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Relationship blues: How to ensure you don't become another January divorce statistic

January is when divorce solicitors enjoy a surge in business. Dr Ray O’Neill puts the New Year blues into perspective for couples.

Dr Ray O'Neill

TODAY IS “BLUE Monday”, allegedly the most depressing day of the year, as fading Christmas memory and obscure end-of-month pay melds in the perfect storm of festive credit card bill arrivals, cold weather, hollow New Year’s resolution and low motivation.

Then according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, January is the most significant month for divorce and separation applications, one third higher than normal.

But before couples desperately flee to solicitors to ensure that this will indeed be the “Last Christmas”, bear in mind the exponential challenges the whole Christmas/ January season has had on you both, to distil whether your relationship pressures are underlying or merely seasonal. All couples have their difficult days, weeks, months, and especially “blue Januarys”.

Stress relief

Pampering yourselves or even just being kind to each other is so crucial against the January blues. We are so often entrapped in the simply having a wonderful Christmas time fantasy, that we don’t allow ourselves feel the stress and pressure it puts on us both. It is exhausting, so allow yourselves some space and time to just be exhausted.

My favourite day of Christmas is seclusion from everyone for one whole day, to just sit down together to watch four films while scoffing leftovers and selection boxes. It is deliciously lazy, and well deserved, floppy downtime together.

Meet the Out-Laws

Families, love or loathe them, there’s no avoiding them over Christmas. And nothing brings out the silliness more than alcohol-fuelled family festive politics.

At Christmas, and throughout the year, it is vital to put your own relationship and family ahead of other obligations. Of course, your mother-in-law would love to see you all on Christmas Day, and Stephen’s Day, and sure you’ll stay on a few days extra too.

But you cannot sacrifice your relationship to each others’ families, no matter how lovely they seem. You have to hold a priority for yourselves.

Money, money, money

Christmas bankrupts people on so many levels when everything in our consumerist culture says spend, spend, spend. Whether it’s the latest must have compensation for the children, competitive present buying between friends and family, or compulsive twelve pub socialising to conceal a lonely insecurity.

So now even though you are both broke, you don’t have to be broken. It is wise to use credit card bills to actually measure the true price of Christmas, so you can bear that in mind for next time. There are potential New Year’s financial resolutions you can do together to really examine how and where you spend.

Enjoy yourself resolutely

New Year’s resolutions are all too often very negative, a virtual anti-Santa naughty list of things to be eradicated, fall off January tongues. How about instead of only making resolute eliminations for your relationship?

You both agree on one lovely thing to do together once a month to strengthen your relationship. This could be a night away together, a shared come-dine with me evening for you both, a country walk, and dare I say a bit of love making. Resolutions are more likely to hold if they are positives around enjoyment rather than denial. What fun thing can you both resolve to enjoy more in your lives?

Always remember that what doesn’t kill your couple can always make you stronger. There are meant to be tough times, richer and poorer for us all. It is not being constantly challenged but what is done with the challenges that truly measure couples that will last.

Dr Ray O’Neill is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist working in private practice in Dublin. As Ireland’s only resident male Agony Aunt, Ray writes significantly (and sometimes with significance) about love, relationships, and desire in the 21st century. He continues lecturing at Trinity College and at DCU. He is has recently completed his doctoral research on the history of desire.

He will appear on Then Comes Marriage? tonight on RTÉ2 at 9.30pm – a six-part series.

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Dr Ray O'Neill

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