Your relationship was going so well and then all of a sudden, as the weather got colder, everything went to hell. Now it’s nearly Christmas and you’re alone. It always sucks when a relationship ends, but for some reason, a holiday breakup hits that much harder. Here’s why splitting up is so popular at this time of year and how to cope so that your ex doesn’t ruin everything.
Why are holiday breakups so common?
- The holidays put extra stress on relationships. This time of year is stressful at the best of times. Making travel arrangements, buying presents, and trying to make sure Christmas is perfect for your loved ones puts people under a lot of pressure. When you’re in a relationship, that stress can become completely overwhelming, as you’re trying to make two different people’s plans mesh together perfectly. For many couples, that’s far too much to bear, leading to a holiday breakup.
- People begin to reevaluate their lives at this time of year. At the dawn of a new year, people begin to reflect on the year that’s just passed and how they’d like next year to be different. They may realize that their relationship isn’t making them as happy as they thought. Or, they could decide that their partner is holding them back. The desire to do things differently in the new year and turn a new leaf can bring many relationships to an end.
- Commitment comes to the forefront, and not everyone is keen to do it. You may want to spend the holidays with your partner, but they usually go to their mom’s house. You want them to come to your dad’s. Are you willing to fly to California for a few days with them? Will they miss New Year at their family’s place to come to Martha’s Vineyard with you? Making these decisions often drives home the seriousness of a relationship. Suddenly, partners may get cold feet and realize they’re in over their head. In these cases, a breakup isn’t far behind.
Why does splitting at this time of year hurt so much more?
There’s never a good time to end a relationship, but during the holiday season, it feels like a breakup is even more devastating than usual. It makes sense if you think about it. Christmas is all about happiness and joy. It’s hard to feel that way when your heart has just been shattered into a million pieces.
“Commercials, social media, the movies. They are all flooded with unrealistic holiday joy and togetherness. Even the most dysfunctional
families and couples resolve all of their differences and find love and peace by the end of the show,” psychologist and author Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt, Ph.D., ABPP, PLLC, tells Bolde. “People are posting curated social media. It creates the false sense of I’m the messed up one because my life isn’t like that.”
Not only that, but what about all the social events that come along with the holiday season? From office parties to get-togethers with family and friends, usually your partner would be your plus-one. When you show up without them, no doubt you’ll be asked where they are and what happened. This just drives home the pain of your holiday breakup even more.
“That sense of being alone or isolated is killer painful. If you’ve been in a relationship and you go to a gathering, you have to explain where your partner is, and there is the weight of going alone,” Eckleberry-Hunt adds. It’s enough to make you want to stay home alone until next year.
How can you process the grief of a breakup while also celebrating the holiday season?
As much as it hurts to process a breakup, especially at this time of year, you can still enjoy the season despite the current situation. That’s not to say it will be easy, but there are a few things you can do to help.
- Spend time with your closest family and friends. You’ll likely be hanging out with your nearest and dearest over the holidays anyway. However, this has the added bonus of getting you out of your head and reminding you that you are loved and special. Try not to talk about the breakup 24/7. You may find that focusing on seasonal celebrations means you don’t even want to rehash your relationship anyway.
- Block and delete your ex from everything. This is solid advice after ending any relationship, but especially at the holidays. Going no contact is truly the only way to save your sanity. Not only that, but blocking and/or deleting your ex anywhere and everywhere will ensure you’re not bombarded with their selfies and status updates whenever you scroll through your social media. Out of sight, out of mind (at least that’s the theory).
- Practice gratitude. Sure, you no longer have a romantic partner, but there are plenty of things you do have in life to be thankful for. That’s what you should concentrate on now. As relationship expert Pippa Murphy tells Bolde: “It is important to make sure that you do not get so caught up in your own sadness that you forget about all of the good things that have happened in your life recently. Take some time each day to reflect on what has gone well in your life recently and write down those things on paper. This will help remind you not only of all of the good things but also help keep negative thoughts at bay during this challenging time.
- Avoid alcohol and weed. As tempting as it is to get totally wasted on gin & tonics or to roll a joint, try to resist. Both alcohol and marijuana are depressants, meaning if you’re feeling low, they’re likely to make you feel even worse. Sure, you might plan on getting so blitzed that you’re incapable of coherent thought. However, this relief is temporary. When you wake up tomorrow morning, you’ll not only have a killer hangover but you’ll also feel even worse about your holiday breakup.
- Spend some time on your own. Don’t feel pressured to be hyper-social if you’re truly not in the mood. While it’s good to get out and about, sometimes you just need to be alone. “It’s perfectly fine to cherish your own company during the holidays,” says relationship expert Sameera Sullivan. “Go outside to enjoy the late midnight walks, taking in all the decor in your neighborhood. It’s the perfect time to open that expensive bottle of wine and enjoy it all by yourself. Wear expensive lingerie and put on your favorite TV show or movie.”
- Offer yourself some compassion. Don’t try to pretend that you don’t care about what happened. It’s okay to admit that you’re sad, angry, upset, or lonely. Be honest with yourself about it and let yourself feel those feelings. Journal them out, if it helps. Do whatever it takes to process how you’re feeling honestly and with love and empathy for yourself. That’s the best way forward.