Study: Rate Of Divorce Tied Directly to Holiday Car Purchases

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A white 2022 Honda Accord is shown with a red ribbon and a couple's silhouette.

It was a scene right out of a holiday car commercial: Gary Donovan brought his wife out into the driveway on Christmas morning, removed her blindfold, and watched her eyes widen as she took in her brand-new 2022 Honda Accord. Adorned with a giant red bow, the car glistened in the winter’s morning light, and it wasn’t the only one. Audrey Donovan quickly welled up herself, wiping away tears in a gesture Gary took for unconstrained joy.

He was wrong.

“Gary! How could you?” Audrey yelled before running back into the house sobbing. “A car Gary? A damn car? What happened to the $100 limit?”

Now, just weeks later, Audrey is staying with her sister, and Gary is quickly growing bored of Hungry Man microwaveable dinners for one, but the Donovans’ story isn’t a new one. Every year, hundreds of well-intentioned if fiscally irresponsible husbands attempt to surprise their spouses with a new vehicle for the holidays only to be met with outrage. In most cases, the anger is well-justified. A new car purchase is a big financial commitment for all but the very wealthy, and the Donovans, having recently purchased their first home, certainly don’t fall into that category.

“I just don’t know why he thought this was a sound financial decision, especially given our current circumstances. I mean, I wrapped his gift in old newspaper and recycled some tape I saved from last year, and this man thinks we’re in a situation where we should be buying whole-ass vehicles for each other?” asks Audrey. “This is even worse than our anniversary this summer when he bought me an NFT, but at least you don’t have to pay excise tax on digital art.”

This isn’t an isolated incident, with researchers saying that holiday-related car purchases are becoming an increasingly common cause of divorce in the U.S. While there have been several class-action lawsuits filed that would ban ads from playing during times when impressional men might be drunk, experts simply advise wives to start hiding their husband’s checkbooks in the laundry room where they’ll never look for them. Big-ticket holiday purchases are nothing new, but the trend has been amplified in a social media-driven society where there’s no fate worse than FOMO.

“Sure, it got him a lot of likes on Instagram, but how hard can you flex when you’re now going to be buying underwear from the discounted irregular section until this thing is paid off?” says Audrey.

For her part, Audrey bought Gary a travel mug, wool socks, and a Muppet Show DVD she found at a thrift store. “Honestly, I came in a little under the $100 limit. For me, Christmas isn’t about the presents; it’s about being with the ones you love. That’s why next Christmas I plan on being very, very far away from Gary,” she says.

Gary never saw himself as the grand gesture type and blames falling asleep during a late-November NFL game for the decision. “I had a few too many with the boys and started to doze off before halftime. Since the average NFL game is 81 percent ads, I must have subliminally soaked up a lot of commercials while I was asleep. I guess that would also explain why I keep wishing people ‘Happy Honda Days’ and can’t stop buying car insurance,” he says.

Gary says he just couldn’t get the idea out of his head following that fateful nap, becoming so obsessed with the idea of hanging the reliable, Japanese albatross around his young family’s neck that he immediately started planning the surprise. At first, having apparently not turned on a TV or opened a newspaper in the last 16 months, Gary thought he might be able to get a good deal. “I guess there’s some sort of supply shortage going on? I knew there was no way I was going to stay under the agreed-upon limit, but once I bought the bow, I needed something to put it on, and the dog wouldn’t sit still,” he says.

Gary says he tried to recoup some of his losses by attempting to sell the giant bow on the secondary market only to discover that giant red bow sales tend to plummet in the weeks following Christmas. He now plans to cut the bow into many smaller bows for future gifting, or perhaps turn it into a tent once Audrey finally kicks him out.

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