While it's never easy to end a relationship, it can be particularly difficult to break up with someone during the holidays. It's only natural to think you'll celebrate with your partner, give gifts, visit family, and spend the season side by side. So the idea of pulling the plug on all that, right when expectations are high, can be tricky.
And yet sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. If a relationship isn't working, it's OK to end it even though the holidays are right around the corner. It can even be kind, in a way, not to lead a partner on through the festivities, only to break up them in the new year. Instead, focus on ways to make the break up less terrible, find the right time, and then do it.
Following the time-tested bandage method, where you rip it off (or end the relationship) quickly, is usually the least painful option. "If you’re going to break up with someone, be direct about it," Jonathan Bennett, a relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "The holidays are stressful enough and your partner doesn’t need the extra drama of ghosting, slow fading, or anything else except a clean breakup."
It may be tempting to ignore texts or bail on holiday parties as a way of slowly stepping out of a relationship, but being straightforward is best. And don't wait until the last minute, either. "The longer you wait to end it, the more you’ll disrupt everyone’s holiday schedule," Bennett says. It's going to throw your partner through a loop, but even more so if they don't have time to make other plans.
Depending on the length and intensity of your relationship, the breakup could be as easy as that. But if you've been committed for years, be prepared to do more work. "We get into relationships with respect and love," Amanda Pasciucco, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "We ought to end them with respect and love towards the partner we say we have loved."
This might mean going to couples therapy before calling things off. "Send an email, handwrite a letter, or have a face-to-face conversation (or multiple conversations) stating you are not happy and that you want to see a therapist before immediately breaking up with someone," Pasciucco says. On the one hand, you may begin to overcome your differences. Or, it could be the last olive branch you need to extend before officially parting ways.
From there, end the relationship as you would any other time of year. "Be honest. Own your part. Stay respectful [...] Treat them the way you would like to be treated," Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, a licensed psychotherapist, tells Bustle. "And finally, apologize for anything you may have said or done that was hurtful. And tell them they are lovable and deserving of a healthy relationship in the future."
Once you've broken up try to take good care of yourself, especially as you head out to gatherings and dinners. "It is difficult to breakup before the holidays because of shame, fear [...] and what others will think of you both," Pasciucco says. You might not want to face your family or have to explain why your partner isn't present, but keep in mind why it needed to end and don't let anyone make you feel bad about the timing.
"Breaking up is always difficult and there is no good time to do it," Bennett says. "If the relationship is truly over, then you don’t have to feel guilty ending it over the holidays." Instead, rest assured you ended well, and try to move on from there.
Jonathan Bennett, a relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating
Amanda Pasciucco, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist
Christine Scott-Hudson, MA, MFT, ATR, a licensed psychotherapist