In November 2010, David McCandless and Lee Byron published a chart that suggested that most relationship breakups occurred during spring break and the two weeks before Christmas. This information was based on Facebook relationship status updates.
Why do so many breakups occur before Christmas? As Byron suggested, the holidays are an opportunity for end-of year reflection. Holidays are not a time where people wanted to be dragged down by relationships that had run their course.
Another psychologist suggested that the holidays were a make or break time for couples. Christmas and Valentine’s Day are holidays when couples often take the next step in their commitment. If one person isn’t feeling it, then these holidays are a prime opportunity to reevaluate the relationship.
There was one caveat. Although the data shows a surge in breakups right before Christmas, very few breakups actually occurred on Christmas Day itself. Dumping someone on a major holiday seems “too cruel.”
Do most Facebook breakups occur before Christmas? I have personal experiences that both support and contradict these Facebook statistics.
Christmas Breakups: My Experience
In college and grad school, I could count at least three or four breakups that took place between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
In one particularly awkward situation, I had decided to break up with my then-boyfriend around Thanksgiving, but ended up having to wait until after the new year to officially pull the trigger.
Around Thanksgiving we had hit the three-month mark when I realized that I just didn’t have the feelings necessary to pursue a long-term relationship. Being home with my family made me realize that he didn’t fit into my life in that way.
Because I was not the type to end a relationship over phone, text, or email, I waited. When we returned from Thanksgiving break, we went into reading week and finals. I didn’t want to make him deal with a breakup during finals. He needed to focus in order to maintain his GPA and prepare for med school applications.
And he had gone abroad to be with his family over Christmas and New Year’s, so I had to wait until the next semester started to break up with him in person.
In any case, the holidays do seem to be a make or break time for couples.
Christmas Breakups: The Flip Side
On the other hand, we can’t completely take these breakup statistics at face value. One point to remember is that this data is based on Facebook relationship status updates. Facebook users tend to be students and young people (though that is changing).
Although I’ve dealt with breakups over Christmas, these breakups took place when I was in school. Yet this wasn’t necessarily the case once I entered the real world.
In school, I had the opportunity to date guys from all over the world. While these experiences contributed to my personal growth, we didn’t really get to see each other over the holidays. And starting a new semester in January often prompted us to want a fresh start.
In the real world, most of the guys I date are local. Christmas and spring break are not as much a factor as they were in school. There isn’t as much of an impetus to “spring clean” or to “start the new year with a clean slate.” Instead, most of my real-world relationships have run on their own time table.