Some of us have heard of an uncle or know of someone’s husband who disappeared for an entire December holiday. This may seem strange given that the festive season is meant to be about spending time with loved ones. However, it’s apparently so common that Power FM’s Thabiso Sikwane spent a segment of her show talking about these “disappearing” men.
“A lot of [callers] were saying that it either happens organically, or it seems planned when the situation is tense at home. Some of them will just say: ‘I want to be with my friends’ or ‘I want to go and visit my family,’” she says.
Sikwane explains that the ones who get away with the family excuse tend to be newlyweds who drop themakoti off with her family and then return to the city.
Some men apparently get a bit creative and make up stories about their whereabouts. “Some will go to the extent of saying something as ridiculous as that they were kidnapped and didn’t know where they were for a couple of days,” she explains.
No wonder then, that after all the turkey has been eaten and champagne guzzled, that the next stop for many seems to be the lawyer’s office to file for divorce.
Legal website The Firm says January is known as “the most deadly month for marriages” because it sees the most divorces in any given year.
Divorce attorney Charles Mandelow says the number of clients he sees in January is indeed much higher than in any other month.
Couples seem less inclined to break up the family unit over the holidays, which may be very traumatic. The new year seems better because this is the time when people feel confident about making a new start, and are more ready to let go of things they feel will not serve them going forward.
“Lots of couples want to start the new year with a new life, so they make resolutions and say: ‘Look I don’t want to be in this marriage and I want to move on.’ So, you find a lot of divorces coming into our practice in January,” says Mandelow.
Couples spend more time than usual together over the December holidays and so are forced to confront issues head on.
“During the year you go to work and sweep things under the carpet; you are in this comfort zone. Now you’re on holiday and have to face your issues,” says Johannesburg-based psychologist Jeremy Bayer.
Finances can also play a role, he says, explaining that the holidays can lead to elevated levels of anxiety, particularly because of financial woes.
“Many people see the holidays as a huge financial expense, and often the breadwinner is relied upon to provide gifts and that sort of thing, which causes a great deal of stress.”
Mandelow points out that there are actually a few benefits to filing for divorce in January.
“In December the courts are very congested with urgent applications. This one wants to take the children overseas, and this one wants to go on holiday, and so on. The attorneys are irritated, the clients are irritated and emotions are high.
“Interestingly enough, come January, everything is done in a calmer, more rational climate. The judges are also less stressed than they are in December when there is that last-minute rush.”