My Wife Wants A Divorce After Christmas, What Do I Do?

by Stephen Waldo

My wife wants to leave after Christmas

Did you know that more marriages separate during and after the holidays than any other time of year?

A Christmas divorce is every man’s worst nightmare, and yet many men are already facing the possibility of losing their marriage in the new year. For these men, what was supposed to be a time of family and love has become a time of confusion, pain and depression.

As you continue reading, we’re going to figure out why your wife might be pushed to leave this Christmas, and what you can do about it.

Divorce Day Is Almost Here…

Have you heard of Divorce Day?

The first working Monday after Christmas is when the most D-bombs are dropped.  All over the country, divorce attorneys are bracing themselves for the huge influx of emails that always come right after Christmas.

According to a study by Irwin Mitchell attorneys, 27% more divorces are filed in January than any other month. Wife drops the D-bomb bomb after Christmas, files in January. That’s the pattern.

Maybe your wife has already told you that she’s planning to leave after Christmas.

Or maybe something just doesn’t seem right… Your marriage has been on the rocks for a while, and it feels like she’s really running on empty this holiday season. More than usual, it seems like she’s faking the holiday cheer.

You’re worried that your wife’s new years’ resolution might be leaving the marriage.

What do you do?

Let’s start by stepping into your wife’s shoes.

Why Would She Leave After Christmas?

Every unhappy wife knows that asking for a divorce before Christmas is really bad timing.  If you have kids, it’s downright cruel to break apart the family during the holidays.

So why do so many wives do it?

Your wife isn’t stupid; she knows this is bad timing. That tells you how desperate she is to make a change.

Every unhappy wife knows that asking for a divorce before Christmas is really bad timing.  If you have kids, it’s downright cruel to break apart the family during the holidays.

So why do so many wives do it?

Between my experience talking with thousands of men from Husband Help Haven and a whole bunch of additional research, here’s what I can tell you is probably going on in your wife’s head.

She knows that Christmas is supposed to be spent with the people you love… And yet, all she can think about is how much she DOESN’T love you. The obligation of spending time with you and the family just makes her realize how unhappy she is being stuck in the role of wife and mother.

On top of that, if you’re like most men, you don’t do a great job helping your wife prepare for Christmas.

  • She’s the one going out to buy all the presents.
  • She’s the one scheduling all the time with extended family, including yours.
  • She’s the one decorating the house.
  • She’s the one planning all the meals and festivities.

Even if the imbalance isn’t quite this extreme, many wives feel like they are the only one trying to make the holidays happen, and chances are this has been a yearly pattern. She feels exasperated and overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, the New Year looms just beyond the horizon…

She looks back on the year behind her and realizes that she hasn’t been happy at anytime in the past twelve months. Maybe she feels like she’s been unhappy for the past 5 years, 10 years, or longer.

So, what does she do?

She decides that next year is going to be different. She will NOT allow herself to spend another year faking it, another year “staying for the kids”, another year spent putting everyone else first.

Holiday stress and New Year’s reflection have combined to create a pressure cooker of discontent.

She feels like she’s reached the end of her rope and can’t make it even one more day inside the marriage. In her mind, there’s never going to be a “good” time to ask for divorce, so may as well get it over with now so that she can start the new year on the right track.

If your wife hasn’t said anything about separation or divorce, but your marriage is on the rocks, beware…

A common theme that I saw over and over again on forums from women talking about leaving the marriage was “I’m going to give it ‘til the end of the year, then if things aren’t better, I’m leaving.” If she still feels like the feelings are never coming back after getting through Christmas, she plans to leave.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, if you don’t take special effort to step it up during the holidays, you could find yourself as another victim of this year’s Divorce Day marital massacre.

What’s Missing From The Marriage?

By far, loss of love is the most common motive for separation during the holidays. She could have lost her love for a number of reasons:

  • Life has gotten in the way
  • The husband is coasting, not putting in any effort
  • Sometimes the husband is even actively making things harder, e.g. he’s out drinking with buddies living as if he’s a bachelor while she’s home with the kids.

Then, three things will inevitably happen:

  • 1Your wife doesn’t feel wanted or prioritized. She is tired of coming in second place.
  • 2Because of the first thing, your wife loses her feelings for you, and she doesn’t believe they will ever come back.
  • 3This makes it so that she doesn’t WANT to spend time with you, and the time with the kids doesn’t make up for that… Especially if she’s doing all the work.

