real life

'Year 12 divorce': How high school exams are contributing to marriage breakdowns.

While most people wind down for the holiday period over summer, one profession will not be experiencing a slow down. Appointments with relationships therapists are set to boom in the New Year thanks to a rise in the “Year 12 divorce”.

Many relationship therapists report that inquiries for relationship counselling have been on a steep increase since the final year 12 examinations have finished.

Women aged 50-54 are leading this trend with inquiries about divorce counselling or assistance in separating from their husbands more than double those of other inquiries.

Even though many other western nations have close to a 50 per cent divorce rate, Census results reveal one-third of Australian marriages tend to end in divorce. While this is distressing news for those about to get married, the good news is rates of Australian divorce have dropped since the 1990’s.

In my private counselling practice in Sydney, where I regularly work with couples in relationships, I have found this phenomena strongly trending among women.

I think the reason a lot of women (and some men) are initiating divorce proceedings at this time of the year is because they have been biding their time waiting until their teenager has finished their final year 12 exam to minimise the impact of divorce on the results.

10 years ago in my counselling practice, only two in 10 enquiries at this time of the year were about couples wanting to separate. Today, five in 10 enquiries after the year 12 exams are finished are specifically about wanting to end a long-term marriage. I think this is a startling trend that indicates the ‘Year 12 divorce’ is very real.

Many relationship therapists report that inquiries for relationship counselling have been on a steep increase since the final year 12 examinations have finished. Image: Getty.

One of the changes I’ve noticed is women are often the ones who initiate separation counselling or divorce proceedings at this time of the year. I think once the exams are over for their youngest child, they feel empowered to move on in their life and let go of an unhappy marriage.

The great tragedy is many couples can be helped by marriage counselling if they address their issues earlier, but current research shows the average couple waits 6 years from the start of an issue before seeking help.

Unfortunately, if you leave issues unresolved in your relationship for too long, it could be very hard to come back from the brink of divorce.

I recommend that if you feel you have unresolved issues in your relationship, seek the services of a professional relationship counselling earlier instead of waiting too long. It could be the difference between a relationship of longevity or one that ends once the year 12 exams are over.

Here are my three tips for couples that may be considering a post “Year 12 divorce”:


1. Put your marriage first.

Make sure you prioritise your relationship at all times and constantly nurture and feed your emotional and physical connection. If your marriage is being impacted by outside forces, put your attention on reducing the effect of work, alcohol, children, or family stresses. “Small and often” is the key here; the accumulation of good will can help your marriage enormously.

LISTEN: The honest description of long-term relationships that had Holly Wainwright cheering (post continues after audio...)

2. Focus on prevention.

If divorce is looming for you on the horizon, it’s likely you’re already both carrying a lot of hurt and pain from the past. The best strategy to avoid getting to this point is to address disagreements and issues early on. Get help by seeking the help of a professional relationship therapist or marriage counsellor. Yes, even strong couples go to relationship therapy to make a good relationship even better.

3. Work on yourself.

A relationship can only be as healthy as the two individuals in it. Taking responsibility for your part in your "relationship dance" can help stop the negative patterns of relating that have become entrenched over time. And your efforts to change your side of the dynamic can have a positive impact on your partner. It’s never too late to do your own personal work and have your marriage reap the benefits.

Clinton Power is a relationship therapist with over 14 years of experience working with individuals and couples with relationship and marriage issues. He is the founder of Clinton Power + Associates, a private practice dedicated to helping singles and couples move out of relationship pain in Sydney, Australia.

Clinton’s book, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship, has been downloaded over 4000 times and is available for Kindle on Amazon.