Friday, March 1, 2024

Dating Someone New in 2024? They Might Still Be Living With Their Ex. Sobering Divorce Predictions For the New Year

As we head into the New Year (which begins with “Divorce Month”) we’re talking 2024 divorce predictions with one of NZ’s most in-demand Divorce Coaches – because, yes, unfortunately January is the month most couples file for 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].

While the start of a new year can be a time of new beginnings and fresh starts, it can take on a whole new meaning for couples who are in a relationship that is falling apart. Many of those couples limp through Christmas – a complete hotbed of stress. There’s financial burdens, tricky family dynamics, time pressures, a packed calendar and situations that often highlight an uneven split of the mental load.

“Let’s just get through Christmas,” a lot of those couples say – some, are hopeful that when the pressure is off, the relationship can recover. Others, know the relationship is done, but stick it out, simply because they just want to spare their children from going through a break-up at Christmas.

Either way, come January, Divorce Coaches like Bridgette Jackson from Equal Exes find that their phones are ringing off the hook.

We’ve talked about this phenomenon before – and have heard some dire predictions about what might happen – but, have they stacked up, and what will 2024 hold? Are we over the worst of it?

Last year, Divorce Coach Bridgette Jackson of Equal Exes made some predictions that, based on what she had seen in 2022, that we would continue to see a rise in the rate of divorce and separations as we headed into 2023 – particularly as the threat of a recession loomed over our heads, putting financial pressure on families after an already tumultuous few years. She predicted that in 2023 we’d see more couples who had separated, continuing to live together, simply because they are financially unable to run two separate households.

Bridgette said: “I do predict that we will see more couples choosing to continue to live together, even though they have separated. We are already seeing instances of couples who cannot afford to run two households, for many reasons including the high cost of housing and increasing inflation.  This in itself will create a whole new set of challenges for couples and children and can only last for so long.  There are many implications here that could include an increase in familial domestic violence, including the impact on children and escalated conflict if a third party enters the picture.”

Well, unfortunately, Bridgette was bang on – her business is only continuing to grow, due to demand. And, while rates of divorce have only slowly increased from 2021 to 2022 (numbers for 2023 aren’t out yet), in her experience, the number of couples who have split, but can’t afford to divorce is very much increasing. And, 2024 isn’t looking particularly rosy either.

“We are confident we will see a further increase in separations and divorces next year,” she says. “Come January, after spending yet another difficult and awkward extended holiday period together some unhappy people will realise they have no choice but to leave regardless of the finances, as people can only live for so long in less than adequate relationships.  This too, will be a flow on from COVID and the resulting three years that have followed.”

Divorce Season – and What Lies Ahead

Bridgette says that while some people plan for their January split, for others, it comes after a stressful Christmas, and indeed, a stressful few years.

Many Kiwis have been through the wringer, with their relationships taking the impact of lockdowns, prolonged physical distancing, health issues, home-schooling, lack of personal space. She’s seen these factors also cascade into other issues.

“Job uncertainty and financial stress has led to increased arguments and fighting between couples and, unfortunately, increased domestic violence. We’ve also seen a marked increase in substance abuse from drugs, alcohol and pornography. These unhealthy behaviours exacerbate relationship issues, placing even more strain on them.”

Many couples might be holding onto some baggage from the events of the last few years, and all it takes is a bit more stress – say, the stress that comes hand-in-hand with Christmas – to bring some of those feelings to light.

“Yip, unresolved conflict in relationships that have been hidden or buried often come to the surface over holiday periods, further stirring up relationship issues,” says Bridgette. “This creates emotional and physical distance, with couples becoming disconnected, even while being together. Spending the Christmas holiday at home can become too much for some couples! People may have been putting on a front for the relationship, however over the holiday season those niggly behaviours and issues become a stress test”

“People may come to the realisation that after spending Christmas holidays together, and the previous multiple lockdowns tied together for weeks on end, that enough is enough.  They may no longer be happy to put up with niggly behaviours, financial stress and disconnected relationships.  Life is too short to be unhappy and the New Year offers a new start.”

But Bridgette says she and her team have encountered some new common scenarios for clients coming to them in 2023, which are quite different to the ones they most often saw a year or two ago. There’s still issues with a lack of communication, but there are three scenarios they are seeing repeated over and over again.

“We’re seeing couples arguing in excessive conflict,” she says. “Another thing we’re seeing is, couples not knowing or not making an effort to engage with professionals for help in unpacking trauma or previous history that one or both are still carrying.”

“In this case the ‘plaster has needed to be ripped off to deal with the wound before healing can begin’ before reaching an agreement or considering a successful, but different relationship moving forward. And if children are part of the equation, it becomes even more crucial to address these issues to safeguard them from any negative consequences.”

Bridgette says the number of couples who are in crisis due to trauma, has increased so much, that she’s brought onto the team a new trauma coach and a Rapid Transformational Therapy Practitioner. 

Based on what she saw happening in 2023, there are three scenarios Bridgette thinks we’ll see a lot more of in 2024:

LIVING TOGETHER APART

“Some couples have not been able to afford to physically separate and have had to instead choose to stay in less than adequate relationships as their largest asset [usually their family home] is worth much less,” says Bridgette.

Bridgette says this issue hasn’t just affected low and middle socioeconomic groups – she’s seen it right across the board. “However, for those with bigger homes, they have been able to have a degree of separation as one can move into a spare room,” she says.

It’s a complex living scenario, and one that requires a lot of work. Bridgette says it’s essential both parties can agree to be amicable and have the ability to communicate. She also highly advises couples to talk to a divorce coach and obtain legal advice.  

“There is a limited time period where this will work for people and for each scenario it will look and be different,” she says. “The ‘couple’ have had to have a separate property agreement or property sharing agreement with separate scenarios whereby they have plan a, b & c and establish boundaries/rules of engagement.”

POSTPONING SPEARATION

“We have seen some instances where not only has the family home reduced in value, but the cost of living along with other financial influences such as a financial downturn or redundancy in the latter half of this year,” says Bridgette. “This has created a fear of having to further downgrade a standard of living if they were to move to two households.  The result has had to be a rethinking of plans and deciding to continue to cohabit the family home until a financial settlement can be reach or until circumstances.”

Again, Bridgette has seen this scenario play out across all socio-economic groups.

‘FLATTING’ WITH YOUR EX

“This is where some former couples who have been able to remain amicable have agreed to remain in the same home together, but are for all intents and purposes cohabiting their homes as flatmates,” says Bridgette. “This is until there can be a change in circumstances, usually this is based on financial limitations, to do with their joint property or other assets.”

Bridgette says she works with many clients in this situation and help them work to agree on and develop an interim agreement as well as a final resolution when decisions will be made, including that of the family home. 

“This does work for some couples who are amicable but there is still the need for rules and boundaries.  The shelf life of this arrangement is limited due to the emergence of third parties and the like.  It is not suitable for conflict laden relationships or those fraught with domestic violence issues.”

Are you living with an ex? Tell us about your experiences at [email protected]

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