Holidays or not, there’s never a perfect time to break up with someone. You may have been planning to break up with your partner, but then Thanksgiving rolled around, now Christmas, and then New Year…I get it, and it's okay to choose to wait. But how will you go through with your choice when the holidays are all said and done?
In this episode, I discuss how to make the most of breaking up with someone post-holiday. I teach you how to take initiative and make a clear decision, all while making the best of your choice and situation. I want you to understand that two opposing truths can be held - you can decide to break up with your partner after the holidays and also allow yourself to enjoy your remaining time together.
Tune in to learn how to create a plan of action, prepare for the questions that come with a post-holiday break up, and deal with the inevitable uncomfortability. Remember, you are responsible for your actions, not how people take them. Learn how your job is to make the best of your decision and then allow both you and your person to move forward with your lives.
You are listening to Your Secret Is Safe With Me, non-judgmental talk about infidelity with Dr. Marie Murphy. If you’re looking for new perspectives on complicated relationship issues, you’ve come to the right place.
Hi everyone, I’m Dr. Marie Murphy. I’m a relationship coach, and I help people who are engaging in anything they think counts as infidelity to deal with their feelings, clarify what they want, and make decisions about what they’re going to do. No shame, no blame, no judgments. A lot of the so-called “help” that’s out there for people who are cheating is little more than thinly veiled judgment, but that is not what I provide. I provide support and guidance that respects the fullness of your humanity, and the complexity of your situation. The point of working with me is to resolve your infidelity situation in a way that you feel great about, so that you can love your love life, AND you can love your whole life as well. Infidelity situations can be pretty exciting and life-affirming, but they can also become really stressful and exhausting. At some point, you probably want to make some choices and changes so that you can have the love life you want to have, instead of dealing with all of the drama in your love life and having that drama take up a huge portion of your precious time and energy. Right?!
I offer one-on-one coaching that is tailored to your specific needs, and if you’re interested in working with me in that way you can head right on over to my website, mariemurphyphd.com, and schedule an introductory coaching session with me. Also, I’m very happy to announce that starting in January I will be offering two new ways that you can have me as your coach – I’ll be offering a group coaching program called “You’re Not the Only One” that will include teachings that go beyond what I offer on the podcast, as well as anonymous group coaching calls. And I’ll be offering a self-study course that includes JUST my teachings and assignments, without the group coaching calls, for those of you who want a DIY approach. I have a new website, and you can go to that new website and sign yourself up on the list to be notified when these new programs become available for you to join. The web address is mariemurphyphd.com, and you can go to the services page for more info on all of the ways you can work with me.
We’re getting into that time of year when some of my clients who are in the United States and are navigating the quote-unquote typical holiday season here find themselves in what seems like a difficult predicament. This applies to people who are not in the United States, too, but the timing of American Thanksgiving adds another layer to this for clients in the US. Anyway, at this point in the year, if my client has been planning on breaking up with someone for a while but hasn’t managed to yet, they find themselves within a stretch of time that seems, to a lot of people, like a time frame in which it is impossible to break up with someone.
If I’m thinking about this correctly, this episode is going to air on December 7, so that’s right at the beginning of Hanukkah, and about two and a half weeks before Christmas, and then we can’t forget about Boxing Day although I guess that’s not a very American thing but never mind that, and then there’s New Years. So anyway, if someone gets past Thanksgiving without breaking up with the person they have been considering breaking up with, they may swiftly find themselves in early December, and at this point, it can easily seem like they truly CANNOT break up with the person they were planning on breaking up with until New Years is over.
Now, it’s important to remember that it isn’t true that you literally CANNOT break up with someone in early December. You absolutely can. But it’s also okay to choose not to. So what I suggest is that if you have found yourself in early December, wanting to break up with someone but not having quite managed to do it yet, and not wanting to do it until the holidays are over, is this: DECIDE, right now, that you’re going to wait until the holidays are over to execute your breakup. If you want to postpone your breakup until after the holidays, you can, and if that is what you want, I encourage you to make that your official decision, and then get on with the business of making the best of that decision.
What sometimes keeps people from making that decision and then committing to making the best of it is a fear that it’s really bad to break up with someone right after the holidays are over. People don’t want to break up with someone during the holidays, because that seems really bad, but they also don’t want to break up with someone right after the holidays, because that seems really bad, too.
Here's the deal, people. If you really don’t want to break up with someone during the holidays, it’s your prerogative to choose not to do that. But if that’s what you choose, then you’re going to have to do it after the holidays. Unless, of course, you want to keep putting off breaking up with your person forever, and you may not want to do that! I know that so many of us dread initiating a breakup, and I know that actually executing a breakup can be mighty uncomfortable. But if you want to be able to experience life beyond the realm of a particular relationship, then dealing with that discomfort is WORTH IT.
