These Are the Most Dangerous Times of Year for Your Marriage

unhappy couplle

It's almost back-to-school time and you know what that means: three dozen pencils to sharpen, a billion squeezy pouches of applesauce to tuck away for lunches, notebooks and crayons and new shoes to buy ... Oh! And divorce to stave off.

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New research from the University of Washington shows that people don't necessarily get divorced whenever. 'Tis a season -- actually two -- when breaking up is more prone to happen.

Sociologists weren't even looking for this pattern. While researching the effects of recession, they happened to take a close look at divorce filings in the state of Washington between 2001 and 2015. They were surprised to find that they consistently peaked immediately in March and August -- the periods after the winter and summer holidays.

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What this may mean, researchers explained at the recent annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, is that we unconsciously believe that certain times of the year are taboo for divorce. 

Like December. (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa.)

Or February. (Do you really want to be the jerk who calls it quits so close to Valentine's Day? We didn't think so.)

Or July. Family vacation, dude. The kids have been looking forward to Disneyland all year long, and you can't deny them of this rite of passage.

And ... September. Because school's about to happen, sports activities start, and let's face it, your whole family's going to be mad-busy.

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It makes sense that we unconsciously root around for the best time to call our marriage quits. There will likely be an app in the future that helps us figure out the exact best day to break the news as well.

But where does this insight leave us? Tiptoeing through March? Walking on eggshells in August?

"All marriages go through highs and lows," assures Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, JD, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, New York, and Telluride, Colorado. "It's part of a typical relationship cycle."

The trick to long-term success, though, is "recognizing the signs of a failing relationship and getting it back on track," he adds.

As a marriage therapist who's been working with couples for nearly two decades, Hokemeyer says these are the signs of trouble he looks for -- and advice he offers.

Red Flag #1: You haven't had sex in a month. (Or more.)

Relationship Rx: "Sexless marriages are way too common and incredibly destructive," Hokemeyer warns. "Follow the Nike slogan and 'Just Do It.'" You'll be surprised at how much better you feel.

Red Flag #2: You secretly fantasize about life without your spouse.

Relationship Rx: Nothing wrong with a little "separation fantasy," says Hokemeyer -- but only up to a point. "Think things through to their logical conclusion," he advises. "Do you really want to throw away years of a relationship for one found on Tinder?"

Red Flag #3: Passive-aggressive behavior.

Relationship Rx: PAB results from disdain and avoidance of direct conflict. "Rather than confront, you act out or are acted upon," explains Hokemeyer. Bad idea. Directly telling your partner how you feel might be uncomfortable and scary, "but in the long run, it can save your marriage," Hokemeyer says.

Red Flag #4: You think everyone has a better relationship than you.

Relationship Rx: "Remember," says Hokemeyer, "to compare is to despair. Stop comparing your insides to everyone else's outsides. What matters is your relationship." And you need to focus on getting it back on track.

August is almost over, but March will be here before you know it.

 

Image via Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

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