According to a new study from the University of Washington, divorce season is very real and we’re in the middle of it RIGHT NOW.
The data shows that there is a seasonal, biannual peak in divorce filings, and those peaks occur in March and April. (Fun fact, when you map out the data peaks, the graph looks like Batman.)
The research was compiled by associate sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini, and they argued that the March-August peaks point to evidence that married people generally file for divorce following the winter and summer holidays.
In a statement, Brines argued that married people “tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past. They represent periods in the year when there’s the anticipation or the opportunity for a new beginning, a new start, something different, a transition into a new period of life. It’s like an optimism cycle, in a sense.”
But that optimism takes a turn once the holidays are over.
Anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship can tell you that getting through the holidays can be rough. The University of Washington data suggests that people are hesitant to file for divorce DURING the holidays — maybe considering those times sacred — but once the holidays are over, LOOK OUT.
The August divorce filing peak occurs directly after summer break, but there is a gap between the New Year and the March peak. Brines and Serafini believe that this delay is more due to logistics than anything else, noting that couples who have decided to split after the New Year still need to weigh financial considerations, find lawyers, and deal with the fact that they just spent their last Christmas together.
The roles that finances play in the timing of divorce filings is also significant. The University of Washington researchers were originally investigating the effects of the recent recession on “marital stability.” However, once the divorce filing peaks became noticeable, Brines and Serafini also noted small variations in the data tied to the recession.
(The researchers pointed out that things like unemployment and house prices did affect the divorce filing rate, but not enough to strongly vary the two big March-August peaks.)
What does all this data tell us?
Something we may have already known — the holidays can be deadly for a relationship.
We always enter the holidays with sky-high expectations. “This is going to be the best summer vacation EVER!” “This Christmas will be AMAZING.” And we can work so hard every year to try to make those times as special as possible.
However, once the holidays end, you’re going to be left with whatever sad realities were hiding behind the holiday cheer all along.
That’s not saying you shouldn’t try to have fun holidays. But just don’t expect a fun holiday to fix everything in an already broken relationship. Because all that pressure might do more harm than good in the long run.
So, if your marriage has survived August this year, good for you. Just keep your eyes on March and try to have a relaxed holiday season, OK?