It’s really important to remember that whenever you choose to break up with someone, there are probably going to be features of the timing that you could consider challenging, or less than ideal, and reasons why you could consider the timing advantageous. And from the perspective of the person you’re breaking up with, anytime you break up with them might seem like a bad time for a breakup, and any OTHER time might seem like a time that would have been better for you to have chosen.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about how you can make the best of breaking up with someone right after the holidays. Let’s talk about why committing to breaking up with someone after the holidays can be great – or at least very much okay - and what you want to do AFTER you make the decision to time your breakup in this manner.
This might sound really obvious, but it’s really important. If you really don’t want to break up with someone during the holidays, for whatever reasons, you simply do not have to. Recognizing that, and giving yourself permission to not do something you don’t want to do is really important. Recognizing and making use of your own agency is not a small thing.
What happens for some people is they get the idea in their head well in advance of the holidays that they want to break up with their person – maybe their spouse or committed partner, maybe their affair partner, maybe someone else – but they don’t manage to actually execute the breakup. And then the holidays creep up, and they think, “Okay, I’ve really got to break up with them well before the holidays, I know I want to do it, so I really need to make this happen” and then that doesn’t happen, and they start to give themselves a hard time for that, and then all of a sudden, Thanksgiving draws near, and they don’t break up with their person before Thanksgiving, and they feel kind of awful about that, but then a few more days pass and then whoops, all of a sudden it’s mid-December. And they’re like, “Oh my god, I should have broken up with this person MONTHS AGO, so I should really do it now, instead of dragging this out for any longer, but I can’t do it now, because we’re in the middle of the holidays, and I just don’t want to do that to them.”
And then we drive ourselves crazy by telling ourselves that we should do something, but we don’t really want to, and we don’t make a clear decision about how we’re going to make the best of our situation. We beat ourselves up from multiple angles, instead of deciding what we’re going to do and making the best of it.
If you just do not want to break up with someone during the holidays, allow yourself to decide to wait until after the holidays, and then allow yourself to enjoy not dealing with a breakup during the holidays.
A lot of people say they don’t want to break up with their person during the holidays because they don’t want to ruin the holidays for their person – but then they’re so freaked out about breaking up with their person after the holidays are over that they act really weird in their relationship throughout the holidays. And this may not be fun for you, OR for your soon-to-be-ex person. And moreover, if you’re super uncomfortable because whenever you’re around them, all you can think about is how you’re going to break up with them after the holidays, they may sense that something is amiss with you, and they may want to know what’s wrong. And that may compound your problems. If you are hoping to engage with your person – or your soon-to-be-ex person – during the holidays in a way that brings them joy, you’re going to have allow yourself to be really present with them. Instead of focusing on the future and thinking about your breakup, you’re going to have to be able to be in the moment with them.
Some people say, well how can I possibly do that, when I know I’m going to be breaking up with them soon?
More than one thing can be true at once. You can be planning to end a relationship, and you can also be committed to being present with your person, and enjoying your time with them. You can be planning to break up with your partner, and you can also engage with them, and you can also be genuine with them.
Yes, you may be keeping some important information from them. But if you’ve been wanting to break up with them for a while, you’ve been keeping important information from them for some time already! Withholding this information may be uncomfortable for you, but it’s part of what comes with your decision to not break up with your person during the holidays. And if you’ve been doing this for a while already, you can do it for a little longer, and trust that it probably isn’t going to kill you.
Here’s the crazy thing to consider, that actually isn’t so crazy. We can connect with people in truly genuine ways even if we keep things from them. That might sound conniving or duplicitous, or maybe even evil, but I don’t know that it necessarily is. More than one thing can be true at once. We can be keeping important information from someone, and we can also care about them very much, and connect with them in a genuine way.
If you think that sounds like an awful thing to do, that no human should ever do to another human, I have a great solution for you. Go break up with your person right now. Turn off this podcast, and tell them that you want to end your relationship with them. Simple. If you are totally put off by anything that gives off a whiff of dishonesty or duplicity, there’s a really simple way out.
But if the challenge is just that you don’t know how to be present and engaged with your partner when you know you’re going to be breaking up with them soon, your opportunity lies on using your power to focus. You can focus on what’s going on right now, in the immediacy of your interactions with your person. You can focus on what you truly enjoy about them. You can focus on what you truly appreciate about your relationship with them. You can focus on what you genuinely enjoy about spending time with them during the holidays.
Now for some of us, choosing to focus on something – anything – in particular and keeping our focus there instead of letting our minds wander off in any old direction they feel like heading in is a real challenge. The way we get better at using our power to focus to our advantage is by practicing. Keeping our focus where we want it to be one moment at a time, again, and again, and again. The great news is, we can lose focus a million times, and redirect our focus each time it wanders off. So don’t think you can get away with saying, “Well, it’s impossible for me to be present with my partner because I just have a really hard time focusing.” Sorry, that’s not going to cut it. We ALL have a hard time focusing. We live in an age of omnipresent distractions. And we can all practice focusing on what we consciously decide we want to focus on, one moment at a time.
