A problem shared by mother-of-four and GP Clare Bailey: My husband says he wants a divorce
Q Over Christmas, my marriage reached breaking point. The stress of having my husband’s elderly parents to stay coupled with the demands of our young children meant we did nothing but snipe at each other.
The constant fear of passing on Covid — we tested daily — didn’t help. Tensions culminated in a huge row on Boxing Day, when he said he wanted a divorce.
We haven’t spoken since. I’m stressed about the future. How can we move forward?
A Getting together at Christmas is wonderful in many ways, but it can also test the best of relationships. More family time is not always better, as you have discovered.
An anonymous woman asked Clare Bailey for advice after her marriage reached breaking point over Christmas (file image)
We all get emotional and say cruel things at times, and this is definitely one of those times. No wonder early January sees a spike in divorce inquiries.
Your husband’s sudden demand to split sounds as if it came out of the blue and, unless there is someone else involved, there may still be a chance to patch things up. But constant arguing is not only damaging for you, but for your children, too.
So, what can you both do to improve things? First, you need to recognise what’s gone wrong.
Professor John Gottman, who runs the Love Lab at Washington University, in the U.S., where he has been studying couples for many years, has identified four things which often lead to divorce — what he calls The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
1. SHOWING CONTEMPT. This is hugely damaging. It sweeps into a relationship like a cold draught and was found to be the main predictor of divorce.
2. CRITICISM. Tempting as it might be to make insults, to complain that they never put the kids to bed or always leave a mess in the kitchen, it is never helpful.
Clare (pictured) shared Professor Gottman’s tips to rebuild a healthy relationship – including showing your admiration and taking an interest in your partner’s world
3. DEFENSIVENESS. Becoming cross or blaming the other person only makes things worse.
4. STONEWALLING. The silent treatment, denying them intimacy, is the withdrawal of love.
Now you know what to avoid, here are Professor Gottman’s tips to rebuild a healthy relationship:
Show your admiration. Celebrate your partner’s successes and commiserate with their failures.
TURN TO EACH OTHER
Regularly we make ‘bids’ for our partner’s attention, such as when you find something amusing in the newspaper and want to share it. How they respond is important — turning to you with interest is good.
BUILD LOVE MAPS
Take an interest in your partner’s world. Know each other’s goals, worries and hopes.
Amid all the goings-on in family life, it is easy to forget this one.
Don’t let problems fester.
One of the crucial factors is whether you both want to give it a go. If you do, you have a good chance of healing the rift. For more advice, see relate.org.uk.
THE HEALING POWER OF A COLD SHOWER
Most days I switch my shower to cold for 60 seconds. It makes me gasp, then feels pleasantly tingly. But afterwards, I feel so energised.
When it comes to cold water immersion, however, I’m a lightweight. Small studies suggest it may help reduce muscle soreness. Tennis player Andy Murray is famously a fan of ice baths.
But cold water can effect your circulatory system, so seek advice if you have a condition. As for me, I look forward to plunging into the sea — in summer!
You can write to Clare at firstname.lastname@example.org or Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT .