The holidays can be very tricky ground–especially if you’re in a relationship that likely will not make it to 2013. When the New York Times’s Social Q’s columnist Philip Galanes came on my radio show last week,* he said it simply: “You’re entering the no-fly zone.” In other words, if you’re going to get out, get out now.
*(P.S. The show is a four-week special called “How to Click: The Truth About Dating,” airing Thurs @ 1pm ET on Martha radio Sirius XM 110 thru Christmas.)
Yes, it’s a bold move–and a smart one. Trust me: I’ve eeked out the ends of many relationships around the holidays because “aw, it’s Christmas!” As if the holidays can magically impart a healing Christmas glow and fix whatever really isn’t working. I get the sentimentality of it all–especially if you have memories of happy holidays together. But is that the reason to stay? I’ll tell you one thing: If I thought someone was keeping ME around just out of habit, nostalgia, or to have someone to drag to his office holiday party, I’d say, no thank you. And you should, too.
Forget the Excuses
The holidays are really just a microcosm of the same year-round reasons you cling to expired relationships: Out of a sense of obligation, tradition, habit, and expectation.
I say: Be honest. With yourself and each other. Do you want to stay and “get through” the holidays together, only to end it in the bleak, uneventful days post-holiday? (How utterly depressing.) Do you think buying or exchanging gifts somehow makes up for the fact that THIS ISN’T WORKING ANYMORE?
It reminds me of that old Seinfeld joke, where he can’t break up with his girlfriend because new restaurants keep opening up. That says all you need to know: You keep people in your life because you want companionship–but when that relationship is DONE (and you feel it in every bone in your body), you’re doing nothing but prolonging the inevitable.
Don’t Do What I Did
Let me tell you a story: In my mid 20s, I was dating a guy I’d known for many years, but had been with for less than a year, and I knew full well this was not right for me or us. It was an inescapable, obvious fact. But instead of cutting it off when I should have, I “hung in there,” even going so far as to have an old snapshot of us rendered by an artist at the mall–which was the worst gift ever to give to a soon-to-be ex (or anyone). I figured he’d be using it as a dartboard before long. He gave me a pair of teeny diamond earrings, and I felt my heart break–because I knew that his token of forever-ness was a hope, but not a reality.
We made it just through Christmas, but barely, and by New Year’s, I was done, and he was devastated. Made for a tricky New Year’s Eve though (since I had to uninvite him to my own party, which felt shitty), and really, all of this could have been avoided if I’d ended it a little earlier.
The End of the Year Makes Sense
At the close of their fiscal year, many companies execute tough decisions about layoffs, and unfortunately, this falls without fail right around the holiday. Everyone says, “How heartless! To do that right before Christmas!” But it’s also the end of the year–when big decisions must be made. And so you should think long and hard about what you’re bringing into the new year and what you’re going to let go. If you want to start fresh, start now.
You’re also doing yourself and him or her a favor by letting them go NOW–while the holidays and parties and lovely distractions fill our calendars. This is the time when you’ll be seeing the people who know and love you best, which is what you need when you’re going through a breakup. And so will your ex–give him or her that, at least. If I were getting dumped, I’d like that to happen when I know I have familiar shoulders to lean on, cry on. And when I’m going to be out and about with the chance to meet someone new.
Breaking up is not easy. It never is. But putting on a charade of holiday romance when you don’t feel it does both of you a disservice. Don’t let habit and tradition get in the way of making a choice you know you must make, so the beginning of your new year can be about what you’re starting, not what you’re ending.