By Kelly Seal
The holidays are a time of happiness and cheer, right? In theory, perhaps – but when it comes to romantic relationships, the most wonderful time of the year could turn pretty tense when anger, bickering, and break ups factor into the equation. In fact, more couples break up between Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time of the year.
While I’m not about to dash anyone’s holiday spirit – (you know who you are: the ones listening to Christmas music and humming as you stir the cookie batter or wrap presents, imagining the perfect evening with your loved one) – the holidays can create a lot of stress, making it the perfect storm of emotions to call it quits on your relationship. Or at least question what you really want. Let me count the ways:
Gift-giving. Have you been dating a long time and you’re dreading choosing the perfect gift? If you haven’t been together very long, are you worried about what kind of gift you should give? After all, it’s a reflection of how you feel about each other. You don’t want to look cheap, or go overboard. Maybe you’re worried about your partner expecting you to spend a ton of money that you don’t have. Or perhaps you’re more inclined to break things off just so you can avoid the awkward gift exchange altogether. Money is a deep source of stress on relationships this time of year, especially in a rough economy.
Reflection. There’s nothing worse than looking back on the past year and deciding that you don’t want to be in the same place next year – wearing an ugly Christmas sweater and making small talk with your girlfriend’s father as you try and get buzzed on egg nog to get through the evening. The holidays are a great time for reflecting not only on the year past, but where you want to be. And it’s not always with the person you’re dating.
Family gatherings. Maybe you’re meeting your significant other’s family for the first time – or you’re predicting your boyfriend’s Aunt Susie will embarrass you as she does every year with sarcastic comments about your cooking. In either case, family gatherings are not stress-free events. They can lead to fights before you’ve even unpacked your bags.
High expectations. I’ll admit it – I like to go overboard for the holidays, slaving over new recipes to impress my dinner guests or pulling out my credit card to purchase expensive gifts I shouldn’t be buying. And then I’m disappointed when something goes wrong or when my guests don’t seem to notice the time and care I’ve put in. Multiply those expectations times ten when it comes to your significant other. With all that pressure, it’s hard to just relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Alcohol. There, I said it. Sometimes a few too many holiday spirits can cause us to say or do things we regret, but can’t take back. Before you have that extra glass of champagne (or whiskey straight up), think about the consequences and the stress you may be putting on your relationship.
Now, I’m not advising you to go around in a panic wondering whether or not you should break things off with your boyfriend/ girlfriend before the holidays to avoid any of these stressful situations. It’s important not to rush to any action you might later regret. No matter what time of the year it is, you should assess the whole picture if you’re reconsidering your relationship. If you’ve wanted to break things off for a while, chances are, the relationship is headed in that direction. However, if your stress and annoyance with your partner is a recent development, it’s probably a short-term feeling brought about by holiday stress and you should take a step back before you make any break-up decisions.
The holidays can bring relationship issues into sharp focus, so it’s important to communicate if you’re upset or not feeling heard instead of letting your anger simmer to a point where you’re ready to break up. If the problem is money-related, or that you don’t get along with his family, there might be compromises you can make or ways to work through it. For example, make the decision to not exchange presents with each other this year, or offer to make dinner or give your girlfriend a massage instead of buying her something. Make the decision to go somewhere with friends next year instead of back to your boyfriend’s mother’s house, or stay in a hotel so you two can have time alone.
If a relationship is wrong for you, it’s best to move on no matter what time of year it is. But don’t let the stress of the holidays be the cause of your break-up – it’s best to communicate and compromise if you want the love to last. ‘Tis the season, so be honest with yourself and your partner.