Will your mar­riage sur­vive a hol­i­day?

That long-awaited sum­mer trip is more likely to end in di­vorce than the post-christ­mas pe­riod, ex­plains lawyer Aye­sha Vardag

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page -

Why your sum­mer trip could be a fast track to di­vorce

When it comes to hol­i­days, most peo­ple spend all year long­ing for qual­ity time with their loved ones. A few lan­guorous weeks in the sun will be the per­fect chance to “get away from it all”; to leave the stresses of work and rou­tine be­hind; to fo­cus on your re­la­tion­ships – whether on an in­ti­mate cou­ples’ get­away, com­plete with toe-curl­ing PDAS à la St­ing and Trudie Styler, or a whole­some, screen-free ad­ven­ture for all the fam­ily. Yet, all too of­ten, that lon­gawaited sum­mer hol­i­day can turn into tor­tur­ous weeks of sun, sea and strife. We’ve all heard about the postchrist­mas di­vorce rush, but ac­tu­ally, it is the end of the sum­mer hol­i­days where di­vorces re­ally peak.

In the UK, we don’t get a monthly break­down of when cou­ples split, but stud­ies in the US show that Au­gust is the high­est point for di­vorce pe­ti­tions.

Re­late, the re­la­tion­ship char­ity, re­ported a 20 per cent spike in calls last Septem­ber, com­pared with an av­er­age month, and my own ex­pe­ri­ence echoes this, with more en­quiries com­ing into our law firm in Oc­to­ber alone than the en­tire first quar­ter of the year. Peo­ple in strug­gling re­la­tion­ships of­ten put a lot of pres­sure on their hol­i­days: a golden op­por­tu­nity to en­joy each other’s com­pany away from the stresses and strains of or­di­nary life.

Sadly, for many cou­ples it ends up as the mo­ment that they re­alise it is those strains and dis­trac­tions that have been mask­ing deeper flaws in their mar­riage.

Two weeks in each other’s com­pany can of­ten be­come the ex­act op­po­site of the tonic peo­ple ex­pect. Rather than bring­ing fam­i­lies to­gether, it can high­light how far apart they have grown.

Whether it is be­cause one per­son can­not be sep­a­rated from their work phone, dis­agree­ments over how to look af­ter the chil­dren, or overindul­gence in alcohol, hol­i­days of­ten re­veal whether cou­ples re­ally are work­ing to­gether or not.

As a di­vorce lawyer, my au­tumn is of­ten filled with peo­ple whose hol­i­days didn’t just fail to live up to their ex­pec­ta­tions, but ex­posed much deeper fault lines in their mar­riage.

Some­times the blow-up can be dra­matic. One wife ar­rived at our of­fice fresh from the Eurostar. She and her hus­band had gone for a ro­man­tic break in Paris, but when a small row about how much she was spend­ing down the Champs-élysées es­ca­lated, she re­alised she could no longer cope with his con­trol­ling be­hav­iour. She walked away from their lunch and jumped on a train straight back to Lon­don. She had filed her di­vorce pe­ti­tion be­fore the day had ended. On other oc­ca­sions, the hol­i­day marks the end of a far slower slide to sep­a­ra­tion. One hus­band who came to see us was con­stantly frus­trated by his wife be­ing dis­tracted by work. He’d planned an ex­otic hol­i­day for the whole fam­ily – two weeks on an ex­quis­ite Caribbean is­land with min­i­mal phone re­cep­tion and only the patchi­est of Wi-fi. When his wife char­tered a boat to find some­where with a bet­ter sig­nal to check her emails, he re­alised that he’d had enough of her worka­holic ob­ses­sion and left her to con­tinue her re­la­tion­ship with her smart­phone in peace. Of course, it is not just fam­ily hol­i­days that cre­ate prob­lems for re­la­tion­ships. Where spouses have strayed, the other woman or man of­ten wants their share of time in the sun. Once upon a time it was easy – a con­ve­nient “business trip” could crop up and pro­vide the per­fect cover. But such sub­terfuge is harder in our tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced times. One phi­lan­derer came to see us af­ter be­ing caught out by his hol­i­day snaps. When his smart­phone synced to the fam­ily ac­count, his lat­est pho­tos showed that, rather than be­ing at a dull business con­fer­ence, he was ly­ing on a beach with a lady

who was def­i­nitely not his wife. And an­other was rum­bled when his wife checked the fam­ily bank ac­count and saw the bills that her hus­band’s mis­tress had run up on very ex­pen­sive de­signer biki­nis.

