My ex and I were married for just four years but together for ten all in. We both loved socialising and partying but actually we had some quite deep seated differences when it came to all the stuff that makes you settle down with someone, start a family etc. One of those things was how different our own family backgrounds were. And differences in our families always sprung up over Christmas. We didn’t have kids so we were expected to travel to both sets of parents and take it in turns to spend actual Christmas day with them. My parents were always welcoming but quiet and chilled. We’d have a cosy Christmas, just family, big dinner, get hammered and slob out in front of the TV. His parents were much more sociable and always had a ton of people at their big house through all the festivities and they expected everyone to work hand, foot and finger to make everything run smoothly and we were all on a three line whip to be charming, sociable and gregarious. Very different!
My ex never wanted to spend time at my folks and never for Christmas day. He always found a reason why we needed to go to his parents (they were moving house, his dad was ill, their diary was busy before and after). When we got to my parents he would get his laptop out and just sit there doing work and not getting involved in my family. It was so rude! We never really rowed about it but it was tense. How he treated my family was really rich because his family expected full involvement with all their social engagements and were really full on. If I wanted to retreat from the social hubbub for any reason, I was treated as a social pariah. Now I’m with someone else who actively likes my family and I love his (they are much more similar) it makes such a difference!”
Beckie 41, divorced 3 years ago from Bristol (married 4 years, together 10)
“I fought constantly with my ex. It was always her and the kids against me. Christmas was a battleground because she was shit with money and always wanted to buy loads of toys and gifts for the kids which I had to pay for. The Christmas before we got divorced she had just a few weeks before racked up an £800 bill at the garden centre so I was a bit pissed off about big spending and we fought a LOT over Christmas. She was determined to go to town for the kids and I thought they were getting spoilt (and I was getting cleaned out). Her family actually sided with me which wasn’t helpful in the end as she then accused me of turning them against her. I didn’t manage to stop her spending and I remember the January was one of the worst months I’ve ever gone through because I didn’t get paid until the end of the month but we had nothing left and I was so angry with her. We fought the whole time. I was so stressed about money and she just cried and manipulated her way out of any kind of financial responsibility.
After we separated money was a massive bugbear with her having no idea about how to manage it (or share it) but my Christmases have been like paradise since.”
Matt, 46, Reading (Dad to two kids, married for 12 years)
“My ex just told me I can have my kids for 3 hours on Christmas day and 3 hours on New Years Day. Christmas is still crap even after a divorce.”
Dave 48, Beckenham
“I separated several weeks before Christmas. The whole period was an absolute daze for me. There was no tree. I think I sent cards but I didn’t have the heart to say what was going on so I just signed them from me. The astute friends picked up on it, the other ones didn’t and just sent the usual happy family cards with round robin letters in and photos of their kids. I was in our joint home but the plan was that I would move out in the New Year and my husband would move in so I spent Christmas packing up our home and trying to find somewhere to live. I cried all the time. It was bloody awful. I moved out early new year and by the time I came to pick up the heavy bits with the van a couple of weeks later he had moved his new girlfriend in. I didn’t realise. On the day I turned up with the removal van I opened the door with my key and the house was silent and I thought he had made himself scarce while I was moving my stuff and carried on. But then I heard muffled noises upstairs. So I went upstairs calling out and it was only when I was about to go in that he called out that I shouldn’t come in because he was undressed. His new girlfriend was there with him and they both came down in their dressing gowns and milled around while I moved my stuff. It wasn’t as if there was any overlap, he had only just met her, but I found it really weird that he had just immediately moved her into our marital bed.”
Claire, Catford, 41 (married 15 years).
“My ex and I had really grown apart but what really drove it home was when she bought me a novelty Christmas present. It was a cooking kit called “Chef Le Bloke” and you just had to add lager and cook it. What’s more, she supplied the lager, but didn’t give me the whole 6 pack, just one tinnie. I had bought her her favourite perfume and a pair of earrings and to be honest I just thought “F*** you” and that’s when the rot really set in.”
Marvin, 50, Bristol (married 16 years)
“My ex was moody all the time and was particularly bad one Christmas. As usual, I was desperate to cheer him up. To make matters worse, on Christmas day, he stepped in a big steaming dog turd. He blamed me for making him go on a walk. To try and get him into a better mood, I started cleaning the poo out of the sole of the shoe with all kinds of utensils. As I was picking the excrement from his shoes with a toothpick as he watched TV, I remember thinking, “Is this it?” and soon after, I left.
P.S There is more.”
Jade, 37, Essex (married 3 years)
Dr Isabelle Hung is a co-founder of divorceclub.com and clinical psychologist. Having got through her own divorce just three years ago, she is now remarried and happy to report that divorce really is an opportunity for growth and positive change.