If spring is the season to wed, research suggests summer is the season to separate. But does it need to be?
A US study found that the national divorce-filing rate goes up in March and August of each year.
In Australia, the peak period for separation is in February and March. And according to the researchers, this is no coincidence.
They found a seasonal pattern for divorce and separation follows the summer and winter holidays.
And as a trusted family lawyer practising for over 30 years, I’ve certainly observed how the stresses of the Christmas holiday period can be a make or break situation for some married couples.
The researchers suggest the extra time spent together during the holidays can place a spotlight on their partner and all their failings and quickly exacerbate any negative feelings about the marriage.
Once the holiday is over, the relationship is too.
But it doesn’t need to end this way.
In most cases, the decision to divorce rarely happens overnight. It tends to build over time.
And similarly, those couples who make the decision to separate post-holiday season are often unhappy with the relationship beforehand.
But the path from separation to divorce in Australia does take time: A couple must be separated for at least 12 months before they can make a divorce application.
This is good news. Especially for those couples who find themselves in a marital rut once the anticipation of the summer break is done. It means there is time for the couple to take steps that are in the best interests of themselves and their children to repair and reclaim their marriage and avoid divorce.
If you’re not ready to walk away just yet, here are six things you and your partner should start practising before you make the decision to separate:
Respect is thinking and acting in a positive way about yourself and your partner and showing them that you care about their feelings and their well-being. Be the best you can be, take care of yourself and inspire your partner to do the same. If you think and act negatively toward your spouse, you’ll most likely see only the worst in them.
Yelling at each other and pretending to listen is not a constructive way to behave in any relationship. Sitting down and actively listening, taking it in turns to speak and using positive, respectful language helps to create a safe and healthy forum in which you and your partner can openly express your thoughts, concerns and issues without fear or hostility.
Don’t have any? Create your own. Make a habit of doing something special for your partner to show gratitude and appreciation for what you have together. Make breakfast in bed every Sunday morning. Go to bed at the same time as your partner. Eat breakfast or dinner together. Exclusive, special customs between you and your partner become the glue of a great relationship and a signal when things aren’t exactly on track.
The C word doesn’t need to be a dirty word. Every married couple faces situations that require compromise. Fair and healthy compromise is about meeting your partner halfway to resolve matters that affect both of you. Unfair and unhealthy compromise is when one of you makes concessions or gives up something for the other. Over time, this can lead to resentment and anger, which isn’t sustainable for any married couple.
Maintaining your identity and independence is good for a marriage. Especially when both spouses agree to enjoy and make meaningful use of their time apart. Whether this is at work, playing sport, finding a hobby or spending time alone or with friends. And once you’ve spent time away from each other, it’s important to come back together to share your experiences, learnings, stories and insights.
Infidelity is often cited as the reason for separation and divorce, but it’s more likely a symptom of an unhealthy marriage. People don’t typically cheat on their partners and engage in extra-marital affairs when they’re in a healthy, loving relationship. If you start practising the above things you won’t have the need to look outside your marriage.
There are many valid reasons for married couples to end their relationship. But with some time and effort, there are often many equally compelling reasons for couples to reclaim what they once had and avoid divorce.