Breaking up around the holidays
December 14, 2011 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Procedure for breaking up close to the holidays

So after much debate, numerous anon questions, continuing relationship problems, and overall living life, I've decided to end my relationship of 2.5 years. She's a wonderful person, deserves the best in life, and I really do wish her well but I'm just not feeling it anymore and haven't for a while. So its not one specific problem that can be fixed, and she deserves someone who will appreciate her quirks. Anyway, what is the procedure for breaking up near the holidays? I was going to wait until after New Years but I don't want to give her the wrong impression (pretty sure she senses a breakup).
posted by lpcxa0 to Human Relations (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Don't wait. Do it. Do it now. It sounds like you want to spare her misery over the holidays so she can at least have a happy New Year or whatever, but she is going to look back at this time and think, those "happy holidays" were a lie, my god, he should have just gotten it over with. It sounds like you are thinking of waiting out of a place of kindness and protectiveness. Put that kindness to good use and be straight with her now.
posted by sestaaak at 6:23 AM on December 14, 2011 [26 favorites]

I'm torn -- the only time someone ever broke up with me prior to a major calendar event (two days before my birthday), I was more pissed off with him about having cheated on me than I was about "you're breaking up with me right before my damn birthday!". And I'm assuming that you're breaking up for a more routine reason.

So it would suck no matter when it happens, but so would that weird "staying together even though you know that something's coming" feeling. The only added factor I can think of is whether either of you have made plans to spend time with each other's families. Because trying to unpick whatever food, lodging, transportation, etc. plans on top of everything else is a HUGE complication. So if you have plans with each others' families I would weigh that when you're deciding as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do it now. Today. You will not be doing her a kindness by waiting, especially since she already can tell something is up.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:28 AM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

The longer you wait, the closer it will be to the holidays.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:42 AM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Procedure? Just like any other breakup. I'll assume you can handle that.

The followup: since you are the one breaking up with her, the average social expectation tends to be that the financial and logistical burdens fall on you. You should take this on to the best of your ability, as silently as possible (i.e. no complaining, and no public patting yourself on the back, just do it).
- If you bought a plane ticket to visit her family, consider it vanished. If she bought a plane ticket to visit your family, pay her back.
- If you had plans to do something fun on New Year's, give her your ticket and tell her to invite a friend, or tell her you hope she enjoys the party becuase you will be unable to make it. Possible exception to this is if the party host is clearly your friend more than her friend, but at least mention that you won't go if she doesn't want you to.
- You'll be encountering family and friends in social situations more than usual because of the season, as will she. Try to be as gracious as possible about the breakup - don't blame her for anything, don't try to keep it secret (no need to advertize, but the dumpee does not want to go to a party and have everyone ask "so where's John?", when they just saw you yesterday and you didn't say anything).

One thing there may be disagreement in-thread over: I say return any gifts you bought for her and never speak of it again. I have no idea how you should handle it if she angrily flings a wrapped package at you and says "WTF am I supposed to do with this NOW?!?!" but I suspect that having a gift to give her in return is not the answer.
posted by aimedwander at 6:53 AM on December 14, 2011 [30 favorites]

Yeah, just do it now. It's going to hurt no matter what. Not only will you be minimizing that agonizing something's-not-right phase, if she's spending the holidays with friends and family she'll have support at the ready.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:56 AM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do it like ripping off a band-aid. It'll suck initially, but then she can move on. But don't wait any longer, keep it as far from the holidays as possible. TODAY!

I would be super pissed if my SO/ex-SO waited until after the holidays to dump me, and I think it would make it worse.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:08 AM on December 14, 2011

Don't wait. Do you want her to feel both foolish and dumped?
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:12 AM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was once told while being broken up with, "I'm sorry, I really wanted to do this tomorrow," to which my response was, "what the fuck is wrong with you, why on earth would you want to wait 'til tomorrow, don't you realize how unfair that is to me?" Honestly, while I was pretty lukewarm about the breakup, the fact that he had put it off for a couple weeks kind of pissed me off.

So do it now. There is no procedure. Breakups always suck, that's just how it is. Pretend like it's March and get on with it.
posted by phunniemee at 7:14 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding aimedwander and Metroid Baby and anybody saying "do it now"

If she knows something is down, she is likely agonizing. Deliver her unemcumbered into the benevolent warmth of the holiday spirit (and hopefully family and friends?).

Return gifts and be fair-minded about any immediate financial entanglements.

Dumping somebody is a crummy thing for both folks, but don't let anyone convince you that the "HOLIDAYS!" should delay the inevitable.

The magic of Christmas doesn't quite work that way.
posted by menialjoy at 7:22 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

It is January 3rd. You have decided to wait until after the holidays, which you spent being distant and tending to a know the size of a fist in your stomach, to break up with her. This is how it is going to go:

"So, hey, you know how the holidays were supposed to be this great time for us as a couple? And instead you spent the whole time being weirded out by how weird you thought I was being? And it ruined basically everything for the both of us? Well, if it's worth anything, you're not crazy and I am breaking up with you. Enjoy your memories of trying and failing to live a lie this last week."