As she spends hours preparing for Christmas, all she can think is, “I don’t want to be doing this, why am I doing this?”

No matter how it happened or how long it took, the reality is that the marriage and family both feel like nothing more than thankless work and sacrifice.

Recommended: 3+1 Separation Strategy

How To Prevent a Christmas Divorce

What do you do this month to get the best chance of staying married in the new year?

We’re going to go through two different action plans below, but first, let’s set some general goals for the month of December if you suspect that your wife is planning to leave the marriage in the New Year.

What Would It Take For Her to Stay?

If you are one of the men dealing with a potential Christmas divorce, then this article has probably been painful to read so far. However, this is stuff we need to talk about because you need to know where your wife’s head is at.

Now that we know what’s going on inside your wife’s head, let’s try to break down what it would take for her to stay:

  • She would need to genuinely believe that either the marriage, or you, or both can change.
  • She would need to feel herself WANT to spend time with you. To feel like time with you is enjoyable.
  • She would need to feel included and understood and not alone.
  • She would need to believe that the marriage CAN make her happy.

So what do you need to do? We’ll look at some overall goals below, then dive into specific strategies after that.

1. Figure Out How She’s Feeling

How do you do this?

Asking her is a good start!

If your wife hasn’t already come out and told you how she’s feeling about the marriage or even about life in general, the easiest and simplest way is to ask. Before you do, make sure that you prepare yourself to hear some bad news. Your wife may not share her feelings with the greatest of kindness… It may be like taking the lid off of a boiling pot, suddenly all the scalding hot steam rushes out at once.

There are other ways to figure out how your wife is feeling too. Pay attention to her non-verbal communication.

  • Does she seem stressed or on edge?
  • Does she seem apathetic or emotionless?
  • Is she avoiding you?

These can all clue you in to how your wife is feeling and how she plans to get through this Christmas season before getting the divorce next year.

2. Reflect On The Marriage

How did you get here? When was the last time that your marriage felt like it was truly thriving?

Is your wife justified in feeling like you haven’t prioritized her? What things have you put above her and the kids? Have you made a genuine effort to change yourself, or have you spent all your time focusing on the things SHE should be doing differently?

Another good way to think about this is by asking yourself this question:

Has your wife asked you to change anything in the past year, either about yourself or the marriage?

Think hard about this one, because most men brush it off when their wife asks them to make changes. Here are some common things I’ve seen wives beg their husbands to start doing that men typically ignore:

  • Spend more time at home
  • Spend weekends with the family
  • Help out more around the house
  • Go out and socialize more, have more fun
  • Be more adventurous, seek more excitement in life
  • Stop asking for sexual favors all the time

Any of these ring a jingle bell?

Another good question to ask yourself is this:

What was your marriage like this time last year? The same, better or worse?

Again, this can clue you in to how your wife may be feeling and what things may have been building up under the surface to push her away from the relationship.

3. Set Goals For Yourself

This isn’t about saving your marriage or getting your wife back. This is about YOU, and being the man that YOU want to be.

Good goal-setting can really be broken down into two simple questions:

  • 1What bad things are you doing that you want to stop?
  • 2What good things are you NOT doing that you want to start?

These can be habits, hobbies, lifestyle goals, anything really.

Some say that resolutions are pointless because ultimately, January 1st is just another day on the calendar. However, there’s no avoiding that New Years is a time where we are naturally motivated to make change. Take advantage of that and think about what things you want to start doing differently.

4. Help Make The Holidays Happen

This is another one that’s not about saving your marriage or changing how your wife feels about you. It’s just the right thing to do.

Holiday preparations are a lot of work. Christmas meals don’t magically appear on the table. Relatives don’t magically appear at your door. Presents aren’t magically bought and wrapped. SOMEONE has to do the work. The sad truth is that we as men have a really bad track record of letting our wives do ALL the work for Christmas, even if both of spouses have jobs.

Some specific examples of things you can do to step up your game during the holidays:

  • Help with Christmas planning
  • Buy the presents, do the wrapping, help with decorating, engage with the kids
  • Make social and family plans
  • Spend time at home, be available to help
  • Lay off the booze

Even if your wife has already come out and told you she wants divorce, resolve yourself to help keep things fair during the holidays. Be proactive, help with all the stuff that needs to happen.

