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Summer Holidays can put a Strain on Relationships

The summer holidays can be a stressful time for families, putting additional strain on relationships that might already be troubled.

Relationships under Pressure

Relationship charity Relate apparently saw a 9% increase during September last year from couples experiencing relationship difficulties, and is expecting to see a similar spike in demand this year.

Relate also gets a spike in calls in early January, but says that couples are more likely to proceed with a divorce after the summer holiday than the Christmas break. September is a more energetic time of year whereas January can be very bleak and resources depleted after dealing with Christmas, the charity explains. The New Year spike can be a “get it off your chest” call or a cry for help, but the September spike is potentially much more serious.

According to Relate, couples invest so much in a holiday, both emotionally and financial, and the levels of expectation can be very high. When this happens there may be, as with Christmas, a huge risk of disappointment. Some couples may think their holiday is a chance to sort things out but find they are unable to.

“All the research tells us it’s not divorce itself that causes the greatest stress but how it’s carried out,” commented Relate counsellor and spokesperson Arabella Russell.

“It needn’t be a catastrophe - happy parents apart are a lot better than unhappy parents together,” she added. “But if you are going to separate after September, you need to recognise that you’ll be co-parenting from now on.”

Summer Holidays can be the Last Straw

Family mediation provider, National Family Mediation (NFM), has also noted the sometimes detrimental impact of the summer holidays, and says it experiences a rise in demand during that period from couples going through divorce or separation.

“The long school summer holiday will be the final straw for many couples whose relationships have been strained for some time,” explained NFM Chief Executive, Jane Robey. “It’s not just the week away somewhere warm, but the time at home when stressed-out families are spending more time together.”

Contributing Factors

The organisation points to three main factors that contribute to the demise of an already rocky relationship during the summer:

  • The fact that families are forced to spend much more time together, often in close proximity
  • Daily routines that are followed during term-time often have to be changed during the holidays
  • Increased expenditure as the result of a holiday away, or just to entertain family members

“As the summer holiday goes on, NFM’s mediators will expect to see more and more couples who have already separated or divorced seeking to change the arrangements imposed on them by a family court,” said Jane Robey.

“Separated families often find the summer holiday is when they discover agreements that were imposed on them by courts are simply not workable,” she added. “Arrangements for picking up and dropping off the children that might work in term-time are exposed as impractical by changes in established routines. Resentments resurface, hostilities accelerate, and the child can be caught helplessly in the middle.”

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