I don’t know why it is, but every year it seems that there are always several relationship breakups right before the holidays. For those who are cynical I expect they would say it’s a money saver: no expensive Christmas gifts need to be bought. That may be true, but I think the issue is bigger than that.
Often, this is the time we attend holiday events and couples have to seriously DTR (determine the relationship). Has our relationship advanced far enough to bring this person home to meet my close family members? Would they fit in? Is my family too different? Is theirs? Do I want to introduce this person to my co-workers, my church family, and perhaps my broader friend base?
Unfortunately, this is usually the most painful time to go through a breakup. If the relationship ends, that means you will face all these events alone, or at least with someone who is not as significant in your life. You may feel shame or rejection or depression.
So what should you do?
First, understand that you will go through a period of grief. It is a loss and you will have a significant amount of feelings, the intensity determined by several possible factors:
- How long did the relationship last?
- How deep was the relationship?
- Did you “play the movie forward” in your head, fantasizing the outcome of the relationship beyond where it actually was?
- Did you cross any boundaries, emotional or sexual that was in conflict with your values?
- Did you have a sexual relationship or live together?
- Was the breakup angry and hostile or did you have a good goodbye?
Second, although you may feel an urge to isolate instead of connect, this is the worst thing you can do. Now is a great time to reconnect with single friends that you might have pulled away from because you devoted most of your time to your relationship. Be sure to spread it around if you have the tendency to overwhelm your friends with too much emotionality. Did you stray from God and church? Turn back to Him and the comfort of your spiritual family as well.
Third, the people around you that were aware of your relationship are going to ask questions that are going to be uncomfortable. “Where is that cute girl you are dating?” or “What happened? Why did you break up?” You need to be prepared to answer those questions in a way that doesn’t trigger feelings of shame. You don’t owe everyone a detailed explanation. You can simply say “It didn’t work out” or “We weren’t right for each other” and leave it at that.
Fourth, don’t beat yourself up. Try not to replay all the things you could have done differently or all the mistakes you think you made. A certain amount of that is a normal part of the grief process, but too much of it can be toxic and self-defeating. It is better to give yourself grace, remember some of the good stuff and assess what you learned that will better prepare you for the next relationship.
By the way, if you know you are going to break up with someone, be kind and do it before they invest time and money on you during the holidays. Don’t be selfish and keep them around just so you don’t have to go to parties alone or so you can get a cool present before the relationship is history.
Breakups range from relief to disappointing to truly painful and you cannot always predict how you are going to feel. But be assured that you will get through it and at some point, sooner or later, be open for new possibilities.