And this might sound weird to you but if you want to, you can use this time to cherish your relationship before it ends – or before it enters a new phase. You can use this time, prior to breaking up with your person, to cherish what you’ve shared and are still sharing.
Now, as you’re doing all of this, as you’re enjoying your person and NOT breaking up with them during the holidays, you can squirrel away some time to prepare for executing your breakup. If you’ve decided you’re not going to do it now, but you’re going to do it soon, you can take action in the service of this decision. Don’t try to tell yourself that you’re too busy during the holidays to do this. You’re allowed to make choices, but you aren’t allowed to make excuses. Well, you are allowed to, but why would you want to? If you eventually want to transition out of this relationship, or this phase of your relationship with a particular person, why would you want to make excuses that get in the way of actually doing that?
Don’t worry, I know why you’d want to make excuses. But if you want to move steadily towards a particular outcome, you don’t want to let yourself get away with your excuses. Don’t BELIEVE your excuses. Find a way to set aside some time to prepare for the breakup you’re planning to execute pretty soon. I have several podcast episodes dedicated to preparing for a breakup, so you can listen to those if you need help getting ready. The episodes I’m referring to are episodes number 72, 73, 131, and 161, and we’ll make sure those are in the show notes.
Deciding when you are going to break up with someone is part of preparing to break up with someone, and I want to suggest that if you have consciously decided that you’re going to wait until after the holidays to break up with your person, you may want to consciously decide exactly when you ARE going to break up with them. And the reason is because if the holidays seemed like a good excuse to postpone your breakup, anything else could seem like a good reason to delay your breakup, too.
For instance, a lot of people get through the holidays and then they decide that they don’t want to break up with their person TOO SOON after the holidays, because their person might ask them something like, “How long have you been planning on doing this? Were you plotting to break up with me all through the holidays? Were you keeping this from me that whole time?”
We’re going to talk about how you can handle questions like that in just a moment. But first, I want to suggest that trying to avoid being asked questions like those by waiting for a certain amount of time to go by after the holidays are officially over before you initiate your breakup is not a good idea. There’s no way to time your breakup in such a way that you ensure your person will not ask you questions that you feel uncomfortable hearing. That’s not an option that’s on the table. So if you’ve done yourself the favor of deciding to wait until after the holidays to break up with your person because you just don’t want to execute a breakup during the holidays, do yourself another favor and decide when you ARE going to break up with them. Make a definite plan. Do not let yourself come with an endless list of reasons to delay doing what you’ve decided to do.
Now, it is possible that if you break up with your person in early January, they might indeed ask you questions like, “Were you thinking about doing this before, or during the holidays?” or “Were you totally faking all of your feelings for me during the holidays?” or “How could you do this to me NOW?”
How can you prepare yourself to deal with those questions?
First, it’s important to recognize that you may feel uncomfortable if someone asks you questions like that, for all kinds of reasons. And it’s also important to recognize that timing your breakup differently will not necessarily solve for this. So I encourage you to be ready to answer these kinds of questions, if you’re concerned the person you’re breaking up with might ask you questions like these.
So let’s talk about how you might answer these questions. If someone asks you, “Did you know you were going to break up with me before the holidays?” how could you possibly answer that? Well, you could lie and say no, this idea just came to me. Here it is, January 2, and I woke up this morning and decided that I wanted to break up with you. I’m being a little glib, of course. But my point is that you could, if you wanted to, tell someone that you actually haven’t been thinking about breaking up with someone for very long. You could lie and tell someone that you were not entertaining the idea of breaking up with them during the holidays, or planning to break up with them during the holidays. It is absolutely your prerogative to do that if you want to.
But you might prefer to tell a little more of the truth. You might prefer to say that yes, you were contemplating the end of your relationship prior to or during the holidays. You could, if you wanted to, couch this a little bit by saying you were really overwhelmed during the holidays, and wanted to make it through the holidays to make absolutely sure you were thinking clearly about what you wanted. You could, if you wanted to, say that you were considering breaking up with them before the holidays, but you thought it would be a terrible time for a breakup, so you decided to wait. You could tell them that you know there’s never a great time for a breakup, but you thought that all things considered, it would be better to deliver your news after the holidays than during the holidays. These kinds of things are probably true for you, to a great extent. They might not be the whole truth – you may have been considering breaking up with your person since like, April – but they may be an important part of the truth.
If your person says to you, well, I wish you’d just told me you wanted to break up with me as soon as you’d known that’s what you wanted to do. I wish you hadn’t waited until after the holidays. If they say something like that, you can tell them, look, I am really sorry. I can understand why you might have preferred that. I was pretty confused and freaked out – I was scared to have this conversation with you, and I was trying to time it in a way that was as considerate of you as possible but I can understand why the timing seemed anything but considerate to you, and I’m sorry.
