Two Factors Affecting Your Risk of Divorce

Two new studies have identified your risk of divorce could be based upon findings: the seasons, and whether you consume pornography.

A new US study suggests that your risk of divorce rises just after the two major holiday periods. A study from the University of Washington has found there are two peak divorce periods each year: after the summer holidays and after the winter holidays. According to the research, which was presented at the 111th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association over the weekend, March and August are the top months for marriages to end.

In what began as research for the effects of recession on divorce rates, associate sociology professor Julie Brines and doctoral candidate Brian Serafini instead isolated a seasonal, twice-yearly pattern of divorce for what they believe is the first time.  Figures from Washington state between 2001 and 2015 consistently showed the pattern, leading the authors to suggest that winter and summer holidays are a culturally sensitive time to end marriage but are also a time when tensions are perhaps at their highest in relationships. With those holidays and pressures comes added expectations.

“People tend to face the holidays with rising expectations, despite what disappointments they might have had in years past,” Brines said. “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.”

risk of divorce, separation, divorceIt’s like looking forward to the Christmas break, only to discover that it fails to meet your expectations as a fun time with family. Instead, it might be filled with arguments and resentment.

Psychologist and director of the Australian Institute for Family Studies, Anne Hollonds, said that the post-holiday risk of divorce is not rare in Australia.

In keeping with the study findings, she said that in her former role as chief executive of Relationships Australia, the charity saw a peak in couples seeking help in January, after Christmas breaks.

“I can draw on that post holiday effect. Washington is onto something in relation to people thinking about how they want to live their life when they’re on holidays,” she said. “Being that close to someone, without the props of normal life such as school runs, work, and so on, can escalate tensions.

“Also, there’s a higher expectation of happy families at Christmas. If you’re really under relationship stress at that time, it’s going to hit you even harder that life could be better than this.

“We always knew that just after the New Year, we would get more phone calls for counselling. There is certainly a spike of interest in help for relationship problems immediately after Christmas. Which was ironic as that’s when all our counsellors are on holidays as well.”

But she added that focusing on divorce filing dates gives little indication of when a relationship ended as couples are usually separated before they take the administrative step of legally ending a marriage.

“Certainly in Australia, usually people are separated for a quite a time before they divorce,” she said.

Because the decision to separate is such a private matter, there are no official statistics that indicate when married couples tend to end their relationships in Australia, she said.

If you’d like to avoid divorce altogether, a separate study found that people who viewed pornography after marriage were at a higher risk of divorce. Married people who start watching porn are twice as likely to be divorced in the the following years as those who don’t. And women who start watching porn are three times as likely to split, according to a working paper presented at the American Sociological Association on Aug. 22.

The authors used longitudinal data from the General Social Survey, which tracks, among other things, marital happiness, porn-consumption and marital status. It analyzed results from more than 2000 participants over three time periods, focusing in on participants whose porn-watching habits altered during that period. That is, the individuals did not watch pornography when first interviewed but had taken it up by the time of their second interview, or they did watch during their first interview but had given it up by the second.

The analysis found that 11% of people who started to watch porn between the first two time periods were divorced by the second time they were interviewed. This compares to 6% of people whose porn watching habits were unchanged, but who were like the new porn-fans in every other way. Among women who started watching porn solo, the proportion who divorced was 16%, or almost three times as much.

risk of divorce, divorce, separationConversely, female porn watchers who gave up the genre were only about as third as likely to be divorced as those who kept up the habit. Male abstainers’ risk of divorce was not that different from guys who kept up the habit, although the authors caution that so few men give up porn that the sample size is too small to be reliable.

Could it be that people started watching porn because their marriages were already unhappy? “We don’t think it’s the relationship quality leading to the porn use and divorce,” says says lead author Samuel Perry, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Oklahoma, because this is data taken over time and not just a snapshot. “We are pretty confident about establishing the directional effects.”

Previous studies have found that porn has an accelerating effect on a deteriorating marriage: husbands in poor relationships tend to consume more sexually explicit material and consuming more sexually explicit material also leads to poorer relationships. Some sociologists have speculated that men turn to porn as a way of lifting their mood about their difficult home life and that the porn then becomes an easier route to sexual satisfaction than being with their partner, so they disinvest in the marriage.

Whatever your risk of divorce is, we can help guide you through the process. In Australia, you have to be separated for at least a year prior to a divorce being granted. We can assist you to negotiate property settlements, parenting arrangements and other matters in a low-conflict environment. Contact us today for your free, 10-minute phone consultation.