Some make the decision when heated arguments over the holiday season are the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Others decide months earlier, but limp through Christmas for the sake of the children enjoying one last festive season as a family. There are a host of reasons why January is the most popular month to file for divorce. But deciding whether to end a relationship or to continue trying to make it work is tough. This may be one of the reasons why last January relationship charity Relate saw a 39 per cent increase in calls to its national helpline.
Katharine Hill, UK director of the charity Care for the Family (careforthefamily.org.uk) and
co-author of The Really Really Busy Person’s Book on Marriage, says: ‘People might have been having difficulties in their relationship for a long time and use Christmas as a waiting period to see if anything changes. Then in January they take stock and take action.’
Research carried out by Co-op Legal Services found that the main reason for divorce was adultery. But the second most common reason was people simply falling out of love. So is it possible to rekindle the spark? Rather than ‘out with the old and in with the new’, can the new year offer rebirth to a relationship that has gone stale? Katharine says: ‘Obviously if there is abuse in the relationship, walk away and get appropriate professional help. But if it’s a case of growing apart, it’s worth giving it some thought. We live in a society where if your mobile breaks, you go and get an upgrade. But we shouldn’t be applying this way of thinking to relationships. It’s worth working at it before walking away, particularly if you have children.’ Relate counsellor Arabella Russell explains why it might be best to try to reignite the spark instead of saying goodbye. Arabella says: ‘People need to accept that you can’t maintain the level of romantic feeling that you felt at the very beginning of a relationship. Over the years, things change — you have children, get a new job, move house. Often couples say, “It was amazing back then”, but they forget that we all show our best side at the beginning. If there’s a sense that love has simply “gone underground”, it’s worth recognising that relationships are all about disconnecting and reconnecting again.’
She adds: ‘Relationships need tending to. Couples need to recognise when they haven’t given each other enough time. After all, “love” is a verb — a doing word. Often relationships fail because of a creeping process of growing apart, and Arabella stresses the importance of making time for each other. She says: ‘The idea of a date night is great but it can be laden with a sense that this has to go well. I often advise couples to go for a walk or even a drive together to talk. It can be easier to talk when going in the same physical direction, rather than the pressure of a date night.’
There’s another thing that both Katharine and Arabella agree is important in rekindling the spark — sex. ‘It’s important to invest in your sexual relationship,’ Katharine says. ‘Try to talk about it and about your expectations. You might not want to schedule in a night for sex, but try to schedule in the possibility of sex. Don’t wait until you’re both too tired. The passing of time means we age and our bodies change shape. But it’s important that you both make an effort to look your best as physical attraction is still important.’
If you really want to try to fall back in love with your partner, take note of Arabella’s final words of advice. Remember and recognise how it was at the beginning, when you listened to each other, talked more and made time for each other,’ she says. ‘Avoid accusing your partner, and say things like “I feel lonely” rather than “You make me feel lonely.” Try to find out what led to this feeling of disconnection. And remember, the dark days of January don’t last forever.’
Katharine’s tips for reigniting the spark
1 Spend an evening together
You don’t even have to leave the house. Watch a film together or open a nice bottle of wine over a candlelit meal once the children have gone to bed.
2 Remember the positives
Instead of concentrating on the negative, think about all the things that attracted you to your partner in the first place and all the things you do still love about them.
3 Get help
Sometimes it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees, especially when emotions are high. So consider marriage counselling to help you gain a better perspective on your relationship before giving up.
4 Make time for sex
Perhaps you’ve forgotten to invest in this area of your relationship. But being physically intimate can help you to feel more mentally and emotionally connected.
5 Look to the future
Difficult times, such as those when you’re running around after children, will pass. You won’t always have a two-year-old crying at night and climbing into your bed. When you feel under strain, try to look to the future and remember that you and your partner will get back your time together. Challenging phases will end.
6 Don’t compare yourself with others
Social networking sites are a platform for people to show off their ‘perfect’ marriages. But no relationship is perfect and photographs can create a false impression, so don’t compare your relationship with other people’s.