What is Holiday Marital False Alarm Syndrome?

The winter holidays are a notoriously troubling time for many families. Research demonstrates time and again that the excess of emotion, alcohol consumption, family arguments, spousal disputes, and situational depression escalate predictably during December.

Not to mention, the holidays are expensive. You are likely working with a compromised and tight budget but with high expectations for gift-giving.

You are forced to spend time with relatives and friends who are challenging to interact with even during easier times of the year.

You must contend with the low light of winter which compromises the mental health of many individuals. With sunset around 4:30 pm every night, many 9-to-5ers don’t even see much of the sun during the week.

And to top it all off, the holidays can be a traumatic time of year for many. Each holiday season brings memories of past holidays. If these memories are negative, these times can be very painful for people. For example, unhappy childhood holidays, death of loved ones during the holidays, and being estranged from the family can all reemerge for some people.

All of these factors can negatively affect the way people behave during the holidays, compromising the comfort and joy the holidays are “supposed” to bring.

Holiday Martial False Alarm Syndrome (HMFAS) is when a spouse or spouses think there is reason to end the marriage due to heightened stress around the holidays. Emotions are strained, tensions run high, and the holidays can bring forth long-buried issues– or at least, carefully hidden issues– which negatively impact the marriage to the ignorance of the other spouse.

This is why I end up having Holiday Marital False Alarm sessions with spouses during the holidays who are concerned with the health of their marriage.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can avoid unnecessarily pursuing a divorce.

  • What kind of life do you need in order to be happy?
  • What would that agreeable life look like? What people, places activities, and objects are most important to you? What components are non-negotiable and, thus, necessary for your well-being?
  • In what ways are you already living this life? Be honest about what is
  • In what ways are you not living this life? What do you think is missing from your life? What prevents you from experiencing one that is well-lived and personally rewarding?
  • Why are you not living your best life? What are your obstacles? Are these external obstacles? Is the obstacle your spouse? Your parental responsibilities? Your career objectives? Finances? Something else?
  • What needs to change so you can live a more rewarding life? What circumstances or people? Or do you need to change?

By recognizing Holiday Marital False Alarm Syndrome, you can save yourself from a divorce that might not be the answer to your woes. This, in turn, will save not only your marriage but also your money.

For more resources in navigating Holiday Martial False Alarm Syndrome, contact Marta Papa.

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