AMHERST – The weather outside is bound to get frightful, and because it’s two weeks before Christmas you may find yourself weathering the winter storm by yourself.
Mount Allison professor Dr. Edwin Sheppard recently conducted a study following the peak times for breakups and how people cope with the split.
“It was for my PhD thesis,” the professor explained. “I looked at breakups and if people could predict their emotions to a breakup and after, how they cope with it.”
Sheppard said the idea came to him after he experienced a break up of his own while completing his undergraduate degree.
During his studies, studying undergraduate psychology students, Sheppard discovered his subjects couldn’t predict how they would be affected by a break up.
“People tend to over estimate their emotions,” he said. “When I asked people who were in a relationship how they would feel after they broke up and compare that to how they actually feel when they do break up, I found people thought it was going to be a terrible experience. After a four-week term, there was a change in their emotions and they became more positive.”
Even though more women participated in his study, swaying the votes towards the females initiating the break up, Sheppard said he thinks that, regardless, women tend to lead the way in break ups around the holidays.
“Men aren’t really assertive when it comes to things like that,” he said. “They let the relationship drag on and diminish and hope that it actually ends without them having to do anything about it. Women are bit more forward with their emotions.”
Sheppard also discovered there were key periods in which couples were more susceptible to breaking up. His study found couples would most often split up two weeks before Christmas, around Valentines Day and Thanksgiving, as well as in early spring.
“A lot of it is just because it causes a lot of extra stress on a relationship,” he said. “If (the relationship) is kind of rocky in the first place, going into these times of years can make it really hard to get through them.”
At Christmas time especially, Sheppard said couples have to face some serious obstacles such as religious differences, financial status and family.
“Those are really the three big parts of Christmas that can get in your way all at the same time,” Sheppard added. “If the relationship wasn’t going so well in the first place, add these in, and everything sort of spirals into this really negative cycle.”
Another reason for breakups around the holiday season, Sheppard said, could have to do with buying presents, but usually in couples are have not been committed to each other for a long period of time.
Sheppard currently works at Mount Allison University as an introductory to psychology professor and is leaving for Calgary to teach courses on love and relationships.