I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was lying by the pool at our Tuscan villa. It was blissfully hot. I had a book in my hand and a glass of chilled Italian wine by my side. I should have been more relaxed than I had been all year. As I lifted my head and watched my husband chase our young kids on the grass, I should have been filled with feelings of contentment and gratitude. Instead, all I could think about was divorce.
I was on vacation with my husband and kids, and I had never been surer of anything. I wanted to end my marriage. It was a life-changing moment for sure, although we didn’t separate until many months later. But at the time, I couldn’t see it for what it was.
It comes as no surprise to me that divorce is seasonal. A study from the University of Washington found that people are more likely to initiate divorce proceedings immediately after winter and summer vacations, and this may be due to the fact that we face the holidays with rising expectations, only to end up disappointed when the trip ends up shining a brighter light on the cracks in a marriage.
The study suggests that we see vacations as a chance to mend our relationships. It’s a common assumption (or at the very least wishful thinking.) But in truth, I already knew that our marriage was beyond repair. For me, it was more a case of trying to keep it together for the sake of our kids. Families go on vacation… that’s what they do. And at that point we were still a family — or were presenting ourselves as such, at least.
Rather than approach the vacation with high expectations, I had none. My only hope was that we’d survive it without any tension or hurt. It was the worst vacation I’ve ever been on. I couldn’t even enjoy it vicariously through my kids. Spending two weeks in a remote Italian villa with the man I no longer loved was a unique type of hell I wish to never revisit. Although we’re now good friends (four years after finally separating), I can’t even think back to that fortnight abroad without feeling nauseous.
We hadn’t even made it home before I told him I wanted out.
It didn’t go smoothly from then on, and we stayed together until the following spring, but I can completely relate to couples who make a conscious decision to file for divorce straight after their summer vacation. Whether you’re away for one week or several, going back home is a period of change. Back to work, back to school, back to normality — but possibly with a new sense of optimism and a determination to make changes for the better. It’s the perfect time to dig deep for the courage you need to move on — before the next vacation rolls around.