When we make New Year’s resolutions, we have in mind how we can each better our lives. For many, that involves more than eating clean and going to the gym, though these objectives are indeed essential to living a rich, full life. As the high incidence of spouses who split up during January indicates, New Year’s resolutions often involve a complete overhaul of one’s life, making it seem temporarily worse long before it feels better. The question thus becomes twofold: Why? And, is it worth it?
January, or Divorce Month as sometimes referred, appears to be that time when those who are miserable or have been coasting along for a while finally acknowledge that though there is no perfect time to disrupt the status quo, it may be as close to perfection as they are going to get. The holidays are over. A new year is ahead of them. And for the first time in a long time, they are optimistic about the future and making a fresh start.
As a divorce and family lawyer in private practice, every year I see a rise in couples that, come the New Year, want to change their lives. Frequently they come to me already knowing that the choice they have made is the right one. They have thought it through and considered carefully the consequences of their decision and how seeking divorce will affect them and their family emotionally, financially, and socially.
Still, a part of them remains afraid, which is entirely understandable. Sometimes my clients feel guilty, whether for the pain they believe those around them will suffer or for not feeling guilty enough, or even at all.
I get it.
Sometimes it happens that your spouse chooses divorce for you. But even if he or she does, the power to be happy remains all yours. You have a choice – to either see divorce as an ending or a powerful new beginning.
In certain ways, I counsel my clients to view their divorce as both. To take stock of their marriage and determine what went wrong, which areas they could have focused on to make it better, how they can become emotionally and financially independent in the wake of their breakup, and, eventually, if they desire, build a stronger relationship with a different partner sometime in the future. My belief in second chances (or however many you need) is so strong that I wrote The Pre-Marital Planner: Your Complete Legal Guide to a Perfect Marriage and created Divorce Dating, a free downloadable app devoted to pairing like-minded, like-experienced people together so that they may find companionship and love again.
It is important to note that all of these changes can happen at any time during the year, not just at the beginning of it. In fact, contrary to popular belief, January is statistically not the month in which divorces peak. According to a recent study conducted by Brian Serafini and Julie Brines at the University of Washington, the most popular months to file for divorce are March and August, meaning that the chill couples feel in January may be due to more than just the weather and the calm before the proverbial storm.
Regardless of why you choose to divorce and when, there is an upside and that upside is change. Much like divorce, “[c]hange is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end.” – Robin Sharma