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Say Goodbye: It's Turkey Drop Time

Will your relationship make it to the new year?

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Cold weather and the holiday season are upon us, and apparently, so too are the tough relationship decisions. Should you stay, or should you go? Now, it seems, is peak decision time.

Yes, we're entering prime break-up season. College students everywhere are heading home for Thanksgiving and returning to school single. And is it only college students? Probably not. The winter and its many romantic holidays (e.g., Christmas, New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day) are on the horizon, making now a good time for unhappy people to make a change.

The Turkey Drop

The "Turkey Drop" is the catchy phrase that aptly captures the spike in romantic breakups that occurs annually in late fall. Data from McCandless and Byron, who examined changes in Facebook status, corroborate the Turkey Drop. A dramatic rise in romantic breakups seems to occur during the few weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday.1

On one hand, it seems rather heartless: initiating a breakup so close to the holidays. However, around Thanksgiving may be the first chance that freshmen have to make the break in person, rather than over text, the phone, or Skype. By late November, the challenges that come with long-distance relationships may have taken their toll, and new social circles may make the prospect of single life appealing. Relationships that once felt like forever relationships now might feel like they belonged to younger, different people.

Holiday Pressure

The Turkey Drop may also extend beyond the college years: People who are unhappy in their relationships might be motivated to end their relationships before the hoopla of the holiday begins. This would avoid holiday gift-giving pressure, mandatory New Year's Eve plans, and Valentine's Day expectations that might come with a continued relationship.

Noteworthy, too, is the spike in engagements that occur around the holiday season. According to Statista, nearly 20 percent of marriage proposals occur in December. If a relationship isn't headed towards marriage, perhaps mid-fall is a reasonable time to end it and avoid the potential pressure of engagement season.

Divorces Aren't Tied to the Turkey Drop

If you're married, your relationship is probably safe from the dreaded Turkey Drop. Despite the seasonal spike in breakups right around Thanksgiving among dating couples, the story looks different for married couples. Researchers out of the University of Washington analyzed divorce filings over a 15-year period and discovered that a spike in divorce filings tends to occur during March and August.

Why might divorces peak during March and August? Rather than succumbing to the Turkey Drop, the researchers speculated that couples who are already in a committed partnership may view the holidays with hope. Married couples might imagine the possibility of a return to happier times, a stitching back together of existing open wounds, or the opportunity for gestures that will change the current direction of a struggling relationship. Come March, after the winter and holidays fail to meet expectations, couples may be in a position to take the final step.

The same story applies to August, but this time the focus is on family vacations. The researchers hypothesize that couples in struggling marriages might put their hope in a wonderful family summer vacation, and when it does not meet their expectations, they may make the decision to formally end their marriages.

1 The other break-up season? Late February to early March: a spring cleaning of sorts that appears to occur right before most colleges have their spring breaks.

More from Theresa E. DiDonato Ph.D.
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More from Theresa E. DiDonato Ph.D.
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