Think Of A Number – And Make Christmas A Hit Advises Family Law Expert

Careless Whisper


Relationship Breakdown Over Christmas


Take a walk through any shopping centre in the run up to Christmas and there is a good chance that you will hear 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' being played in a retail outlet or hear brass bands belting it out.  A family law expert, however, believes that there is another number which should be focused upon at this time of year.

"Christmas is the time of year relationships finally reach breaking point for too many people whose liaisons were already under strain," says Kevin Harris-James, partner and head of the Family Law Team at the Midlands' offices of law firm Irwin Mitchell.

"Yuletide can be stressful for relationships, often providing the final straw for those relationships where cracks were already apparent. Therefore, our advice is that, if an argument is brewing, family members should focus upon counting to ten before allowing a disagreement to escalate."

January to March is traditionally Irwin Mitchell's busiest time of year, because of new cases coming in and divorce petitions being launched by people whose marriages fell apart during the holiday two years earlier. One of the grounds for divorce proceedings is couples living apart for this length of time and neither contesting the annulment."

Among the festive factors that Kevin believes sound the death knell for relationships are money worries, being forced to spend more time together, increased drinking, illicit text messaging and the temptation to stray at office parties and other social functions. 

"There are many reasons why the Christmas holidays can leave couples fractious with one another," explains Kevin. "The combination of partying, constant organising and planning, excessive amounts of food and alcohol and time at home can dampen the festive spirit and leave couples seething with irritation.

"The good news is that by taking a step back and avoiding pitfalls which have spelt the end for partnerships in years gone by, couples may be able to avoid tears with the turkey this year."

Kevin runs down the traditional top ten* traps:

Secretive mobile phone conversations and text messages lead to ever-more relationship rifts, particularly if they are to set up clandestine contact with secret lovers, risking distress for existing partners, who may overhear or check mobile phones

Merry Christmas Everybody

After a few drinks and amid the pressures of being forced to be pleasant to the family members from hell, it can be all too easy for one partner to express views which later they may have cause to regret.

Money, Money, Money

Cash crises and the arguments they produce are often the last rites for love affairs at any time of year but are increased by pressures to spend at Christmas.


One partner may fail to respect what the other is contributing to the festivities, for example providing a taxi service for the relatives, doing all the cooking, smiling sweetly at the in-law from hell.

Sounds of Silence

Couple refusing to speak or not wishing to row in front of children or relatives often build tension and resentment rather than clearing the air, making it more likely that they may seek divorce counsel in the new year.

Suspicious Minds

It is harder for people to cover-up a romantic rendezvous over the holiday through excuses such as the hackneyed "working late in the office." Their inability to think of convincing alternatives often causes partners' suspicions to rise.

Tempted by the Fruit of Another

Christmas office parties and other social gatherings, fuelled by drink and high spirits, can produce anything from a peck on a colleague's cheek under the mistletoe to a fling with a fellow worker that leads to marital meltdown.

Things Can Only Get Better

Christmas is traditionally a time to take stock over things like jobs and relationships. Many decide "there must be more to life than this", then make new-year resolutions to put their verdicts into practice

Time After Time

The twelve days of Christmas bring couples together for longer than usual, which can mean rows being as much a part of the holiday as presents and plum duff. Issues that are normally ignored are often magnified and tiny tensions can become massive, with the traditional visits to parents being just one frequent cause of friction.

You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

Carelessly abandoned gifts for illicit partners and receipts proving their purchase are also frequent causes of rows at Christmas.

Kevin concludes: "While I don’t know if we will enjoy a rundown of the top ten on a Top of the Pops festive special this year, I hope families don't make it into the above chart. I trust that they will pause and remember the significance of the number ten - it might help their relationships still be on the up long after the Christmas decorations have been taken down."