what is wrong.

While a couple can decide to take this step at any time, Kramer suggests the holidays may present unique opportunities to “conjure up some feelings that your relationship has been lacking”.

While holidays themselves may not heal a hurting heart, Dr. Greer thinks they can act as “a jumpstart to rebooting your marriage if someone takes the time to be extra thoughtful.”

If you don't think you can get through the emotional microscope of the holidays, a support system is key. Kramer insists that having a network of friends, family, or other sources of consolation and support, such as a therapist or spiritual leader, is vital. As always, try your best to keep things in a positive perspective.

“The fact that you’ve reached the decision to go ahead with the divorce is very relieving," according to Dr. Greer. She adds, "No need for battling or animosity. Use it as an opportunity to practice the way it will be going forward. Begin to change the way you interact with each other to be more respectful, more distant, letting go of unresolved issues.”

Of course, it goes without saying that if you have kids, surround them with love whether you are separating or sticking it out. Kids have a way of seeing the magic in everything and reminding us what the holidays are all about, what is important... and what is possible.

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