You’ve got the childcare sorted. Good start! Perhaps you and your other half are taking turns to work at home, or maybe you’re using up your holiday entitlement. If the worst comes to the worst there’s always the grandparents or a childminder or a local play scheme. So pat yourself on the back. It’s covered. Fingers crossed there’ll be no major tantrums or tummy bugs this year (and that’s just the grandparents).
So it’s time to look forward to the biggest of big treats, the long awaited and eagerly anticipated family holiday. In those weary moments between filling up the dishwasher and collapsing into bed, drink a glass of wine and dream about Bermuda, or the Balearics, or Bognor Regis – whichever charmed spot you’ve chosen this year.
Because wherever it is, it’ll be wonderful, won’t it? The days will be filled with delight for you and the children. Happy memories will be formed that will last a lifetime. The sky will be blue, the sea will be warm. In the long and fragrant evenings you and your other half with sit on the terrace/in the bar/in front of the tent, and share a bottle of wine/jug of sangria/can of lager and reflect happily on the joys of family life. As the sun goes down you will smile lovingly into each other’s eyes.
But was there ever such a perfect holiday?
For starters there’s the weather. Who knows, there might be days when it’s a bit rainy or a bit windy. There could even be a hurricane (although probably not in Bognor Regis). Then there’s the squabbling siblings, the younger one’s ceaseless chatter which provokes the older one into gloomy sulks. And there’s that gut wrenching thought as you pay for yet another expensive activity that the children would probably do just as well with a bucket and spade on the beach.
And don’t forget the querulous and hard to please other half. Last year they spent all of thirty minutes playing with the children and the rest of the holiday learning to scuba dive. How annoying was that! Or maybe they said, Here are the children, it’s your turn now, and spent the rest of the holiday flat on their back on a lilo in the middle of the pool, piña colada in hand.
The fact of the matter is summer holidays aren’t perfect and if you spend the year imagining that everything will be put right by one you will be sorely disappointed.
And sadly there’s a spike in divorces after the holidays, typically in September. But does it have to be like that? Do you have to return from your much anticipated holiday feeling betrayed and angry because your other half didn’t match up?
Of course no one advocates staying in an unhappy marriage because that’s probably no good for anyone, parents and children alike. But maybe there’s another approach. Maybe before going on holiday, maybe even before booking it, you could stand back and ask yourself, What do I want from this holiday? What can I do in advance to help make it work?
It might be an idea to talk frankly to your other half. Tell them just what it is you want. Tell them how you’d like the parenting managed. Ask them what their expectations are. Do they see it as the crowning achievement of the family’s year? They might well agree it’s an opportunity for family joy and togetherness. But they might say what they want more than anything else is relaxation, a break from the routine, some “me time”. Or maybe, deep down, they don’t like holidays at all, they really can’t stand travel, hotels, beach bars, infinity pools. What they really fancy is a fortnight hiking in the hills in a fluorescent cagoule, rounded off by wrestling with a sopping tent in the pouring rain.
It takes all sorts. You love them because they’re an individual? Right? Let’s face it, it could be that you and your other half have completely different expectations.
And to top it all did you know that some people see the summer holiday as the last chance to save a relationship. Put down in black and white that seems crazy doesn’t it? If the magic has gone, if your other half is annoying the hell out of you, maybe a more full proof method of stress testing the relationship would be to talk to them about it, address it full on. Who knows, you might be able to talk it through. Or if that doesn’t work perhaps it’s time to see a relationship counsellor. Maybe the relationship is over, or maybe it’s worth trying to save. Sometimes in the hurly burly of family life it’s easy to lose sight of each other’s needs.
If none of this works and you end the summer thinking, that’s it, I’ve had enough, then perhaps divorce is indeed the answer for you. You will be able to turn the page, find a new, independent life for yourself free of the burden and the unhappiness of your marriage.
But is divorce that easy? Looking on the bright side, it could be that you will reach an agreement about the finances and the children relatively painlessly. The marriage behind you, you embark on your new life. You bloom like a flower in the desert after a rainstorm. It’s the making of you. You’re happier, healthier and more in charge of your life.
If this is the case I’m happy for you. May you continue to prosper.
But sadly life after divorce isn’t always that simple.
You may have realistic and practical ideas about how you’ll live after the divorce but your other half might see things quite, quite differently. You might think the ideal solution would be for you and the children to stay in the family home and for the other half to move out and find a new place. This may indeed be the most sensible solution, both in practical and financial terms, and no doubt in the best interests of the children. But will your other half agree? Not necessarily. It could be they’ve got their head stuck firmly in the sand. So you contact a solicitor. You try collaborative law, or maybe mediation. These are often really excellent ways to reach a happy conclusion. But sadly cases about finances and children do reach the courts – an expensive and stressful business for all concerned.
Divorce does indeed have its downside. It could be that as you turn the page on your marriage you will find yourself starting a new life in a different home, your finances radically altered. The children may, or may not, adjust well to the new arrangements. They may or may not have good quality and regular visits with their absent parent. And you’re now functioning as a lone parent household which can be great but can also be very, very hard.
You might also find your wider relationships affected. Maybe a family member wasn’t as supportive as you’d hoped, maybe a friend tried to stay neutral and this hurt you. Suddenly it seems everything’s changed – your home, your finances, the daily slog of running everything, your relationships with your family and circle of friends.
I can honestly say I’ve never come across a client who wanted to get divorced for trivial reasons. Every client has their own unique and painful story to tell so I’m not advocating that anyone should stay married if they don’t want to and I’m not saying that divorce is a bad thing that should be avoided. I’m just making the point that if you think this summer holiday is make or break time for your relationship, please try to talk it through beforehand, manage your expectations, maybe get professional help with your relationship. Because divorce isn’t a walk in the park, it can be painful and can have long lasting consequences.
So anyway, enjoy the holidays! Let’s face it, if you can sort out the summer childcare, you can sort out anything.
Do you find the holidays stressful? We would love to hear from you so please leave us a comment.
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JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.
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The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog might have application to you, you should seek expert legal advice.
image Michelle Reif (public domain)