Should you stay together for the holidays?

I recently saw a very interesting TEDTalk by David McCandless that discussed various ways of presenting data in a more visually pleasing way. In this talk, he revealed that according to Facebook status updates, he was able to map out the most common break-up time periods during a year. Not surprisingly, the first two weeks of December were the peak break-up weeks during the year. However, as the holidays, specifically, Christmas Day got closer, the rate dramatically declined to the lowest break-up rate of the year (but then steadily climbed back up as the days progressed). It seems as though the first two weeks of December initiate a “fight or flight” response – stay together or break up.

Once that time period ends, you are less likely to experience a break up (until after Christmas Day). The fact that the break up rate goes right back up after Christmas suggests that people will stay together for the holidays; either as a means of avoiding loneliness, or maybe just a strong desire to get one last gift before the relationship ends. But is this practice really a good idea? On the upside, you’re not alone, but on the downside, you stay stuck in an emotional place that isn’t healthy.

According to a recent article by Kristen Houghton, author of the book, And Then I’ll be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First, staying together for the holidays brings false hope to a failing relationship. Four of the main takeaways from this article were:

1)       Be Realistic – The atmosphere of the holidays does not provide a setting of realistic thinking. Rather, a person tends to view their partner with qualities they may not really have just as a result of the holidays (traditions, increased socializing, heartwarming stories of love and good will) clouding your judgment. Keep this in mind as soon as the thought “S/he’s not that bad…” comes into your head.

2)       There’s Always Next Year – This likely isn’t the last set of holidays you will experience. If you’re sure this isn’t the right relationship for you, move on quickly and look forward to a new relationship – either with another person or with yourself.

3)       Don’t Second Guess Yourself ­– Try not to second guess your intuition about why you wanted to break up in the first place. Odds are, you aren’t being hasty and have given it a lot of thought before this time of year. Follow your gut.

4)       Don’t Make Promises to Yourself that You Can’t Keep – Make no mistake, the holidays will end. Your situation will likely be the same as it was before the holidays. Therefore, don’t tell yourself you will find a way to make it work, if you haven’t already; don’t tell yourself you will work on your communication skills, even though you previously thought they were fine; don’t promise yourself that you can change your partner – odds are, you can’t.

It might be difficult, but having the tough conversation now is better than putting it off for later. Think of it as kicking off the New Year with a fresh beginning. And if you do find yourself alone during the holidays, remember that there are plenty of volunteer groups and services that would love for you to donate the time you would have spent worrying about your relationship. Just because you aren’t with someone, doesn’t mean there aren’t people who would love to be with you.

Related Articles:

How you can kill love with “should”, “always”, and “never”. Do you have unrealistic expectations for a relationship?

“We’re in love, so we’ll work it out” and other dating myths


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