"When it is time for a season to change, the imperfections of life are most visible," is a quote by Sue Detweiler, author of 9 Traits of a Life-Giving Mom: Replacing My Worst with God's Best, that stuck with me. And what she wrote seems to hold true in a new study about the seasonality of divorce, which was presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) on Sunday.
Researchers looked at divorce filings in Washington state between 2001 and 2015 and found they consistently peaked in March and August, the months that follow winter and summer holidays. So, do separations most often happen after couples try to mend their relationships on family vacations?
"People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past," Julie Brines, associate sociology professor at the University of Washington, explained in a press release. She added about those times of year, "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 when that "new start" gives way to tension and dashed expectations, divorce may seem like the only solution. Brines and the study's co-author, doctoral candidate Brian Serafini, say in August, couples may rush to make the split after a summer trip, and before the kids start school. In March, a disappointing holiday season may give way to divorce considerations, but couples can take more time to officially part ways.
Ironically, Brines and Serafini weren't looking to uncover divorce patterns when they started their research, but rather, the pair was investigating the effects of the recession on families. The "robust" divorce patterns they noticed couldn't be ignored, however, especially when they considered the timing of other family-oriented court rulings, such as guardianship filings, coincided with divorces.
It's worth noting the researchers only looked at divorce patterns in one state, but they are now examining whether what they found holds true in others. This is believed to be the first quantitative evidence of a seasonal, biannual pattern of divorces.
Perhaps if couples know these months may present huge challenges in their relationships, they would be able to seek counseling to prevent divorce.
What is your take on these findings?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.