Study suggests couples likely to break up around holiday season

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On the first day of Christmas, your true love might be more likely to give you a broken heart than a partridge in a pear tree, according to a study observing Facebook relationship statuses.

Breakup times on Facebook occurred frequently around the holidays, according to the study done by Lee Byron and David McCandless in 2008.

According to the study, breakups were most frequent around spring and winter breaks, but breakups were also common around Valentine’s Day,  April Fools’ Day and during the summer. However, people seemed to keep Christmas Day special because the study reported it as the lowest peak in the entire year. 

Dannelle Larsen-Rife, an associate social and behavioral science professor, specializes in parent-child and romantic relationships across lifespans. She said people tend to have positive regard for the holidays, but there are pressures that come with them.

Students said popular holiday pressures are gift giving and meeting families.

Larsen said some people don’t feel comfortable moving to the next step in their relationship by making a financial and intimate commitment that goes along with gift-giving.

“The media tells us that if you love someone you are going to spend a lot of money on them, but that isn’t necessarily love,” Larsen-Rife said.

Love is about caring, time, thoughtfulness and human connection, she said.

Larsen-Rife also said, for couples involved in newer relationships, meeting each others’ families puts pressure on the relationship by forcing another level of commitment. She said individuals in long-term relationships often feel pressure when deciding whose family to spend the holidays with. Larsen-Rife said this problem correlates with higher divorce rates around this time of year. 

Kelly Feyen, a sophomore medical radiography major from Bullhead, Arizona, said technology also affects modern­-day relationships. 

“We don’t update Facebook about our relationship because that gives everybody a say in how your relationship is going,” Feyen said.

Larsen-Rife said relationships and technology is a fairly new phenomenon that has caused relationships to speed up.

“Dating is a lost art,” Larsen-Rife said. “Young people don’t date anymore, (and) they have serial relationships—one relationship after another— rather than dating multiple people at once.”

Larsen-Rife said “serial relationships” have changed the level of commitment and expectations within relationships, and people date less before they make the commitment of marriage.

Technology has also made millennials lonelier, Larsen-Rife said.  

“I talk to students and young people all the time about how lonely they are, and almost nobody talks about it with each other,” Larsen-Rife said.

Young people have their “friends” on social media but actually have fewer real friends than generations before them. Students need to reach out to family and friends and build a good support system, she said.

“Relationships are like nutrition, we can’t have one relationship meet all our emotional and intimate needs,” Larsen-Rife said.

Larsen-Rife said couples need to talk about their expectations for the holidays in order to avoid those pressures.

“People may or may not even know they have those expectations until they aren’t met,” Larsen-Rife said.

She said these expectations come from the individual’s experiences when he or she is 3-5 years old and shape future relationships.  

“The relationship you have with your primary caregiver sets the foundation of your brain development,” she said. “It sets your expectations for your relationships mostly for the rest of your life.” 

Larsen-Rife said if students are debating about whether to stay in a relationship or not, she encourages them to reflect on their feelings. 

“Sometimes we sabotage ourselves,” Larsen-Rife said. “You feel this anxiety or fear, but then when (a breakup) happens, they feel very lonely.”

Larsen-Rife said to keep in mind the other person has feelings too, and when someone is going through a breakup, they need to grieve.

“Social rejection is very painful, and it is real,” Larsen-Rife said.   

Leul Ermias, a freshman criminal justice major from Las Vegas, said it might be best to stick it out through the holidays.

“If you break up with them before Christmas, they will probably hate Christmas for the rest of their life,” Ermias said.