In 2010, a data journalist looked at Facebook statuses that had the phrases “broken up” or “break up.”
He discovered that breakups of people in romantic relationships started to increase after Halloween and leading up to Christmas. This time is more commonly known as “holiday season” but, with this data, it could also be called “breakup season.” Interestingly, splits also tend to increase around Easter and Passover, as well, but the traditional “holiday season” still shows the biggest bump.
Obviously, breakups can come about for a number of reasons. But why is there such an increase in couples deciding to call it quits during the winter holiday season? A time we typically see as synonymous with joy and festivity?
The answer is that the “holiday season” tends to have two sides for most people. Yes, it is full of parties, presents, food, family, and cheer. That’s the good side. But there’s also the side of this season that causes stress to skyrocket. Those parties and presents and family sound great in theory, but they can also strain relationships that may already be struggling.
Here are some reasons I commonly encounter in Houston relationship counseling that might cause the holiday season to be a peak time for breakups.
The holidays are a time for high expectations. Whether you’re in a new relationship or a more established one, each individual comes to the holidays with their own traditions and expectations. In some cases, these expectations don’t necessarily match up perfectly with your partner’s expectations. This can cause disappointment, pressure, and stress.
For example, if you are expecting a big holiday gift from your partner and he or she doesn’t deliver, you may start to feel inadequate, or that your partner doesn’t love you enough. While that is a possibility, it is probably more likely that you and your partner simply have different gift-giving expectations. Perhaps you have always received big presents from family or previous partners, while your partner hasn’t.
The holidays can heighten resentments. Holidays often require a lot of planning. If one partner is the planner – the one who pulls everything together – he or she may start to resent their partner for not doing enough. These resentments can reach a boiling point as the holidays draw near and stress increases.
Money issues can also come to a head during the holidays if you find yourself dealing with a tight budget that prevents you from doing as much as you would like. This is especially true if you have a relationship where the expectation is that one of you is the “breadwinner,” because feelings that they are not “pulling their weight” can arise.
The holidays involve spending time with family. When it comes to couples, spending time with their partner’s family may be stressful enough during normal occasions. Throw in the holidays and there can definitely be extra stress to deal with. For new couples, this may be when you’re going to meet each other’s families for the first time. This can cause worry on both ends about making a good first impression or whether your partner will put forth their best effort.
For couples who may already be considering a breakup, the thought of spending the holidays with their partner’s family – or even their own – may simply be too overwhelming. If things are already on the rocks, you may not want to go through the effort of pretending everything is okay with relatives.
The end of the year encourages reflection. The holiday season signifies the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. During this time, people tend to reflect on how they spent the past year and how they want to spend the upcoming year. This reflection can lead to some people questioning their relationship and whether their partner truly makes them happy. If there are already doubts with the relationship, the thought of breaking up during the holidays so you can start fresh in the New Year might seem enticing.
What Can You Do to Avoid Breaking Up During the Holiday Season?
If you don’t want to break up with your partner, the best thing you can do is to talk with them. Communication is always important, but during the stress of the holidays, it’s a necessity to convey your needs, expectations, and frustrations. Pressure from the holidays can mean different things to different people. Without talking about issues with your partner, they may never know exactly where you stand.
Here are a few specific ways that you can ease potential tensions.
- Discuss gift-giving with your partner ahead of time, so you both have the same expectations as to what you’ll be getting and receiving. This can prevent disappointment.
- If introducing your partner to your family is causing anxiety, have a talk with both your partner and your family to ease the anxiety and stress. By working together, everyone can feel more comfortable in family situations.
- To avoid resentment, couples should try keeping things simple and, again, communicate their plans and whether they need any help to their partner.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in holiday plans and festivities, but it’s also important to make your relationship a priority during all the chaos. Take time to share moments alone with your partner to escape any stress and pressure you may feel. Make your own holiday traditions and memories together so you feel more connected.
And even if you do break up, keep in mind this important fact: holiday breakups aren’t necessarily permanent. While the holidays can cause numerous stressors for couples and relationships, those stressors are temporary, because in a few weeks the holiday season is over and you’re back to normalcy. Once the holidays have passed, many people realize they may have acted a certain way due to stress and want to get back together because that pressure is no longer there.
Prepare for the Holidays in Houston Relationship Counseling
If your relationship is feeling the looming stress and pressure of the holidays, consider attending an IMAGO couple’s workshop or seeking out Houston relationship counseling. Contact me today to set up a consultation.