Friday, June 9, 2023

The Divorce Diaries: “I Told My Husband We Were Splitting… On Christmas Day!”

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Welcome to our series, The Divorce Diaries: Today, we have a Christmas Divorce. We hear from a woman who quite unexpectedly chose Christmas Day itself, as dinner was being served, to tell her husband she wanted a divorce.

In our past instalments over the last year we’ve covered everything from when you’re most likely to divorce to whether they’re contagious to whether being on the contraceptive pill can effect your chances! and have now spoken to dozens of women – including one whose husband announced he was leaving her to have an open relationship with a 19-year-old, another who was quite literally ghosted by her own husband and one who discovered the real reason her husband divorced her was because he had a baby with her SISTER.

If you have a topic you’d like to discuss, share your thoughts, experience or advice about, drop a line to [email protected].

One of Sam’s very first memories is of Christmas Day. She can vividly picture the red velvet stocking her grandmother made, which would be hanging at the end of the bed each year. On December 23 every year of her childhood, her family would drive out to her grandparents house in the middle of nowhere and spend a week with them. Sam says she can still smell the cinnamon that would be in the air, and picture the candy, little toys and a perfect orange that would always be in her stocking come Christmas Day.

Since then, it has always been her favourite time of year. Except last year, something happened that means she’ll never look at it the same way again – and she desperately hopes her children are too young to remember this last Christmas.

“They’re both under five,” she says. “So I hope there’s still plenty of time to give them positive Christmas memories.”

Christmas can often be a stressful time of year, and often tensions can boil over – but Sam’s was a bit different to the regular gripes of Christmas stress.

See, last year, on Christmas Day, reasonably unexpectedly, Sam ended up telling her husband that they were going to be getting a divorce. In front of all his family. While dinner was being served. And she was 100 percent serious.

She still is.

Sam and David had been married for seven years, after they met through a mutual friend in their late twenties. They’d spent four years living overseas and during their travels, David proposed in Rome. When they arrived back home for their wedding, Sam was pregnant with their first child. 

She says a few friends already had a child or two, and said their relationships had changed since having kids – but Sam was confident their marriage would be different.

“David and I had a very equal partnership,” tells Sam. “We split everything evenly – finances, cleaning, all the household jobs.”

But during the first year after Sam welcomed their son, she felt a shift in things. While she didn’t work for the first year – and wasn’t eligible for paid parental leave – she found herself doing more than the lion’s share of work at home.

“I was looking after the baby, at home every day, and I think because of that David expected that I would do all the household stuff. He’d sometimes cook dinner, but more often, he’d expect I would do it because I was home.”

Sam found a job and went back to work, but was soon pregnant with their second son. This time round, she had paid parental leave and only took six months off, but noticed she was still the one doing most of the jobs at home.

“When I went back to work, I told him we’d be going back to sharing things evenly,” she says. “We had a good chat about it and things were a bit different, but, I don’t know… it was like he couldn’t see what needed to be done around the house?”

The invisible load of looking after every facet of their home life just continued to weigh more and more heavily on Sam. “He’d do the occasional daycare pick-up, but it was treated like my job always – anything to do with the kids was. He’d say ‘if you need something done, just tell me,” but THAT was the problem, he never felt it was his responsibility to work out what needed to be done.”

Sam and David’s relationship began sliding downhill, she says – he seemed to be out spending time with friends and working late, more than ever. And she felt more and more isolated, looking after everything else that was going on with their family. As Christmas loomed, things seemed to only worsen. 

“We got into a fair few fights, but, the worst part was that neither of us seemed to be bothered to keep the argument going,” she says. “One of us would just leave and go to bed without anything being resolved.”

It was Sam and David’s turn to host his family for Christmas, plus they invited Sam’s brother and parents. 

“It was assumed that I would sort out what we were doing for Christmas dinner,” says Sam. “With two kids under five, and 16 people to cater for, I felt like it was going to break me.”

In the end, it was a supermarket order that was the final straw.

Sam had planned everything out, but realised on the 23rd that she was missing a few vital bits and pieces from the supermarket. To make life a bit easier, and avoid a trip to the supermarket with the kids in tow on Christmas Eve, she managed to nab a pick-up slot in the evening of Christmas Eve, which she asked David to pick up on his way home from work. 

Except, despite her reminder text to him, David didn’t pick up the order. He also didn’t pick up the phone when she called him to ask what was going on, when she got a message that the delivery slot time was up and the groceries had not been picked up.

“I was beside myself with rage by this point,” says Sam. 

Unable to come up with another option, she bundled the kids in their pjs and drove to the store herself. She’d already bathed and fed the kids alone, and then, she read them ‘The Night Before Christmas’ alone, and got them off to sleep.

A couple of hours later, after wrapping presents, she was exhausted – and angry – but went to bed, alone. She didn’t hear David come in, but the next morning he said it must have been just after she went to sleep. His phone had died and he’d forgotten all about the order.

“I was so determined not to argue in front of the kids, I said we would talk about it later,” tells Sam.

But, before they got the chance, after being stuck in the kitchen preparing and putting out dinner, Sam was about to head upstairs to get the children, when David called out for her.

“He asked if there was anything for one of his sisters, who had now gone gluten-free. It was the first I’d heard of it,” she says.

Sam says she looked at him, stunned, and wild with rage. David stared back, confused, then asked again if they had anything fo her.

“It was kind of an out-of-body experience,” says Sam, who responded with something no one in the room was probably expecting.

“No. But I have something for you, David. A f***** divorce.”

Looking back, she says, she feels incredibly embarrassed about the way she went about things, but at the time, it felt like her only option. 

She says she’s not entirely sure how everyone reacted, but she remembers it being very quiet and David awkwardly laughing, then following her out of the room.

He moved out on Boxing Day, and they’ve been working out childcare, and how to navigate the future as a separated couple. She says David’s mother hasn’t spoken to her since – nor has two of his sisters, but she has seen a lot of his oldest sister (the one who went gluten-free!). Sam says that sister felt guilty for a while that she was the one who caused things to come to a head, but, as Sam has told her about her side of the story and the years leading up to the divorce, the sister understands why Sam snapped (although she wishes she’d waited a few days – or at least until after dinner had been served!!).

And while she regrets how she told him she was going to be divorcing him, she says she doesn’t regret doing it. 

“We’ve still got years before we can actually divorce,” she says. “But I know it’s the right thing. He barely bothered to try to talk me out of it – I think he was mostly just embarrassed about how it happened, rather than being upset that it was happening. He didn’t get it – he kept saying he knew how much I loved Christmas so he was letting me ‘do my thing’. But doing my thing shouldn’t have meant doing all the work.” 

Thankfully, she says, her kids haven’t heard how it happened, and nor do they really fully understand what’s gone on since.

“I think the oldest actually thinks it’s cool she has two houses,” she says. “I’m hoping they never find out about it being at Christmas and that it never becomes a big deal. I’m don’t know if it’ll ever be the same, but I’m hoping I can still love Christmas too.”

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