Hyperbole, yes, but that's the long and short of waiting until after.
posted by griphus at 7:25 AM on December 14, 2011 [10 favorites]

Yep, just do it. You've still got over a week until Christmas. That's plenty of time.
posted by theichibun at 7:39 AM on December 14, 2011

Response by poster: I forgot to mention that the other major hangup was the fact that this is her first Christmas without her dad, and her family is incredibly toxic. But her best friends are going to be in town, so I guess I owe her that favor to have a support structure instead of being distant like I have been.
posted by lpcxa0 at 7:58 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

That this is the first Christmas without her dad doesn't change anything. It is a wee bit patronizing - but totally understandable! - to think to yourself, a Christmas with a boyfriend who has emotionally checked out of the relationship and who is just counting down the clock to break up with her is better than her being alone and adrift in a sea of toxicity!

Because it is hardly a consolation prize. Being with a boyfriend who has emotionally checked out of the relationship and who is counting down the clock to break up with you is actively awful.
posted by sestaaak at 8:06 AM on December 14, 2011 [7 favorites]

YES YES YES do it now while her friends are around and can support her. You aren't helping her by hanging around being distant!
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:35 AM on December 14, 2011

Even more of a reason to do it. If you do it now you'll be the guy who breaks up with her. If you wait, you'll be the dick who didn't break up with her just because you thought she couldn't handle herself. And like you said, her friends will be there.
posted by theichibun at 8:44 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Extra important reminder: Make it clear that you're breaking up for good, no wishy-washy language to soften the blow. "I'm just not feeling this right now." etc.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:49 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Being with a boyfriend who has emotionally checked out of the relationship and who is counting down the clock to break up with you is actively awful.

Yup, in fact this is the number one thing that pisses me off about my last breakup. That and I ended up doing it myself when it became obvious it was inevitable which then led to self-doubt about whether he really was distant and then he was like "yeah I wasn't in love with you anymore" but I'd put in so much time and effort after he was already checked out and then I didn't trust him when he said he wanted to be friends but I did miss his friendship and...

Blah blah blah. See how unnecessarily complicated it gets? It's not helpful.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:07 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Being with a boyfriend who has emotionally checked out of the relationship and who is counting down the clock to break up with you is actively awful.

Quoting again, for emphasis. Also, griphus is right.

My ex left at the beginning of the holidays several years ago, just after Thanksgiving and the first Xmas party of the season, and it really, really sucked. I had a terrible, terrible holiday, but at least I had a lot of friends around, and time off from work so I could sob without having to hide in the bathroom at the office.

And you know what made it worse? That he decided he was leaving before Thanksgiving, and waited two weeks so I could get through finals. I spent two weeks wondering what the hell was going on and why he wouldn't talk to me about it, only to find out that I'd just unwittingly spent a completely farcical Thanksgiving with him and my family, spent two weeks making holiday and future plans like things were okay, and was, in fact, one of the last people to find out that I was getting a divorce for Christmas. People at his job knew before I did.

So in addition to being crushed and miserable and terribly sad, I was humiliated, embarrassed, and left feeling like I was made a fool of in a very public and terrible way, because it turned out I'd been duped into playing Happy Family to everyone for weeks.

Do not do this to your girlfriend. If you're sure, break up with her immediately, as calmly and firmly and completely as you can. Do not hold out false hope, do not blame her. Just do it, be kind, and make sure she has friends to support her.
posted by Kpele at 9:39 AM on December 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

I got dumped a week before we were supposed to go on vacation (with nonrefundable international flights, but that's another matter). It was horrible, but looking back, I'm glad he was brave enough to do it without pretending he wanted to be with me on the holiday and then dumping me when we got back. I think that would have been worse.
posted by vickyverky at 11:02 AM on December 14, 2011

No, no, no. Break up with her now. Don't wait. Waiting makes it worse.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:46 PM on December 14, 2011

Now. You aren't doing her any favors by prolonging the inevitable and you're not being supportive if you are one-foot-out-the-door distant.

And nthing OnTheLastCastle - be clear that it's over and don't try to soften the blow because you think it'll help. It won't.
posted by sm1tten at 5:12 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am the one dissenting voice. I think you should break up with her in late January, early February, and be as supportive and loving to her as you can between now and then. Two months won't make a difference. She's not going to look back and think you were "lying" unless you straight out tell her "I wanted to break up with you in early December but was holding back." Why not sacrifice yourself and your needs for this next difficult month or two so that she may have some support over Christmas? I don't understand what the huge rush is. It's been 2.5 years; what's another two months?
posted by Clotilde at 7:54 AM on December 16, 2011

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