Th­ese sto­ries may sound amus­ing to many, but each one rep­re­sents the sad end to a re­la­tion­ship. Of­ten cou­ples have worked very hard to keep things go­ing and have pinned their hopes on a big sum­mer get­away to fi­nally take them back to a bet­ter place. In­stead, they find that the pres­sure of keep­ing chil­dren en­ter­tained while try­ing to find time to re­lax only cre­ates more ten­sion. Com­bined with be­ing cooped up in the close quar­ters of a ho­tel or hol­i­day let, those ten­sions can eas­ily ex­plode into the end of a mar­riage.

When you can’t even en­joy a hol­i­day with your spouse, it can high­light that your busy and separate lives back in the real world are not just the con­se­quences of hec­tic work, so­cial and fam­ily cal­en­dars, but dis­trac­tions you have both built up to avoid deal­ing with the re­al­ity of a fail­ing re­la­tion­ship.

Be­ing forced into each other’s com­pany by the sum­mer break can make it plain that cou­ples are miss­ing out on love and af­fec­tion not be­cause ex­tra­ne­ous forces are com­ing between them, but be­cause that love just isn’t there any more. One client once tear­fully con­fessed: “I just couldn’t wait to get back to work,” as he felt so awk­ward around his wife.

It’s a trend that is mir­rored in the celebrity world. While their sum­mer breaks might be more glam­orous, many do still try to take time off from their busy, jet-set­ting sched­ules for a cou­ples’ hol­i­day. The re­sults are sim­i­lar to those of us mere mor­tals. Last July, Drew Bar­ry­more’s mar­riage to Will Kopel­man fell apart, as did Mary J Blige’s 12-year union. Even Hol­ly­wood su­per-cou­ple Brad Pitt and An­gelina Jolie fell prey to the sum­mer curse, sep­a­rat­ing af­ter a fight on a flight, in Septem­ber last year.

It might sound like 2016 was just a bad year all round, but it’s no anom­aly. The pre­vi­ous sum­mer saw the demise of just as many high-pro­file cou­ples. Gwen Ste­fani ended her mar­riage to Gavin Ross­dale in Au­gust 2015, just weeks af­ter be­ing pic­tured cel­e­brat­ing the Fourth of July as a fam­ily, while Ben

Affleck and Jen­nifer Gar­ner parted ways that June. Even Ker­mit the Frog and Miss Piggy fell foul of the sum­mer split, an­nounc­ing their di­vorce in Au­gust of that year.

There is a les­son from all of this that we can take; namely, about the gap between ex­pec­ta­tions and re­al­ity. Sum­mer es­capes can never be the cure for floun­der­ing mar­riages. Our re­la­tion­ships need to work on a day-by-day ba­sis, rather than limp­ing along in the hope of a sum­mer­time shot in the arm. The fam­ily break is rarely the idyll we hope for – what with de­layed flights, un­ruly chil­dren and nowhere to es­cape.

If you are go­ing to make a mar­riage that works, it is vi­tal to cher­ish the or­di­nary days to­gether, in­stead of pray­ing that two weeks away will cure all ills. And if you do go on a sum­mer hol­i­day and find it a real chal­lenge? Per­haps it is time to ac­cept that your re­la­tion­ship needs a more dras­tic form of re­hab, be­fore you spend an­other sum­mer ar­gu­ing over paella.

Break­ing up for sum­mer: a get­away can be an op­por­tu­nity to en­joy each other’s com­pany, like St­ing and Trudie Styler, bot­tom, but it can also ex­pose flaws in a re­la­tion­ship, says di­vorce lawyer Aye­sha Vardag, be­low

Celebrity splits: Ben Affleck and Jen­nifer Gar­ner, above, and Gwen Ste­fani and Gavin Ross­dale, be­low, fell foul of the sum­mer split in 2015

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