Should you break up with your significant other before the holidays?

Jenna Birch
Contributing Writer
Should you break up before the holidays? (Illustrated by Hannah Jacobs for Yahoo Lifestyle)

It’s never a good time to realize you’re truly, deeply, and totally unhappy in your relationship. But perhaps the worst possible time to have this revelation is right before the holidays. You probably have plans with your significant other. You’re probably visiting with each other’s families. You’re supposed to act merry and bright. Sigh.

Of course, if you want to break up with your significant other around the holidays, there’s actually no ideal ending scenario. They all sort of suck. Either you have to pretend to be happy and just go along with all your festive holiday plans until January, all the while knowing you want to end it, OR you have to break up, inflict hurt before the holidays and throw a monkey wrench into all those plans you made.

That said, the holiday season is loaded with feelings — some of which might cause you to be rash, pull the plug on a relationship, and then second-guess yourself as the holiday havoc comes to a close in January. So what’s a person to do? Here’s some advice to consider before you end a relationship during the holiday mayhem.

Don’t be rash, and don’t start evaluating your relationship in December

The holidays are a high-stress time of year. You might be nervous about meeting families, you might be stressed about completing work before you travel, you might have (overly) high expectations for your partner… all of which might make you more prone to doubt your relationship.

However, research has shown most men and women are ambivalent when contemplating a breakup; there are real reasons to leave and real reasons to stay, making the “Should I or shouldn’t I?” question even murkier. So if you’re contemplating a breakup, don’t be rash. In a perfect world, you should try to lean into the positives about your significant other and the relationship, and see how the holidays play out.

That said, if you are actually 100 percent sure you want to pull the plug, and no holiday bonding time will change your mind, then do it as soon as you’re sure. There is no reason to “act” your way through the holiday season, buying each other gifts and pretending in front of family and friends when you know you’ll be making a swift exit come January.

But if your doubts only began during the most wonderful time of the year, then my suggestion is to table the thoughts until after the season is through, or tackle the troubles with your partner in concrete ways that might allow you to have a more emotionally peaceful holiday.

Have a discussion about your feelings

If these doubts are new, set aside some time to identify your feelings and why they exist. Have you been feeling under-appreciated, as you struggle to get everything completed for the holiday ahead? Are you not quite sure where the relationship is headed? Approach your partner during a quiet time, where you can have the most effective discussion about what’s going on.

Be direct about your feelings; don’t beat around the bush. Also, offer some immediate, actionable potential solutions. If you’re feeling tired, stressed, resentful, worried, say that, say why you think that is, and what your partner can possibly do to help you — even if it’s just give you space.

If you’re able to troubleshoot and come up with a solution together, you might start to feel better about the relationship as a whole — and realize the holiday stress was possibly getting to you. If the fix doesn’t work, though, then it’ll be easier to build on this first conversation when the holidays are over… even if that’s a second conversation about a legitimate breakup.

Take a break and celebrate separately

Sometimes, you might have a big argument during an already high-stress time. Those “I don’t want to be in this relationship right now” feelings might start to pop up in the aftermath of that fight, making you want to pull the plug on a possibly-already-struggling relationship ASAP. This does happen. My advice is not to be rash after a holiday argument.

But if you just can’t stomach the thought of having to do a million supposedly happy things with your partner, then consider pressing pause until after the holidays. I’m normally not a proponent for “taking a break” in a relationship, but this time of year is perhaps one good time to make an exception. You’ll be busy anyway. Some temporarily uncoupled time can be helpful.

Maybe you can each go to separate family gatherings at Christmas, plan a New Year’s girls/guys trip, or one person can stay behind during existing local travel plans. The space can give you perspective on your disagreements or your compatibility, while the time apart can allow you to organize your thoughts and come back with a plan of action.

If you feel you must pull the plug, be efficient

Some people just know in their gut when a relationship is over, and once they know, they can’t fake it or delude themselves. If that’s you, I get it; sometimes, you just know you won’t feel right pretending to be happy with your significant other.

It’s tempting to want to look for “the right time” to break up with your partner, but if you start waiting for that window when he’s not busy with end-of-the-year work stuff, or you two don’t have that party coming up to attend together, you will just be compounding the damage and difficulty of the breakup. Gifts will need to be returned, travel plans canceled or changed, times arranged to start disentangling necessary parts of your lives.

In this case, if it’s decided in your heart, say so immediately — at the first available, appropriate moment — and start the breakup process. Breakups, in general, aren’t convenient, and this one won’t be either. Although the news will likely hurt, the adult thing to do is minimize the long-term damage for your partner.

Jenna Birch is a journalist, a dating coach, and author of  The Love Gap (Grand Central Life & Style, January 2018). Her relationship column appears on Yahoo every Monday. To ask her a question, which may appear in an upcoming post, send an email to jen.birch@sbcglobal.net with “YAHOO QUESTION” in the subject line.

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