Despite its billing as the most wonderful time of the year, the Christmas period has quietly developed another, very different reputation: the period in which the most applications for divorce are filed. This trend is so pronounced that the first working Monday after Christmas has been dubbed “Divorce Day”, as Google searches and inquires rocket after the festive period.
So why is Christmas such a stressful time? How much strain could one holiday bring?
Let’s assess the various factors that Christmas can introduce. First and foremost is the fact that Christmas is a holiday, which means that people are able to joyfully leave the office, racing home for two weeks only to realise, to their astonishment and dismay, that this period of freedom has led to a realisation that they cannot stand the person they’re with. It’s an unavoidable fact of human nature that anyone will end up hating anyone if they’re with them for too long; cabin fever just seeps in and you need a break.
Secondly, the impact of visiting relatives can drastically augment stress levels. Dealing with the pressure of various extended relatives, often confined in a house well beyond its normal capacity, can inflame any underlying tensions.
Then there are the expenses: hosting parties, going on holiday, purchasing presents etc. all of which can cut swathes through your finances. Financial strain seamlessly connects to domestic tension, and so the statistical spike in divorces is perhaps unsurprising.
Disappointing presents might also aggravate an already sensitive family climate. Many of us have seen the scene from Love Actually where the wife receives a CD instead of the dazzling gold necklace she’d found in her husband’s pocket the day before. It could be the tiny spark to the enormous powder keg and ought never to be underestimated.
Of course, there are so many other ways that Christmas can injure a marriage – the fact that it’s dark and chilly can constitute an oppressively gloomy atmosphere, the copious amounts of alcohol can also exacerbate existing tensions, the stress of cooking and cleaning can raise tempers – any of these might contribute to the overall feeling of despair and irascibility.
Perhaps the final nail in the coffin is simply the fact that Christmas will strive so very hard to be Christmas. The expectations are so high, and the Disney image of the idyllic sing-along family around the fire so cloying, that it all just becomes too much. Our expectations are forcibly elevated, and a constant paralytic fear of failure runs rife.
We are simply more likely to feel dissatisfied: and it seems that this dissatisfaction may not just limit itself to our feelings towards the festive period.