As Scottish schools head back for a new term and summer holidays end, many parents will be left with the same troubling question: after time off with my family, why do I feel further apart from my partner?
This is a common query posed to our counsellors in the weeks after the school holidays. We often see a rise in enquiries about counselling from parents during that time. But based on the perceptions society has given us, this post-holiday unhappiness appears to be inconsistent with what ‘summer holidays’ are supposed to be.
The summer holidays will ‘fix’ everything
Our perception is that summer holidays will ‘fix’ whatever issues or problems couples and families are facing. We buy in to the travel agent’s TV ad of couples in love and families enjoying quality time together. Whatever it was that we were unhappy about will slip away like the condensation on a cold glass of Sangria. Then the whole family will return happier and refreshed.
Parents and the busyness of life
The reality is of course somewhat different. In some cases time away from work and with family will do wonders for a relationship. But where there is an underlying tension or problem between parents, the summer holidays can make things worse. And often it is all to do with the busyness of life.
Modern life for parents runs at a frenetic pace. School drop offs, pick-ups, work, cooking, homework, cleaning, piano lessons, gymnastics – it is dizzying. Typically the time parents spend with each other diminishes and this is where problems arise.
Taken for granted and isolated
Partners begin to feel unimportant, taken for granted and isolated. The shared interests that sparked their love and friendship fall by the wayside. Communication becomes a series of factual updates on lost schoolbags, PTA meetings and whether they can afford a dishwasher.
These are problems that summer holidays are unlikely to resolve because, unfortunately, school holidays put more pressure on that precious thing called time. As we blogged about earlier, school holidays create a new set of problems and time pressures – childcare, getting time off work, the financial burden of entertaining the kids. Instead of providing time and space to ‘fix’ relationship issues between parents, school holidays can easily contribute to them.
Counselling – a ‘last ditch attempt’ and bound to ‘make it worse’?
Our perceptions also play a role in our attitude towards seeking help in relationship difficulties. The idea of couples or marriage counselling is big and scary. It is viewed as either a ‘last ditch attempt’ from couples on the verge of divorce or as something bound to ‘make things worse’ if raised with a spouse/partner. But again the reality is very different.
Couples do come to counselling when they have reached what they feel is the absolute breaking point. Counselling can help a couple retrieve their relationship/marriage in those circumstances but a more effective use of relationship counselling is starting it before you reach breaking point.
Check your relationship regularly
Fire fighters remind us to install and check smoke alarms regularly to protect against fire. Couples counselling can be viewed in a similar light; it is there when a full-blown ‘fire’ exists in a relationship but it is more effective when, like smoke alarms, it is used to help prevent issues escalating.
We hope you and your family had a great time during the school summer holidays. If it put pressure on your relationship with your partner or left you feeling further apart from them, speaking to us early will make such a difference.
Relationship difficulties between parents
The Spark offers face-to-face couples counselling and marriage counselling from our local centres. You can attend individually or with your partner at a centre local to you.
To talk about your options freephone our team on 0808 802 0050. Alternatively complete an enquiry form and we will get back in touch.
We also offer a range of free resources available for couples and parents available to download. These can help with some of the common challenges facing couples with children.