Divorce is seasonal according to recent research out of the University of Washington in the USA. They found that there are two main spikes in the rate of divorce filings. One is at the end of the summer holidays in August. The other is in March after the winter holidays are over. The data was collected over a 15-year period from 2001 – 2015 for five states across the country.
The researchers speculate that the timing is linked to the end of disappointing family holidays. After the holiday breaks don’t go as planned the decision to divorce is finalized. They believe that the filing process may be a bit more rushed for the August group. The thinking is that August or September would be when many children would be returning to school. If parents were going to move out they may want to do that before school starts.
The March filing peak they believe fits with the end of the winter holiday break but with a few extra weeks added. On the optimistic side this time could be to make one last effort to repair the relationship in counselling. However, it could also allow for them to plot their escape by consulting with attorneys, financial advisors etc.
Right Frame of Mind
As with the other phases of a relationship there is a right way and a wrong way to go about things. If you have decided that the relationship can’t be fixed up it will be beneficial to not let your bitterness or anger guide the process. Yes, you may be disappointed, hurt, sad, mad etc. about the way things have worked out. However, it is in your best interest to begin separating out your feelings about the divorce from the task at hand. It is especially important to seek support and counselling if things have blown up in a grand way e.g. drunken shouting matches, affairs, abandonment etc. Getting support to take care of yourself will allow you to make the most practical and fair decisions for your future.
What can you learn from this experience?
Determine what you can take away from the relationship. No, I don’t mean your favourite easy chair or that whimsical folk art painting you bought years ago. It is helpful for you to do some reflecting and soul searching to help you get your head around why this relationship wasn’t successful. Depending on the level of tension you may be able to have the “How did we end up here?” talk with your partner. Often you find that there were many good times but they just got overshadowed by the disagreements, areas of incompatibility, bad habits etc. Some couples may actually find that the relationship worked really well for them for the most part but the dynamics shifted or their needs changed over time. These honest reflections not only help with closure but also may prevent you from dragging some of the same patterns into your next relationship.
Accept it, Change it or Leave it
If you are unhappy with your partner you ultimately have three options. The first is to accept the things you don’t like as just the way things are. This one is hard to swallow but may be the right option for some. Picture a situation where after much soul searching you decide that this issue really isn’t a deal breaker in the big picture even if it isn’t ideal. This approach works best if most needs are met but there are one or two contentious issues.
The second option is for both partners to sign on to making renovations to how the relationship operates and how they treat each other. This is the ideal mindset for utilising couples counselling to make things better.
The third option is there in case you have decided the issue(s) are not acceptable and despite your best efforts you have been unable to change the relationship into one that is fulfilling and sustainable for both of you. Sometimes with the clarity of hindsight couples see they have never been a good fit. Others have simply grown apart over the years.
For some couples that are unhappy with their relationship a shift in perspective may make all the difference. Once open, honest communication starts taking place you may actually understand why your partner acts or reacts a certain way. This enhanced understanding of what makes them tick or limits their ability to meet your needs may help a lot. Some find that they are actually empathetic for what the other person went through in a past relationship or in their family growing up after these discussions. These experiences may be what shaped this behaviour that pushes your buttons. This newfound empathy combined with putting this issue in the context of the overall relationship may be adequate. Agin this approach may be your choice if the majority of things in the relationship are ticking along just fine but you find yourselves clashing on one or two topics.
Going through a divorce or separation can be a very stressful experience. It is the end of a phase of our lives. It often requires us to make large-scale changes to our lifestyle, routines, living arrangements, finances etc. Even if you are the one who initiated the separation it has a significant emotional impact.
I often encourage couples to attempt making major changes to how their relationship is working before deciding to go through with the major changes required to end it. After all why not put as much effort into remodelling it as you would if you ended it? At one time it was something you both valued and presumably got a lot out of.
Many couples that are considering divorce ask if the court will make decisions about the separation. If the couple is able to sit down and work out agreements on how to handle things like, money, property, kids etc. it allows for a more tailored outcome. Family court judges are sometimes forced to make these decisions for couples if they simply cannot agree.
Despite Family Court Judges working with families for years they are not experts on your family. Each family has unique things that may make a standard ruling about child custody for example a poor fit given your kids temperaments or needs. It is advisable that couples make every effort to sort these things out without a judge doing it for them. Even if you spend a few meetings with a family counsellor or mediator to talk through these things (assuming you can’t do it over the kitchen table at home) and you agree on 9 out of 10. That at least leaves only one of the 10 points that someone outside the family will be dictating to you.
For those who are parents it is important you keep in mind that you will be maintaining a parenting relationship with this person for the next couple decades. You may make the decision to end the romantic partner portion of your relationship but your parenting responsibilities continue. The facts are these two relationships share many of the same ingredients e.g. communication, cooperation, collaboration, and trust. The sooner you both can get to a business type relationship that includes these ingredients the better.
It is important for separating parents to keep in mind that their child may still love and adore both of you. Children need parents to pay particular attention to their needs during this time. They may be feeling scared, confused, sad, hurt the same as the grownups in the family. They will be learning how to deal with conflict, communication and relationships by watching your behaviour. Choose carefully how you model these.
Family courts typically view the process of divorce as child focused. This philosophy dictates that children have a voice in what happens in an age appropriate way. The parents will be required to make their responsibility for the child’s emotional, physical, and intellectual needs a priority.
If you live in Singapore and are considering a divorce you may want to read a recent article I wrote that was published by Angloinfo on how to get a divorce in Singapore.
If you want to read more details from the actual research on seasonal patterns of divorce.
Here is a very helpful booklet for parents who are considering divorce. The info on developmental needs of children in separated families and other tips on communication are well explained. However, it was published in South Australia so if you are not from SA some of the legal terms and details may be different in your location.