Why Couples Break up During the Holidays – And How to Make it Through to New Year’s  

March 4, 2022

The turkey drop isn’t about a failed meal, rather a failed relationship. Why things go so wrong for many couples over the holiday season…

There is a strange phenomenon that happens around the holidays. At a time when you are supposed to surround yourself with love, many people are breaking up. The “turkey drop” is officially the time between mid-November and mid-December when couples most commonly choose to call it off. Even those who you think are most dependable, suddenly break apart, but why?

There is never one reason why couples break up, and each does so for different reasons ranging from a gut feeling to “he didn’t text me back.” And although it can seem random and nonsensical, people chose this time of year to call it quits for a few of the same underlying causes. According to experts in the psychology, research, and therapy world, breaking up during the holidays, although tragic from the outside, might have its benefits.

Reasons Why Couples Choose the Holidays to Call it Quits

It is an Intensely Emotional Time of the Year

The holidays are a very emotional time for people. It is a time to remember the holidays of the past, people, and events that came before and other emotional triggers that we carry. So when emotions are already at their highest, it is likely that the final straw will be a break.

Those who were possibly thinking that things aren’t right are more apt to pull the trigger when they have a heightened sense of emotions. It makes those little things that you question seem much more exaggerated. Because it is a time when you are expected to feel love, warmth, and happiness, couples who aren’t feeling the love have the final push they need to say goodbye.

People feel stress to be happy during the holidays, and if they don’t, it can create a lot of tension in a relationship that is already experiencing some hardships. Some couples feel the sting of unhappiness and think that New Year’s is a great time to start anew looking for someone better suited for them. Others look around and see that they don’t want to spend another holiday being unhappy or in a relationship that doesn’t work. 

They Meet the Parents

The reason that the movie Meet the Parents was such a hit is that most of us have stories about when we met our in-laws and their extended family for the first time. And those stories don’t always go as planned. A lot of couples choose the holidays to introduce their love interest to the family.

And not only can that create too much stress if you aren’t prepared or ready, but there are also times when meeting the family can be insightful enough to know that your relationship won’t fit for long-term. When you marry someone, you marry their family. And the holidays might demonstrate that that picture doesn’t fit correctly for the future.

Shot of a young couple lying in bed and ignoring each other

Expectations of Sex Fail

When couples go on vacation, they often expect that better and more sex. When you are away from everyday life, you want to indulge, live in the moment, and enjoy things to the highest. And for many, that includes hotter and more satisfying sex. Vacation sex is something that is supposed to have wild lust and abandonment, not the day to day version of yourselves.

Couples who have had a slow down in the bedroom think that once they get away from the stress and monotony, things will improve, and they will find the lust they once had. When that doesn’t happen, the disillusionment can make them feel like it isn’t just stress ruining their sex lives; there is something fundamentally wrong in the relationship.

And although the holidays do sometimes equal getting away, they often include obstacles like family, sleeping arrangement difficulties, and very little privacy. So the expectation of heightened sexual experiences is almost a set up for failure.

Since most people value sexual connection in a relationship when it doesn’t happen, and then you add in the other factors related to the holidays, it tends to make it all become more overwhelming. And it can suddenly appear to be a sign that things aren’t what they should be leading couples to break up.

The lack of sex is rarely the whole story behind the scenes. Not meeting expectations might be the catalyst for the final goodbye, but often there is a myriad of other issues present in the relationship that are underlying. It isn’t that couples don’t have the sexual encounters that they expect, usually it is that the lack of physical connection only exemplifies all the other issues that have been brewing under the surface in the unhappy marriage or relationship.

This Can’t be It – Settling

Intuitively, you would think that people choose to stick it out through the holidays, so they don’t upset those around them or ruin the holidays for the person they are with. And, yes, there is an increase in breakups in early January. But more people think of the holidays as a time that they don’t want to “miss” with someone they no longer wish to be with.

Most people have an epiphany that they want to start the new year strong and on their own, so the holidays seem like the perfect time to make a change. The beginning of the holiday season is a time when people take stock of their lives and think, “Is this really what I want or am I just settling?”.

And it is that evaluation that often leaves couples who are broken before the season hit, to pull the trigger and get through the holidays alone. It also might be that they know they will have the support of their loved ones and the distraction to get them through the roughest part of a breakup, the novelty phase of it first being over. Many, conscious or unconsciously, see the holidays as a time to make a change and not feel the sting of being alone with nothing to do or without anyone to pull their attention elsewhere. 

A Caucasian woman is indoors in her living room. There is a Christmas tree in the background. The woman is wearing warm clothing. She is sitting on the couch and looking sad because she is alone on Christmas day.

So What do you do if you Find Yourself Single Pre-New Years?

A holiday break is excellent for someone who feels that a relationship isn’t working and strives to move upward and onward. But for the person who wasn’t expecting to be single, and finds themselves so during the most emotional time of the year, it can be devastating. The good news is that the holidays are full of activities and things to do. So, don’t sit back and wallow…carry on by:

Not Being Alone

As tempting as it might be to sit and wallow in your sadness, don’t. It is okay to show up to family functions not quite yourself or full of joy, but show up. Distraction is going to be your greatest friend. And surrounding yourself by others is an excellent way to get past the hurt you are feeling. Most likely, being surrounded by cheer and good spirits will help to pick you out of your grief and sadness. And who knows, with all the parties you have to attend, you might find a different and more suited New Year’s kiss!

Don’t Drink too Much

With the holidays comes a lot of indulgences, which includes holiday “spirits.” The thing about alcohol is that it can take your emotions and numb them, or it can exaggerate them. And, unfortunately, you never know how things are going to go. When you are emotional and grieving, tying one on might not be the best idea. Alcohol is a depressant, so it probably won’t bring out the best in you. The day after hangover will be tough to get past if you’re already grieving the loss of your relationship.

Discuss Who is Going Where

Depending on how long you have been with your significant other, there might be traditions that you have or engagements that you have RSVP’d to. It is a good idea to discuss with your ex which ones he would like to attend and which you would. If you have an amicable breakup and think that you can be in the same setting, great.

But if you are feeling sad or there are issues yet to resolve, you might want to figure out who is going where. Also, if you are having a difficult time or a painful breakup, it is okay to say no to family obligations. The people who love you will understand why you didn’t attend, and if they don’t, then that is on them and not you.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of happiness and harmony, but for many couples, that simply isn’t the case. Anytime you mix a lot of emotion, a lot of stress, and unmet expectations, there is bound to be a breaking point.

Take heart, although the holidays might seem like a horrible time to say goodbye, it might be a blessing in disguise. You will start the New Year anew, and it is a time when you can surround yourself with family and friends to get past the hurt. Try to keep your head up, your glass full, literally and figuratively, and hold tight until after the New Year’s ball drops. Next year is going to be the best one yet.


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