You can acknowledge that they have every right to not like your choices, and you can give them some insight into why they made the choices they did, and you can express sympathy for their feelings. You can do all of these things in a really humane way, and you can say these kinds of things without trying to defend yourself, or without trying to solve for their feelings. Even when we do our best to break up with someone in a manner we think is as caring or considerate as possible, the person we’re breaking up with has every right to say, “Screw you.” And we have every right to say, hey, I’m really sorry you don’t like this, but I did the best I could. We don’t have to get super defensive – and in fact I highly recommend you don’t – but we can say, listen, there’s never a great time for a breakup, and I get it that you don’t like this timing, but I really was trying to be considerate.
And if they want to get into a debate about how anyone could possibly think that it’s considerate to wait until after the holidays to break up with someone when you’ve been thinking about breaking up with them since before the holidays, well, you don’t have to get into that with them. You can tell them you did what you thought was best, and you can even tell them why you thought the timing you chose was best. You can apologize for handling the breakup imperfectly – because who doesn’t handle a breakup imperfectly – and you can remind yourself that the point of breaking up with someone is not to execute the Olympic gold medal version of the breakup, it’s to get the breakup done. It’s to accomplish the task at hand.
If your person wants to know how you could possibly act like everything was fine between the two of you during the holidays when you knew that you were about to break their heart and crush their hopes and dreams, you can also tell them a version of the truth. You can tell them how much you like them and love them and care about them and enjoy them, and you can tell them that you were genuinely focused on enjoying your time with them during the holidays. They might take issue with that, of course – they might call you a selfish, deceptive fucker, or something along those lines – and you can let them take issue with your behavior. You can acknowledge that they have every right to not like what you did… and you can also tell them, if you want to, that your intentions weren’t all that terrible. You can stick up for yourself a little bit without getting defensive. You can make the case that you did the best you could, without trying to convince them that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel.
The person you’re breaking up with may not know this, but YOU can know this: breaking up with someone is a pretty difficult thing to do. At least, most people find it to be a pretty difficult thing to do, and that’s fair enough. And there are a million reasons why people put off breaking up with people they care about, even when they’re sure they don’t want to be in a relationship with them anymore. And does that really do anyone any favors? I would suggest that it does not. The person you’re breaking up with may not know this now, but you are probably doing them a huge favor by breaking up with them and setting them free. If you’re not interested in being involved with them anymore, is there value in not letting them know that?
If there is value in setting someone free if you don’t want to be involved with them anymore, and I think there is, then it’s possible that in the long run, the timing of your breakup isn’t really the point. Sure, the person you’re breaking up with may not know that NOW. If you break up with them right after the holidays, they might tell you something like, “Well, now you’ve ruined the holidays for me FOREVER!” – even though that was exactly what you were trying not to do. They may say to you, “Well, since you broke up with me right after the holidays, I’m ALWAYS going to go into the holiday season filled with dread that something really bad is going to happen as soon as January 2 rolls around.
It can be really heard to hear someone say that. If someone tells us that we have damaged them forever, we may take them at their word, and we may feel terrible about what we’ve done! I want to suggest that you can take people seriously, if they say that they’re going to go into the holidays dreading that something bad is going to happen as soon as the holidays are over for the rest of their lives, and it’s all your fault. You can take it seriously that they’re hurting, and right now they believe this could be true. But you don’t have to take them literally. You do not have to agree with them that it is actually the case that they will forever be messed up because of you breaking up with them in early January. NOBODY knows what the future holds, after all, and that’s just ONE of the reasons why you do not have to buy into their prediction.
Also, what they decide to make of you breaking up with them right after the holidays is up to them. You are responsible for your actions, but you are not in charge of how people interpret your actions. The end. Even if the person you’re breaking up with is really dismayed in the moment – which they have every right to be – they also in charge of their future. They do not HAVE TO go into the holiday season filled with dread that something bad is going to happen, forever and ever and ever. That’s for them to take responsibility for dealing with. Your job is to make the best of your decision to break up with your person after the holidays, and then to allow both of you to move forward in your lives. And ultimately, that’s a great thing for everybody.
All right people, if you would like my help dealing with your infidelity situation, let’s work together. You can go to my website, mariemurphyphd.com, and sign up for an introductory coaching session with me, one-on-one, or you can sign yourself up to be notified when my new programs become available. We’re shooting for early January and we’re still on track for that, so stay tuned for more details. As this year calendar year winds down, and another one is about to begin, dealing with your infidelity situation in a proactive way may be a goal you want to set. And when you’re ready to work towards that goal, I’m here to help you do it.
Thank you all so much for listening. Have a great week. Bye for now.