Breakup Season – How to Get Through It (and Over It)

Woman turned away from her partner and crying

What is breakup season exactly? For most people in college, Thanksgiving marks the one season in the year that is reserved completely for family. It’s typically the time people go back to their hometowns to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones. If you’ve been seeing someone for a while, it’s also the point at which you begin to ask some important questions. Is this serious enough to warrant an invite to Christmas dinner with the family? If we do spend Christmas together, does that mean New Year’s is also on the table? And if New Year’s is on the table, is that the prelude to Valentine’s day? If the answer was no to any of these questions, it’s easy to see how Thanksgiving can be a good opportunity for a breakup.

It’s perfectly normal to feel some anxiety over the future, and chances are, you’re not alone. If you’re currently at a crossroads in your relationship, we’ve rounded up a few suggestions to make breakup season a lot less painful.

Don’t overthink it

Woman sitting by a window deep in thought
Whether you’ve always known about breakup season or are just hearing about it right at this moment, don’t stress. All relationships have their own timelines, and you should never feel pressured to follow a certain story. There really shouldn’t be a need to change the status quo, especially if it’s been working well for the both of you so far. The last thing you need is for breakup season to turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Set your expectations for the holiday season

It may sound obvious, but it’s important to talk to your partner about what you both expect when it comes to the holidays. Does your partner celebrate Christmas? Will you be exchanging gifts? Do you expect to be introduced to the family? Often, these questions are avoided because they’re tricky, but that’s all the more reason to talk these through early.

Know that you don’t have to do the family thing

One way to work around the tricky issue of family around the holidays is to take the option off the table entirely. It’s completely possible to like someone well enough to consider a future with them but not be ready to introduce them to your relatives twice-removed. In these situations, honesty may be the best policy. For example, you can say “I’m really looking forward to getting to know you, but my family can be a little crazy. I don’t want to make you sit through that just yet. Is that okay?” This puts you both on the same page and opens a window for a healthy compromise.

Lean into evaluating the relationship

Two people sitting on a stoop outside having a conversation

All relationships, regardless of age, can benefit from regular check-ins. Regular check-ins allow you and your partner to discuss how you feel about each other and the future at large. Dr. Randi Guther recommends evaluating relationships across seven dimensions. Do you play together? Share dreams? Is there trust between both partners? Do you work as a team? How do you fight? Do you understand your partner’s childhood issues? And are you willing to co-parent a child in the future? The answers to these questions may change as each partner grows, so it’s important to ask them regularly. Talking about these issues also answers the most important question: Do you see yourself working towards the same future?

If there are concerns, address them

If you find yourself suddenly feeling anxious or stressed by your partner or relationship, it’s generally a good idea to figure out why. Set aside a time to talk and be open about what you need. A lot of the time, we expect our partners to just know how we’re feeling, but this sets an unrealistic expectation. When you do finally have the talk, remember that conversations are always a two-way street. Tell them what’s on your mind, and ask them to do the same. At the end of the day, all great relationships require a bit of work. Research from UCLA also suggests that expressing your feelings as words reduces the stress associated with these emotions. At the very least, having a conversation with your partner can help you process very real concerns. And while a breakup is a real possibility, talking through your problems will allow you to part on good terms.

Resolve to be better

Couple standing on the beach together about to kiss

If you’re feeling a little lackluster about your relationship but not hopeless enough to join in on breakup season, consider setting some resolutions to help you rekindle the passion. Do you want to spend more time together? Set aside a weekend a month (or a quarter) for a proper vacation. Do you want to be more present? Make screen-free dates a thing. Try new activities together, such as learning a language or cooking a meal. Small promises count just as much as big gestures. What matters is that you’re both willing to put in the time to make things work.

Use the extra time to connect

The best thing about the holidays is arguably the associated, untouchable vacation time, and there’s never been a rule that the entire season has to be spent with family. Save a weekend (or two) for your partner, and plan a mid-day trip to the museum; go ice skating or Christmas gift shopping; or even play tourist in your city! There are plenty of fun winter date ideas you could try. Spending quality time together is a great way to reestablish old bonds and may be a welcome reminder of why you got together in the first place. Adrenaline has been scientifically proven to contribute to feelings of love, lust, and attraction. The rush from new experiences may be the perfect solution to your relationship blues.

Set aside time to work on yourself

Woman journaling while sitting by a window
As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Essentially, the saying is telling us that in order for us to take care of others, we must first take care of ourselves. Self-care can take on many forms. It can be as simple as getting proper diet and nutrition, adequate sleep, and daily exercise, or as indulgent as adopting a pet or setting aside regular me-time for vacations. Engaging in a self-care routine has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, improve concentration, and increase energy. A healthy mental perspective allows you to be more present with your partner and increases the chances for a happy and fulfilled relationship.

Give yourself time to recover

If you and your partner do decide to go your separate ways, give yourself room to grieve. The holidays can be an emotional and difficult time for some people, and spending it alone all of a sudden can trigger feelings of inadequacy or despair. No matter how you end up spending Christmas, remember that everything happens for a reason, and time heals all wounds. Keep your friends and family closer through the holidays instead. Spike your mulled cider with an extra shot of whiskey. Eat that slice of cake. This is the season for gratitude, and you have made it through the year exceptionally well.
When David McCandless examined 10,000 Facebook status updates as an exercise on data visualization, he never thought that he would find the proof for breakup season, but that’s exactly what he did. His research with Lee Byron showed that breakups occurred most often on Mondays, around spring break, and during the two weeks before Christmas. As the holidays draw nearer, breakup season is becoming a more and more real possibility, but it doesn’t have to ruin the season. Our recommendations? Keep your loved ones close for as long as you can. Build memories. Focus on being present. You might find that breakup season isn’t too bad after all.
Patricia Ann Lee

Patricia Ann Lee

Patricia Lee is a writer from the Philippines, who appreciates a well-made laminated pastry. While she holds a day job as a physician, writing has always been her first love. She thinks of dating as a great exercise in communication.

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