Any holiday after a loss can be difficult, but living through the holiday meant for celebrating romance when you’ve just experienced a breakup can feel torturous. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be and you will survive it, and with the help of our tips, we’re hoping you can even enjoy it!
When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of romance, flowers, chocolates and fancy dinner reservations. For most people, the last thing they associate the holiday with is breakups. However, more breakups happen the Tuesday before Valentine’s Day, now dubbed Red Tuesday, than any other day of the year, and the weeks following Valentine’s day see the highest rates of breakups than any other time of year.
Breakups are never fun but when you see why this is the case, you may agree with us that this phenomenon isn’t as tragic as it sounds. Before you start thinking that Valentine’s Day itself is a curse on relationships, let’s examine the reasons why these breakups happen.
1. Most breakups happen before or after a significant holiday or anniversary. For people who are thinking about ending their relationship, it’s simply a calendar marker for when it might happen. The question becomes, do you try to enjoy the holiday with your partner one last time or spare having to purchase a gift and make plans? These significant dates make think about if they want to spend another holiday in this relationship if they are truly unhappy.
2. Especially in the era of social media, our relationship is scrutinized in comparison to other relationships. It’s easy to start believing other people are happier and more in love, are more admired by their partners or simply in relationship that’s better than yours. Although it’s not fair to judge your relationship based on the size of (or lack of) floral arrangements you receive on February 14th, if you’ve been feeling neglected and unhappy for a while, you may start thinking about if your relationship holds enough for you.
3. The day is primed for testing if your partner measures up. Whether it’s your favorite holiday or say you don’t care for it at all, it’s an opportunity to notice how significant your relationship is to your partner and how much effort they put into it. It’s not about how much is spent, but rather the attention and effort you get.
4. Under pressure, you may start analyzing all the things that are not working in your relationship. There’s so much artificial and unnecessary pressure for Valentine’s Day to feel perfectly romantic, there are few who are left truly satisfied on this evening as it is. Additionally, if you’re already unhappy with the dynamic in your relationship, the pressure could cause it to boil over.
You’ll notice in all of these situations that a breakup was probably impending and possibly inevitable. Breakups aren’t necessarily a bad thing, more often than not it means the end of a relationship that wasn’t working in one or more essential ways. There it’s anything about Valentine’s Day that causes breakups, instead it influences people to examine their relationships and their level of satisfaction within it. For relationships that aren’t working for one or more partners, the unique properties of Valentine’s Day makes them notice and respond to those cracks in a way they may have been avoiding.
Whenever a relationship ends, no matter what side of it you are in, it is common that there are questions left unanswered, questions never asked, or questions that continue to linger even after conversations with you and your ex have ceased. As human beings, we like certainty and can feel anxious and upset when we aren’t sure what’s going to happen or what someone else is thinking- hence why we are always seeking closure when any relationship has ended. Although it is perfectly normal to want answers, there are certain questions that often leave us feeling more upset, lead us to criticize ourselves, and keep us stuck in unhelpful thinking styles. Below are some questions to avoid asking yourself following your breakup:
1. ‘What could I have done differently?’
It is not uncommon to look back on a relationship and think of all the ways that you could have showed up differently. Although it’s true that it can be helpful to reflect on your words and actions in a past relationship, if you are feeling stuck in wondering what could be different and wanting to do it over, these thoughts can become very unhelpful and lead you to feeling like the end of the relationship was 100% your responsibility. This question can keep you stuck in the past and hinder you from thinking about what you are looking for and seeking in your next relationship. Often it is the case that even if we had done or said some things differently, things would have still ended up the same in the end. Focusing on the past hinders the process of being present and moving forward. Stay focused on how you want to show up for yourself and someone else both now and in the future.
‘2. What is going on in my exes head?’ or ‘What are they thinking about me?’
We don’t know what is going on in someone else’s head. Unless we ask directly and trust their answer, everything else is an assumption. Social media allows us to feel like we know what they are doing, how they are feeling and what they are thinking- but we do not know for sure! This question keeps us in a circle of assuming and filling in the blanks- and when we are hurting, we often do not fill in the blanks in a positive way. When this question or thought comes up, try reminding yourself that it is normal to wonder what they are thinking, but that there is no way for us to know for sure. Stay focused on your own thoughts and feelings because that it what you have control over.
3. ‘What’s wrong with me?’
This question can be so common if you are the person who was broken up with. The truth is that nothing is wrong with you. A relationship not working does not mean anything about who you are as a person, and this internalization can be a slippery slope that leads to wounded self-esteem and feelings of sadness. It is okay to feel upset and to let those feelings in after a breakup, but be careful of the trap of internalizing the end of a relationship to mean something about you. Instead of ‘what’s wrong with me’, thoughts such as ‘The end of this relationship is bringing up a lot of sadness and defeat’ is more helpful and allows you to acknowledge whatever feelings are coming up for you.
Part of the reason that we may look forward to the holiday season is because it is a time that symbolizes love, family, connection, relaxation, community. All of these aspects of the holiday can be what make it so enjoyable, but can also feel even more devastating in the wake of heartbreak. With hallmark movies all over TV, photos of friends and family gathering together with smiles, and talk of vacation, engagements and time with loved ones- it may feel overwhelming and even tougher to be dealing with hard feelings.
Below are a few things to keep in mind if you are working through the loss of a relationship during this holiday season.
1. Connect, connect, connect!
During a time where it feels everyone else may be doing great, feeling good, and loving on one another, it may feel tempting to isolate and crawl into yourself. Although the appeal makes sense, it is in these moments when it is even more important to reach out for connection around you. Let yourself be loved on and let yourself be taken care of. If during the holidays you are with friends and family, let them know that you are needing more connection, and be open to the ways they may show you this love and support. During a season of heartbreak is when we most often need to feel the support and connection from those still in our lives, even though it may feel tougher to ask for.
2. Set boundaries
You may not be feeling like yourself this holiday season if you are grieving the loss of a relationship. It is okay to not be running on a full tank. If this is the case for you, it is important to give yourself permission to leave a setting where you feel overwhelmed, to not have that drink if you feel it will make you more upset, and to let others know that you may be feeling less up to some of the things that you usually might enjoy. Instead of a night out at the bar with friends, it may be that staying in with a friend or a family member and watching a movie feels better. Reflect on what feels best and practice communicating those needs and boundaries to those around you.
3. Be compassionate with yourself
Struggling with loss during the holidays is hard. The holidays seem like they ‘should’ be a happy, upbeat, enjoyable time, and that may not feel like the case this year for you. Being able to show yourself some kindness and feel the tough feelings is important. If you cry at a holiday party, breakdown at dinner with your family, or are not engaging how you usually do- practice compassion! Breakups come with lots of feelings, and we are human beings who are feeling them at different moments. If something happens that is upsetting to you, be aware of how you may be talking to yourself, and if you are needing some love and comfort, it can be an important time to give that gift to yourself. Self-compassion is a powerful practice, and the holiday season is a good time to start this practice.
4. Take breaks from negative thinking
Being able to acknowledge your feelings is important in any healing process. With that being said, be conscious and allow yourself to take breaks when you are feeling overwhelmed or consumed by tough feelings. If you are noticing lots of defeated and negative thinking going on, call awareness to it and engage in an activity, call a friend, or do something that engages your body in order to help you get out of your mind for a bit. The tough thoughts and feelings will come. Acknowledge them, feel them, but also continue to move on with things that bring you joy and with people whom you feel connected to.