Whether you’re the one doing the breaking up or the one being broken up with, the holidays are nothing short of an emotional landmine. Those who are unhappy in their relationship are stuck with the impossible dilemma of whether they should string their partner along through the season so they don’t totally ruin his/her holidays, or whether they should be honest but risk being perceived as exceptionally cruel because of their timing.
But on the other hand, to those are broken up with, the holidays are a time of having other couples’ happiness shoved relentlessly in their faces and having to explain the new, raw breakup to a friend after a friend and family member after family member.
First, let’s look at options if you’re considering breaking up with someone around the holidays. The bottom line is…
You have two choices: (1) Be honest and end things before the holidays, or (2) String your partner along in the hopes of sparing them additional pain.
Three words: Take. Choice. One.
I get it: It feels almost evil to break up with someone right around the holidays because you know full well that it’s a time of the year that they’ll be more emotionally vulnerable. It makes sense that you might hesitate, and it is admirable to try to avoid causing your partner the special pain they might feel at a holiday breakup. But if you do so, your plan could easily backfire.
- If you wait until after the holidays, your partner will probably put together that you planned it that way, and will most likely feel even more resentful that you strung them along and now all of their holiday memories with you are basically a lie.
- If the relationship is at all serious, you’ll probably spend time with each other’s families. Doing so can be emotionally draining under the best of circumstances and emotionally troubling under the worst. It can also involve travel expenses. And if you go to family events with your partner, then later, after the breakup, your ex is going to have to deal with comments like this from their family: “But everything seemed so great between you when he/she was here!” If you’re considering a breakup, don’t put your partner through those things needlessly.
- Your partner will likely already be shopping for a present for you if they think everything is fine. If you can do the breakup before that happens, you’d be doing them a favor; even if they get you something that they can return, that will be emotionally painful for them to have to do.
- Worse yet, if your partner thinks everything is fine, he/she might be planning to propose! This would be a true worst-case scenario, but if you’re in a serious relationship, it’s certainly possible; we all know how popular the holidays are for getting engaged. Don’t let this happen! Being honest before the holidays and ending things is indescribably better than having to say no to a New Year’s Eve proposal.
But, on the other hand, you might be the one who was broken up with around the holidays. If so, is there anything you can do to make this difficult time easier?
Anyone who’s been broken up with before knows that the only thing that really gets you over the hurt is time. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to make the season more bearable and to help prevent the holidays from making your breakup even harder than it already has to be.
Find your balance.
The answer to, “Should I hide out under my covers for the entire holiday season or go to every single social event possible to distract myself?” it’s almost completely, “It’s up to you.” The reason it’s not completely “It’s up to you” is because being alone allows your negative, self-hating thoughts to grow and multiply, so no, you should not seclude yourself for the entire holiday season. But can you take more alone time than you normally would during the season? Of course. Some people will heal faster if they’re given time to process their pain alone, while others will heal faster if they’re around the positive, loving influence of friends and family. While total seclusion shouldn’t be your goal, check in with yourself and decide whether you need to scale back from or lean into holiday gatherings.
Consider letting people know about the breakup before your gatherings.
This is the choice for you if you do NOT want to talk about the breakup. What sounds easier: sending a short message (email, text, whatever) to friends and family letting them know that the relationship ended and it’s not something you’ll want to discuss over the holidays or telling 18 different people in person on the same night that you’re no longer with your S.O.? I can’t vouch for every individual in your family, but most people who love you will respect your wishes if you tell them you don’t want to talk about it right now and will support you if and when you do want to talk in the future.
Prepare a standard way that you’ll break the news to people.
Because there will always be a few people that you wind up having to tell in person about the breakup, prepare a brief way to say it before gatherings. For instance, when asked how your S.O. is, or where he/she is, you can say, “Oh, we’re not together anymore, actually. We were having some problems, so it’s probably for the best.” You don’t have to offer any justification or reasoning for the breakup at all, but keep in mind that if you don’t, people will likely ask, “Oh no! What happened?” If you have a short way of saying it planned out, you can craft a response that makes clear you don’t want a lengthy discussion about this right now.
Be especially wary of new relationship possibilities.
…And when I say “new relationship possibilities,” I mean “rebounds.” Sure, we’ve all heard of that one mythical couple who got together on a rebound and have now been happily married for 6 years. But this is the exception, not the rule. As much as you should beware of rebounds anytime you break up, you should be especially cautious about them if your breakup happens around the holidays, because you’re probably even more vulnerable and chances are high that you won’t be interested in someone new for the right reasons.
If you’re planning to end a relationship, you will hurt your partner and you will make their holidays sadder; there is no way around that. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not the right thing to do, and it doesn’t mean that you might not cause them even more pain later if you put it off. If you’re the one who got dumped, then you are going to hurt during this season. But then, someday, after Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” stops playing on the radio, and after TV stations stop showing Love Actually every single night of the week, you’ll notice that it’s starting to pass. It always does.
If you’re dealing with relationship uncertainty and pain during the holidays or any other time, you can call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult .