When you need someone to talk to, and can’t talk to each other…
The period between Christmas and the New Year is a strange time. The old year feels over and we have this breathing space before the new one begins to reflect on how our lives actually are and how we want them to be. For most people I know, this entails, not so much reflection, as a flight of fancy in which we and our lives will be so much better and shinier this time next year. We will never eat chocolate again. Ever. The result of which will be that we will be two stones lighter (five inches taller and ten years younger). This one is usually made while we’re still wading knee-deep in Quality Street. We will join the gym and go every day after work (except that after we’ve set up the Direct Debit we remember that, in January, it’s cold and dark after work and we’re knackered after work and there’s still Quality Street at home). Our New Year Resolutions tend to be enormous. We look at the things about our lives that niggle, and the things we outright hate, and we plan giant steps to change them. And that is why they never work.
It’s no coincidence that January brings the highest incidence of couples separating and seeking legal advice for divorce. This is a very big step to take, much bigger than seeking counselling or advice, and it can be irrevocable. I know someone who left his long-term partner and his home at this time – forever – to ‘travel and have more exciting sex’. By the time he realised that, as New Year resolutions go, ‘international travel and sex’ was quite a vague notion on which to jettison the central foundations of his life, it was too late.
This January thousands of couples in Scotland will consider doing the same thing. The pressures of Christmas often culminate in a state where all concerned are physically, emotionally and financially strung out. Then, after the flurry of activity is over, the problems we have avoided talking about all year can come to a head. Sometimes we don’t even know what the problems are. It could be that our lives are drifting apart because of different work commitments; or that one partner feels they’re carrying the burden of financial or household responsibilities, but when you’re not talking, these specific problems can turn into a vague sense of discontent and resentment: a feeling that you are deeply unhappy and you just want out.
The changes we need to make in our lives are more likely to succeed if we set realistic goals and take small steps. Rather than never eat chocolate again, try keeping it to weekends. Instead of going to the gym every evening, try taking the stairs instead of the lift. Instead of leaving, how about getting a little support for your relationship. If you can’t talk to your partner or don’t know how to begin, it might be easier to talk to a stranger; someone on the other end of a phone who won’t take sides or sit in judgement. You could get alternative options for dealing with your problems, such as relationship counselling; you could simply get the problems clear in your head, or just feel listened to.
If you need someone to talk to, talk to us, we’re here to help. The Spark Relationship Helpline is free to call from all landlines and most mobiles 0800 802 2088. It’s a small step but it could be a new start.