By Michael Kimmel | Life Beyond Therapy
I didn’t make this up. I was reading a professional journal and this was mentioned in an article on counseling couples. They didn’t explain why, so I did a little research of my own to see if they just put this in the article to get my attention or if there really is some truth to it.
Unfortunately, it appears that there is a lot of truth to it. Here are some of my professional observations on why this is so:
The holidays are like a pressure cooker for any relationship. Marriages, especially new ones, often buckle under all the “sturm und drang” (turbulent emotion or stress) that go on during November, December and early January.
How do we juggle Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends? Buying gifts. Negotiating who we’ll spend time with and when. Step-kids. Ex-wives. No time for relaxation. Awful in-laws that you’re stuck with for hours. Your spouse’s holiday parties with their boring colleagues and intoxicated bosses.
See why this is a tough time of year?
Many people, after the holidays, decide to end their relationship/marriage. The shit has hit the fan and they just don’t want to clean off the fan and do it again.
Already, as of this writing, I’ve been swamped with requests for couples counseling. January has always been an intense time for couples; married or not. January is the beginning of a new year, and for some people, a new year brings about deliberations on things like:
- What do I want this year to be like?
- Do I want to be with this man/woman another year?
- What was last year like with her/him? Is this year likely to be any better?
See why people come to couples counseling?
We do evaluations when a new year begins, consciously and subconsciously. We may not make New Year’s resolutions, but we recap the past year and wonder what the next year will be like.
If our relationship/marriage isn’t doing so well, we can either end it/divorce him or her, or work on it to improve it.
Obviously, it is beyond my talent to tell anyone whether they should stay or leave a relationship/marriage; but it is my job to help couples take a good, clear look at their relationship and “fine tune” it (e.g., see what works, what doesn’t and what can be done to make it better).
We all want 2017 to be better than 2016 and we may think that we need to end our relationship to make it so. That may be true, but, if we don’t change and we simply change partners, then guess what? Not a whole lot is gonna change in the long run. We’ll simply repeat our same old patterns with a new person and wonder why we’re in a relationship that is just like the one before, and the one before that …
Maybe January is “divorce month” because we feel unsatisfied and don’t know what to do about it. We think that change is good, so we change our mate/spouse/lover in hopes that things get better. It’s a good impulse, but there are better ways to execute it.
If you want your relationship with a special man/woman to improve, consider this:
Talk about it. Yeah, I mean talk about the hard stuff, the awkward stuff, the stuff you’ve been avoiding. If it’s too hard for just the two of you, get professional help to do it.
Work on yourself. It’s so easy to blame your unhappiness on someone else, someone who you lean on, count on and is — ultimately — going to let you down. We’re all too human and imperfect. Don’t expect perfection from someone else (since you’re not perfect, right?).
Lighten up. Easy to say, but not so easy to do. Have more fun in your life, with and without your partner. Don’t be joined at the hip. Have your own life and your own set of friends. Don’t depend on each other for your happiness.
Start looking for things to appreciate about your relationship. Focus more on what works. The more you pay attention to the good stuff, the better you feel.
January doesn’t have to be “divorce month.” Instead, consider the alternatives. Talk with your partner. Get some professional help — if needed — and make your relationship better.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.