Alright! Now let’s dive into some specific action plans to help you get the best possible chance of saving your marriage from Divorce Day.

I’ve prepared two opposite strategies. Which you choose will depend on how adamant your wife is on divorce and how long your marriage has been on the brink of divorce.

Even though both strategies are almost polar opposites in what you do, the end goal is the same. You are trying to disrupt her expectations and pique her curiosity. You’re trying to get her thinking, “Maybe there’s a chance I could fall back in love with this man.”

Strategy 1. Make Changes & Make Them Stick

This is the conventional “get your wife back” advice. But, it’s conventional for a reason; it’s usually a great starting point for turning things around.

If she is still somewhat on the fence, then there is a chance that with hard work and discipline you can show your wife a husband that gives her a big incentive to stay in the marriage.

Keep in mind, your wife might SAY that she has made up her mind about divorce, but may still be slightly open to the possibility of reconciling.

A good way to guess how adamant your wife is about divorce is by asking yourself how long the problems in the marriage have existed. The wife who’s been unhappy for years is likely more adamant about leaving than the wife who’s been unhappy for the past couple months.

This strategy is recommended if:

  • 1Your marriage problems haven’t been around very long.
  • 2This is the first time your wife has brought up separation or divorce.
  • 3Your wife hasn’t fully made up her mind about leaving.
  • 4You have kids.
  • 5You’ve been slacking as a husband and you’re ready to step up and take initiative.

In addition, if you have kids, your wife has an extra incentive to stay in the marriage, AND you have extra opportunities to show her that you mean business when it comes to making her happy. Long story short, having kids makes this first strategy more likely to work for you.

Show your wife that you hear her, you see the pain she’s in, and you are ready to make deep, lasting changes.

So, what do you do?

Well, start with the four things that we talked about above.

  • Figure out how she’s feeling
  • Reflect on the marriage
  • Set goals for yourself
  • Help with Christmas – this one is extra important!

Those are your baseline things you need to be doing. Once you feel like you’ve got a good plan for implementing those, then there are some extra things you can add into this strategy.

  • Be kind to your wife and kids. This is especially true if your wife’s chief complaint is that you do not prioritize her or the family. Kindness and consideration say more about your priorities than any gift ever could.
  • Keep up with everyday domestic duties. Again, this is about showing your wife that you respect and value her time just as much as you do your own.
  • Find a way to do at least one kind gesture for your wife a week. I do NOT mean romantic gestures here. I am NOT telling you to go full 12 Days of Christmas on your wife and buy her tons of romantic gifts. I’m talking about small stuff, like cooking her breakfast in the morning, cleaning the kitchen, stuff like that.
    • Now, if these non-romantic gestures are well-received, then by all means, swing for the fences… Try doing something romantic for your wife. But I don’t usually recommend that you start out that way because it comes off as disingenuous at best and desperate at worst.
  • Be genuinely interested in how she is doing. When you talk to her, however briefly, engage with her. Set down what you’re doing and focus all your attention on her.

The goal of these things is to show your wife that you hear her, you see the pain she’s in, and you are ready to make deep, lasting changes in yourself. You are NOT content to let her live her life in an unhappy marriage… You care just as much about her happiness as she does, and you’re willing to put in extra work, extra sacrifices, to make sure that she gets what she wants out of the family and marriage.

Strategy 2. Surprise Her With Understanding & Cooperation

This strategy is recommended if:

  • 1You have tried strategy 1 and are coming back near the end of December/early January with a wife who is still adamant on divorce.
  • 2You have been dealing with marriage problems for a long time.
  • 3You have been separated before.

Basically, the more adamant your wife is about divorce, the more likely you will end up using this strategy. Why? Because you have to do more under-the-surface changes.

Your goal with this strategy is to make your wife do a double-take by being completely understanding of her desire to leave. She probably expects you to argue or beg her to stay. Instead, you’re going to say, “I understand, I’m sorry things have been so hard for you,” and you’re going to help her get what she believes will make her happy. For now, that means helping her prepare for divorce.

Here are some ways you might be able to put some walk behind your talk:

  • Talk to her about forming a plan to get through the holidays together.
  • Help her start doing some due diligence, i.e. budget planning, house discussions, looking for attorneys/mediators, etc.
  • Schedule weekly meetings on your calendar for the two of you to sit down and talk about the divorce prep.

