The month of February brings the inevitable onslaught of aggressive romance, inescapable marketing, bad romcom re-runs on TV and filtered flower arrangements or sparkly diamond rings on Instagram.
But don’t worry, everything for people is still the worst. Despite what social media insists, this actually begins peak season for divorce filings according to a University of Washington study that suggests March is when all the breakups go down.
Julie Brines, coauthor of the UW study, explains a post-holiday spike in divorce filings shouldn’t be surprising. “People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past,” she says.
“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,” she continues. “It’s like an optimism cycle, in a sense. They’re very symbolically charged moments in time for the culture.”
The supposition here is that high expectations were obliterated by reality after the long stretch of holiday seasons — people were let down (maybe again?) by their partner and ultimately a time they hoped would be romantic was in fact the opposite.
The other factor in the beginning-of-the-year filings is the reluctance to ruin Thanksgiving or winter holidays. No one wants to have to give the uncomfortable “parting ways” speech to the whole family before digging into the HoneyBaked Ham.
"People don't want to be accused by friends, family that they were heartless right before Christmas," divorce lawyer Miles Mason explains. "If somebody is coming to us in January, they made the decision to come see me or a lawyer before the holidays."
And if none of those realizations are a cure for February love sickness, other divorce statistics might be. In 2010, "Journal of Marriage and Family" published a study by Professor Paul Amato in which Amato confirms that, yeah, about half of all marriages end in divorce.
“At the end of the 20th century, 43% to 46% of marriages were predicted to end in dissolution,” he says. “Because a small percentage of marriages end in permanent separation rather than divorce, the common belief that about half of all marriages are voluntarily disrupted is a reasonable approximation.”
So before lamenting single status this Valentine’s Day — or comparing relationships via manipulated social personas — remember it’s all bullshit anyway. Companies are marketing to everyone in an attempt to pressure consumers into buying whatever they’re selling; part of this same (aforementioned) pressure experts suspect ultimately harm relationships.
“Expectations for the day, and pressure to be more in love, more romantic or further along in a relationship than they are can derail a couple’s relationship, not enhance it,” psychologist and couples therapist Marie Hartwell-Walker clarifies.
In short, go ahead and feel morally superior if this month lies more on the Valentine's Scrooge side of things.
You know what the rest of these lovebirds don’t; even if they get that rock, chances are decent it may not work out. And if it does go wrong, chances are it’s going wrong right about now.