I’m breaking up with my boy. Is there any way to break up before or around the holidays that’s not, well, terrible?
Oh, damn, damn, damn! I feel for you — this happens a lot. I know at least two reasons people commonly throw up deuces at their partner during the holidays. First, the year’s end often triggers self-reflection. There is no room for an old, non-functioning relationship in your vision of what the upcoming year will bring.
Second, ruminating over introducing your lover to family can signal a big step, complete with the big red bow that is the interference of nosy, meddling relatives. Your subconscious might gift you with a sudden realization: You would rather step out of the relationship than step it up a notch. That’s OK.
You are a grown up. That means you are old enough to understand that actions have consequences and, clearly, you do. Being a grown up, however, doesn’t mean you have to do things you don’t want to do. The holidays can be emotionally distressing, and it makes you not want to be the d— who dumped somebody on Christmahanakwanza.
Heads up that in relationships with intimate partner violence, leaving can be very dangerous or deadly. Because you did not bring that up, I’ll assume neither of you is abusing the other, and I’ll save that guidance for a different column. You didn’t tell me your gender, but my advice is the same whether you are a man or a woman.
Leave on a positive rather than a negative
I do not care if you have balls or ovaries: Treat whatever is in your pants (and in your heart) with some respect. That means the golden rule is in order: Break up unto others as you would have them break up unto you. You might not care if they broke up with you over phone or text, because you already want out. But if you know that would hurt them, have the cojones or ovaries to do it in person. In matters of the heart and loins, treat your lover the way you would want to be treated.
Relationships are like at-will employment. At any point, either person has the right to say that it’s just not working for them anymore — there is no notice required. However, the rules are pretty much the same: It’s customary to do it face-to-face, and even if you hate their guts, be civil and generous when exiting.
Spend time apart
Here’s a simple concept that will make the end times of your relationship more bearable: You both need time to adjust to the relationship’s end. Pull away, pull back and give it a rest. While continuing to have sex is possible or welcome by one or both parties, it might be a bad idea if your ex is still checked into the relationship and you are not. Delicious sex aside, there is a human being on the receiving end of your actions. At one point, presumably, you liked them. Don’t be reckless.
Know that holiday breakup “rules” are bulls—
’Tis never the season to tell someone you don’t love them anymore. If the relationship has become unbearable and you feel like you are stringing the other person along, consider breaking it off immediately. Don’t use the holidays as an excuse. Birthdays, joint vacations, unexpected unemployment, a death in the family and other situations could present similar conundrums. If your ex gives you a hard time or asks why you didn’t just wait until later, tell them you should both spend the holidays with people who want to be in your lives.
Twanna A. Hines is an award–winning educator and sex columnist. She has contributed to CNN, NPR, Sirius, Lifetime, Mashable, Nerve, Fast Company magazine, CBC (Canadian National Radio), Paris Première (French television) and Al Jazeera. She’s online at FUNKY BROWN CHICK®, and you can follow her on Twitter @funkybrownchick. Send your deepest love queries to firstname.lastname@example.org