‘I want a divorce’: angry words that often end in regret

It’s the week after Christmas, and the phones have begun ringing in lawyers’ offices all over the country. Couples have spent a week or more, cooped up together with small children, teenagers or in-laws, without the soothing distractions of their working routine. Close proximity can magnify character traits and behaviours in our partner which we are aware of already, but the holidays give us thinking time, and time to feel irritated or angry, and to wish our relationship was different.

It’s not always a major crisis that causes us to pick up the phone. Maybe you have experienced with renewed frustration your partner’s inability to arrive home from the pub on time, or their obsession with Facebook. It might be, instead, their constant failure to empty the dishwasher or refusal to do the early morning shift with the baby. You feel either nagged or ignored, criticised or unappreciated. Your partner simply isn’t showing they love you by their words or actions; that can be enough to trigger the fatal words.

Alcohol doesn’t help; most of us say things we later regret after an extra glass or too, and some of us have let the office flirtation change into ‘sexting’ when we are bored or cross at home. I frequently see couples where one has heard a text ‘ping’ on the other’s phone and within five minutes the accusations are flying, mutual trust is at stake and both are on shaky ground. Dangerous times for relationships which are even mildly shaky. And after rash words have been spoken, it’s hard to lose face, and not pick up the phone ask a solicitor for advice.

Lawyers, no matter how excellent in their field, are unlikely to offer support which is against their commercial interests. A process is set in train, legal letters are written, houses are valued, children are told their mum and dad are separating, often without anyone pausing, and reflecting on what other professional help is out there.

And there is plenty of good, trained, help available to couples who are struggling. In the UK an Internet search will offer you a list of Relatetrained counsellors, or contact details for your local Relate centre. All Relate counsellors are rigorously trained to focus on the couple and the relationship without judging you, or taking sides. We have the skills and the experience to support you as you begin to understand what is pushing you apart, and to help you to find a way forward. We don’t push you to remain a couple, but we do aim to give you the best chance possible of having a future together.

So if you want to call someone over the next few weeks, or at any time during the year, can I suggest that you call a Relate counsellor, rather than a lawyer in the first instance? It’s so easy to ‘make the wrong call’ and so hard to undo the damage afterwards.