We tend to think of Christmas as the season of joy and love. After all, December is one of the most common times to get engaged (with Christmas Day topping the list). But, it turns out, the holidays are also one of the most popular times of the year to end a relationship. In fact, a 2010 analysis of breakups via Facebook statuses found that splitting up seemed to spike two weeks before the holidays, with the highest number of heartbreaks occurring on Dec. 11. So why—in the midst of all the holiday spirit and mistletoe—are there so many breakups around Christmas? We talked to a relationship coach and a licensed psychologist to find out.
"There is a lot of pressure during the holiday season when it comes to relationships," relationship coach Marisa T. Cohen, PhD, told Best Life. "This pressure may force you to re-evaluate the nature of your relationship. For example, do you feel comfortable bringing your partner home to meet close family and friends? If you don't, not only may you start to question why, but you may also look at potential red flags, causing you to end the relationship."
And there's definitely truth to Cohen's theory: In a 2017 survey of 1,600 users on the Australian dating app RedHotPie, 56 percent of men and 71 percent of women said they'd rather break up with their partner than introduce them to their families on Christmas.
"The social- and familial-based rituals that occur during the holidays can cause reflection," Heather Lyons, a licensed psychologist at Baltimore Therapy Group, told Best Life. "People can begin to think about whether they can see the person they're with as part of their family. This reflection can either bring couples closer together or help one or the other realize they're not with 'the one.'"
And for those who have been stalling a breakup, being on the verge of a new year might give them the push they need to make a final decision. "You can use certain dates, like New Year's Day, to build up the courage to accomplish a big task," Lyons said. "This might include making changes in one's relationship status."
While breaking up with someone right before Christmas might sound cruel, it could also be a blessing in disguise, even if it doesn't seem that way. "When breakups occur before a holiday, it can reflect a desire to be clear about one's intentions," Lyons said. "Dragging a failing relationship through the holidays can feel deceitful to some, so instead, it might feel better to rip off the Band-Aid."