It’s common knowledge that long-term relationships tend to break down around Valentine’s Day, which comes at the midway point between the Christmas holidays and Spring, which in turn, represents the renewal of romance. But when it comes marriage and divorce, does this trend remain present? There was really no way of knowing, until now.
A new study conducted by sociologists from the University of Washington shows that divorces tend to spike during two particular months of the year. According to the researchers, their findings represent the “first quantitative evidence of a seasonal, biannual pattern of filings for divorce.”
According to a report on the University of Washington’s news portal, “The researchers analyzed filings in Washington state between 2001 and 2015 and found that they consistently peaked in March and August, the periods following winter and summer holidays,”
It’s worth noting this discovery was accidental by nature.
Initially, Julie Brines, an associate sociology professor, and Brian Serafini, a doctoral candidate, set out to study divorce filings within Washington State between 2001 and 2015. The goal was to understand what kind of impact the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 had on marriages.
Instead, the researchers found a peculiar pattern in divorce filings, realizing that throughout their research timeframe, divorces seemed to spike in March and August.
Why March and August?
Brines and Serafini believe the explanation behind the spike in divorce filings in these months has something to do with lower expectations, that is, couples tend to avoid damaging their relationships out of a “domestic ritual” calendar that affects family behavior.
“People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past,” Brines said.
“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,” he adds.
Think of it this way: most couples tend to avoid separating during the months leading to and after the holidays because they don’t want to spoil the family’s mood, or are holding on to the possibility that things may change for the better.
And let’s face it, nobody wants to spoil Thanksgiving and Christmas with news of divorce, and the months after the start of the New Year typically represents hope and fresh beginnings.
But this optimism might fade heading into March. Likewise, during the school break (i.e. June to July), the feeling of facing reality and disillusionment sets in, such that couples begin to weigh divorce once more.
Brines notes that theoretically, divorce filings should spike around February and July, but he attributes the one-month delay to the long process of seeking a divorce attorney.