We all think of spring cleaning as the time when people dump their partners anticipating potential spring flings, but the holiday season also sees a statistically-sustained mountain of splits.
According to Facebook data, gleaned from the above graph by David McCandless and Lee Byron, the holiday season could also be dubbed “breakup season.” And the numbers show something almost as shocking as getting dumped.
As you can see in the chart, there’s a sharp spike of splits around Thanksgiving that peaks in the first couple weeks of December. It seems that as the weather cools off, so do many relationships. (And the chart hits another high right around Spring Break, so watch out!)
On college campuses across the country, this phenomenon is known as “The Turkey Drop.” Or as Washington University junior and relationship writer Carly MacLeod explained to NPR, “College students return home for their first major vacation, and everyone breaks up.”
But it’s not only a trend seen amongst college co-eds. Especially considering Facebook’s demographic, this statistic also really reflects what is going on in the singles dating scene. For example, Julie*, 33, was invited to finally meet the parents of her beau of five months over Thanksgiving dinner, but a week before, “He called to literally un-invite me,” she recalled.
Heather*, 27, was also a victim of a holiday-time disappearing act. Her new boyfriend, with whom she already had plans to go on a vacation with during the season, just up and cut off contact after they spent Thanksgiving weekend apart. “It’s really weird. I feel like it’s been 10 years and I still feel crappy, but it was just November," she admitted.
YouBeauty Relationship Expert David Sbarra, Ph.D. explains that the trend in seasonal splits especially preys on budding romances, saying it calls into question, “Do I go home with this person? Does this person come home with me? Are we going to spend time together when we’re not working? It really sort of forces the hand of people and that’s why we see the increases [in break ups]. That and gifts.”
After all, who wants to spend money on someone they’re ultimately going to deem unworthy?
And ironically, Sbarra notes that a big step in new relationships in this internet age is going public by becoming “Facebook Official,” which mean updating your relationship status to announce you’re taken. But really, despite reaching this stage online, the statistics show freshly coupled up pairs still haven’t gotten their sea legs when it comes to sailing through the waves of emotion the season brings.
The phenomenon was brought to light back in 1955 when a paper written by Dr. James P. Cattell called it “The Holiday Syndrome.” He observed that from just before Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, some patients experienced, “diffuse anxiety, numerous regressive phenomena including marked feelings of helplessness, possessiveness and increased irritability, nostalgic or bitter rumination about holiday experiences of youth, depressive affect and a wish for magical resolution of problems…The patient may act out some of the regressive phenomena with family, family substitutes or contemporary love object.”
Yikes, contemporary love objects, consider yourself warned!
On the other hand, Sbarra is also quick to suggest that long-term lovers are most likely not affected by the breakup season data because it was gleaned solely from the social networking site’s demographic. In regards to this Facebook statistic, “We’re not really talking about marriages,” Sbarra reassuringly clarifies.
But people in committed, long-term partnerships still need to take heed too because they're not impervious to the effects of holidays. The stress can still cause problems. Relationship counselor and author of “The Breakup Bible,” Rachel Sussman (who herself went through a Turkey Drop back in college), has noticed in her practice: “What I see an increase of at this time is couples arguing because of the pressure surrounding the holidays.”
So, with these findings in mind, Sussman suggests that you speak with your significant other and say something like, “Let’s make a commitment to ride the storm and make this a fun time. Let’s be mindful not to snap at each other. Let’s make our holidays enjoyable.” And it can’t hurt to hang some mistletoe either!
And the New Year will soon be here to offer the spurned lovers out there a fresh start. As the cleverly positive Sbarra also points out: “According to these [same] statistics, in early January, you’ll have a lot more opportunity.”
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