Thanksgiving is just a month away, and that means many couples will face a very tough decision over the next few weeks– can they keep it together through the holidays, or do they need to bail now?  If you find that you cannot hold it together, then the answer should be clear– bail now.

There is nothing worse than trying to keep up a facade and make it appear to everyone like everything is fine, when inside you feel like you are dying.  The holidays are supposed to be a festive time, but if you feel like you have nothing to celebrate and the last thing on Earth you want to do is buy presents for your partner, then the time has come to be honest with yourself and find a way to gracefully exit.

I’m not suggesting this is an easy process to go through, nor one that you should try to tackle by yourself.  You need to find an ally and develop a plan, but time is of the essence if you are feeling like a ticking time bomb because the last thing you want to do is explode, especially during the holidays and definitely not in front of little ones.

I’ve always been a big fan of lists, and if ever there is a time to carry a journal and have lists to keep you focused, it is when you are going through a separation.  If I had to develop a check list for a friend about to separate, it would look something like this:

1. Get a consult with an attorney to learn about your rights and obligations;
2. Do a budget for yourself– this is how you can determine what you can afford in rent, etc.;
3. Find an apartment or suitable short-term living arrangement;
4. Notify the post office and get mail forwarded elsewhere;
5. Go through your home and list the things you want to take;
6. Set up your own bank account and stop making charges on a joint account;
7. Change your passwords and lay low with social media;
8. Rely on friends or find a counselor for emotional support;
9. Try to talk with your partner about the logistics of moving out; and
10. Resist the urge to find comfort in the arms of another– at least for 3 months.

Throughout the years, I’ve always been amazed by the dramatic change I’ve witnessed in my clients– even in our first session.  They tend to come in scared, often at a total loss and with some very mistaken notions of the law.  By the time we are done addressing the major issues, they leave so much more relieved and feeling like this process will not be so daunting after all.  Those that listen to me and get their to-do lists done in a diligent manner make progress at record speed.  Then as the months go by, and we have everything in writing and things are much less chaotic, I see them all calm down and get to a much better place in life.  By the time I see most of my clients for their final divorce, usually a year after our first meeting, some of these individuals are almost unrecognizable– they are so much happier, healthier and at peace.  This is how it should be, and this is how I know that I may have seen them at their worst, but that the best is yet to come.

The holidays should be a time for joy, but it can be a very painful time for those who don’t feel they are getting the love they deserve, for those that have lost that connection they once felt with their partner, or for those that can no longer consider home a safe haven.  Seriously, it is not easy to leave, but if you hate the person you’ve become in the relationship, and you can’t stand the sight of the other person, you need to stop pretending that this is a sustainable situation.  It isn’t fun for anyone to make believe that it’s all okay when it’s not, and the joke is on you if you think those around you haven’t picked up on the fact that there is a rotten smell in Denmark.

So, will you make it through the holidays?  I’m betting no if you feel like you are a volcano that is about to erupt.  Only you know how bad it is at this moment, but I promise that if you ask for help, you will be amazed at how supportive others will be in your time of need, and if this year ends on a low note, at least you can focus on turning things around next year!

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.