Take Heart: how a more realistic view of Valentine’s Day can help during divorce

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A holiday celebrating romantic love seems fun and harmless (if a little cliché) when you have someone special to spend it with—a partner, spouse, or even a charming date.

But when you’re going through a divorce—dealing with grief, loneliness, anxiety, anger, and all the frustrations the process can bring—Valentine’s Day can genuinely hurt.

Every heart-shaped decoration, a bouquet of roses, and a box of chocolates in the stores, every diamond engagement ring commercial, becomes a loaded reminder of couplehood and your broken heart. You may feel isolated; it can seem as if everyone but you is getting engaged, married, or celebrating their happy relationship.

But you are not alone.

Divorce filings rise over 30% in the early weeks of the New Year, which means that many people are in the first stages of a painful dissolution process when those cute paper Cupids start showing up everywhere. And despite the attention on romantic love, Valentine’s Day brings a surge of unhappy spouses searching for information about divorce, according to

But that’s not all.

Knowing some surprising statistics about the relationship between Valentine’s Day and marriage may change how you view all the pink and red hoopla and help take the edge off your emotions.

A 2018 study from the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany, probed the marriages of couples that had tied the knot on Valentine’s Day. Data from 1999-2013 shows that Valentine’s marriages were more likely to end in divorce.

Economists at the University of Melbourne conducted a similar study examining over a million marriages. They, too, found that weddings that took place on Valentine’s Day or other “special” dates (such as 9/9/99 or 1/2/03) ended in divorce more often than ordinary-date marriages. By their 5th anniversary, 11% of Valentine’s Day marriages and 10% of special number date marriages had fallen apart, compared to 8% of couples with random date weddings. After nine years, 21% of Valentine’s Day marriages were over, and 19% of special date couples had called it quits, versus only 16% of those that got hitched on regular days.

Why? Across the studies, specific characteristics of couples marrying on Valentine’s Day emerged: the German study found that they tended to have less education and were poorly matched. In the Melbourne study, the couples were more likely to have been divorced before and already had children; the brides were also more likely to be pregnant at the time of the wedding. Some experts also theorize that some couples planning these weddings may rush—swept up in the notion of marrying on a special romantic day—rather than laying the bedrock of a sustainable marriage.

The Melbourne researchers found that the “hazard odds of divorce for these special-date weddings were 18-36% higher than ordinary-date weddings.” Even despite the characteristics of the couples, the Valentine and special date marriages were more vulnerable to divorce, with 10-17% higher odds of a split.

So, what does this have to do with your experience of Valentine’s Day as a person amid divorce?

First, realize that some seemingly happy couples are viewing Valentine’s Day through rose-colored glasses.

Second, despite its enormous commercialization, Valentine’s Day is losing popularity as a holiday. Surveys in the last few years have shown that while Valentine’s spending is up, fewer folks are celebrating – 60% of Americans a decade ago has dropped to just about 50% now.

The good news is that more people seem to view Valentine’s Day as a time to celebrate love other than the romantic kind and honor other people close to us—family and dear friends. It’s been almost 15 years since “Galentine’s Day first” appeared on the TV comedy Parks and Recreation, and it’s been gaining popularity ever since.

Try these two main tips for getting through Valentine’s Day during your divorce:

Stay focused. If you’re sure your marriage is over, don’t let loneliness, nostalgia, and the romantic ideal send you back into your ex’s arms or an unsustainable partnership just because it’s Valentine’s Day. Refrain from letting your emotions get the better of you, or you’ll risk losing focus on critical logistics (organizing, paperwork, financial assessment and planning, educating yourself on the dissolution process, assembling your team) and muddy vital decisions that can impact your future.

Keep your eyes on the prize: achieving a fair and balanced marital settlement agreement.

Surround yourself with support and other kinds of love. To help keep yourself free of the various Valentine traps that could ensnare you in your vulnerable state, remind yourself of all the love you do have in your life. Make plans with good friends and hang out with family. Spend time doing fun things with your kids. Model how Valentine’s Day can be about showing the people close to you how much you care. Plan a special parent-child date, a favorite shared activity, or bond over something creative: do an art project, make cards, cook a meal together, or bake cookies. Have a game or movie night and some cuddle time. And remember to show yourself some love by taking time for self-care, whatever that means to you. Last but not least—particularly if you’re struggling—don’t hesitate to seek professional support from a therapist or counselor.

The skilled and caring family attorneys at SFLG understand that Valentine’s Day is full of emotional landmines during divorce. We can help you focus on critical logistics and keep the process moving forward.

By Debra Schoenberg




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