Has something about your relationship changed? Can you put your finger on what it is? Sometimes it’s obvious: perhaps your partner has cheated on you or their behaviour has become unacceptable, which makes it clear to you that the relationship needs to end. Other times, it’s more a subtle shift in the way you feel, which has happened over a period of time and you find yourself questioning whether you can really see yourself with them long term. It’s often the latter situation which is the hardest to deal with and can come as a surprise to your partner when you tell them it’s over.
When I trained to be a relationship counsellor, I was told the key in any relationship is communication. Good communication generally leads to good relationships, poor communication will likely lead to a poor relationship. We often avoid communicating how we feel for fear of hurting our partner’s feelings, feeling guilty or not wanting to deal with potential confrontation. So, we ‘drift’ on and for a while it seems ok. Nothing bad is happening, but nothing good is happening either.
Then a significant event, or significant time of the year is approaching and the quality of our relationship comes into view again. You may start asking yourself: Do I really want to spend Christmas with them, pretending everything is ok when it’s not? What about New Year’s Eve? Do I want to celebrate seeing the New Year in with them, when I know that I’m just about to dump them?
So, is there ever a good time to end a relationship? I don’t think there is a straightforward answer to that question. For myself, I would rather know that it’s over, than find myself questioning and reflecting afterward, whether they only stayed with me out of pity. Some however, would say that it’s cruel to break up just before Christmas, as it would spoil it for everyone. Whenever you choose, it’s never going to be easy. Breaking up is painful and emotional for both parties. There can be regret, sadness and guilt.
If you are considering ending your relationship before the festive season there are a few questions to ask yourself first:
1. Why did you fall in love with your partner in the first place?
Figure out if there are remnants of those feelings that can be rekindled if you focus on them.
2. Has the ‘love light’ switched off?
I think that love is like a pilot light, sometimes it is strong and vivid and you can clearly see it glowing. Sometimes it is low and subtle, but still burning. If the love light for your partner has switched off, it’s unlikely that it will switch on again.
3. Have you been sending subtle messages that your feelings have changed?
We are sending subliminal messages all the time, so perhaps your partner is far more aware than you think they are about your feelings, and it won’t be a surprise when you tell them you no longer love them.
4. What have you valued from your relationship with them?
All relationships help us learn more about ourselves and what’s important in a relationship to us. You clearly loved them once, share with them what you will always remember about the relationship, along with helping them understand what has changed and why your feelings for them have changed.
Remaining with someone when you no longer love them is unfair to them and to you. Everyone has the right to be happy and to be equally loved in a relationship. Ending a relationship is never easy, but it can be done with consideration, honesty and empathy… even if it’s just before Christmas.
What to do if you decide to break up
Rebecca McCann, a relationship therapist from Click For Therapy advises, “When you know your relationship has ended you know, and there’s very little you can do to convince yourself otherwise. The holiday season is difficult if you are in a relationship you don’t want to be in. So firstly be 100% sure that it’s what you want, otherwise if you end up getting back together this will be forever linked to Christmas.
“If you are totally sure then be honest, and think about the logistics. Think about where you will go for Christmas, what you will do, have a plan in your head before you end the relationship so that you don’t get pulled back in by logistics or your partner convincing you to stay just because its Christmas for example.
“A plan will help you to stay firm in your resolve. The other thing is make sure that you have someone you trust to spend the holidays with, this is part of being kind to yourself. You deserve to enjoy the season as much as you can, but you will need to extra TLC to do this so give yourself a break.”