It is almost like you are going to be leading the way in preparing for divorce.

“Wait a minute, I thought this strategy was supposed to help me save my marriage! Why am I making it easier for my wife to leave???”

Remember what I said at the outset of these two strategies?

Your goal is to disrupt your wife’s expectations.

Right now, your wife probably sees herself on one side and you on the other side. You are against each other. You want different things, and she is determined to get what SHE wants.

With this strategy, you’re flipping the script. You are making it so that you are both on the same side, working towards the same goal.

Just like with the first strategy, your goal here is to show your wife that you are capable of putting her needs above your own. Except, in this case, the way you do that is by showing her that you love her so much that you are willing to let her go if that leads to greater happiness for her. You are showing her that her happiness is genuinely more important to you than your own.

Does that make sense?

Now, of course, there is a chance that you will do this strategy throughout the holidays, Christmas will come and go, and by new year nothing has changed. Just remember, the way things are going, you are ALREADY headed for divorce. Get it out of your head that this strategy will ENABLE the divorce in some way. Divorce is already on the table; this strategy is a creative and unexpected way for you to respond to it.

And, much like the Let Her Go Mindset, this strategy puts in a sort-of win-win scenario. Because if you end up saving your marriage, great! The strategy worked.

If you don’t end up saving the marriage, that will be brutally difficult, but that probably means that by the time you knew about your wife’s plans to leave, her mind was truly made up and nothing you could have done would have changed it. In that case, this strategy will help you lay the groundwork for a more amicable, more affordable divorce that leaves you, your wife and your kids all happier in the long run.

In addition to the strategies above, make sure that you have read through the 3+1 Separation Strategy.

Facing separation? Start here:

3+1 Separation Strategy

That is the best baseline starting point I have available on the site for men going through separation, and it will help you get into the right mindset to face this marriage crisis with confidence.

No matter what you do, no matter how you strategize, none of it changes that facing divorce at Christmas is one of the hardest and most painful things that any man could face.

If you have kids, try your best to hold off letting the kids find out about the divorce until mid-January, once the holidays have died down and faded into the past. The last thing you want is for your kids to associate Christmas with mommy and daddy breaking up. The number one thing you need to do is step up as a father. Be there for your kids.

Don’t have kids? Make sure you’re setting aside time to take care of yourself. It’s okay to ask for help.

Oh, and one last thing…

One of the most confusing parts about navigating Christmas when your wife wants out can be deciding what to do about gifts…

Should you buy your wife a Christmas gift if you’re separated? Read this post about how to buy gifts during separation. Although it’s written for Valentine’s Day, the same principles apply to Christmas or any gift-giving holiday.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck.

Much manly love, – Stephen

Stephen Waldo

Hi! My name is Stephen. I’m the guy behind Husband Help Haven. My mission here is to help as many men as possible become the best husbands they can be, and save as many marriages as possible along the way. Even though I’m not a marriage counselor, I want to encourage men everywhere to become better husbands, fathers and leaders. Full author bio


  • I just wanted to say that Strategy 2 worked, not to save my marriage, but it meant that I got through the divorce as painlessly as possible.

    My wife announced she wanted a divorce completely out of the blue (and just before Christmas although she was clearly trying to delay it until afterwards). She was the love of my life, and I had no clue. The position I found myself was more like the start of Strategy 1, and most of the suggested things wrong didn’t apply – I didn’t go out without her much, spent lots of time with the children and have always done my share around the house (including Christmas lunch). Unknown to me at that point, she was having an affair and her mind was made up.

    Once I realised that, I made sure everything ran as smoothly as possible. Strangely she had given no thought to what she wanted – I think she thought I would simply move out (where to? I had nowhere else to go) and she would just carry on in the house as before. In the end, we kept it calm and managed to come to an agreement so I have been able to stay in the marital home with our teenage children, which has given them the stability they needed, and she has bought her own place, and the children are free to come and go as they choose.

    A year after the bombshell hit me, I am already settled again and ready to rebuild my life. Not what I wanted, but the best it could be given her decision.

    • A

      Thank you for sharing your experience Peter. I’m glad you’ve made it through the mire of divorce… As you said, you did the best you could, and it’s paid off in the form of relatively quick healing for you and stability for your children.

      You raise a good point here about the affair. I originally considered adding that exception into the article, and now I think I will since you’ve shared your experience.

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