Why December 11 Is Breakup Day

We’re sorry to say it, but today, Dec. 11, is considered the biggest breakup day of the year.

The unofficial title was bestowed upon the day back in 2008, when designers at Information is Beautiful analyzed Facebook status updates and noticed how many folks announced a severed relationship a few weeks after Thanksgiving and just a few days before Christmas. And so, Dec. 11 has become Breakup Day.

It made us wonder: Why is today such a horrible day when it comes to romantic relationships? What is it about the holiday season that seems to spur people out of romance? What are the reasons people break up on Dec. 11?

Turns out that, at least according to experts, the advent of the holidays in specific is to blame for folks’ decision to terminate relationships by the end of the year.

Family-related stressors put a toll on romance

“The approach of the holidays tends to magnify relational dynamics,” said Dr. Ryan Sultan, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University.

As noted by the expert, the holiday season usually calls for intense family gatherings, prompting many to reflect on whether they should or even would take their significant other to dinners with parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and more, perhaps even for the very first time.

The thought processes associated with potentially bringing a partner to a family meal and, in a way, deepening a relationship, lead many to simply call it quits.

“The emphasis on togetherness and celebration may prompt individuals to assess the quality of their relationships,” Sultan explained.

What’s more, Sultan also posited that problems may become exacerbated during such a time of reflection.

“The stress associated with holiday preparations and family interactions can amplify pre-existing issues,” he said. “That prompts individuals to reconsider their relationship status during this period.”

“If someone in a bad relationship views their partner’s gift as inadequate, then they may view this as a slight, or a sign that their partner does not respect or love them. This may have a catalyzing effect in the downfall of a relationship.”

– Dr. Ryan Sultan

Relationship coach Sidhharrth S. Kumaar adds that being forced to reckon with family members’ and friends’ relationship status may indirectly affect one’s take on his or her own partner, basically forcing someone to assess their connection by comparing it to neighboring relations.

“Holidays are often stressful primarily due to peer pressure, and people do tend to compare their own relationship with the relationship of peers and friends and decide to move out if theirs appears to be inferior vis-à-vis to others,” said Kumaar. “People evaluate and assess their own health, wellbeing and joy and decide to break the relationship if their desires are not met.”

Gift-giving conundrums

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or are just feeling festive, gift-giving is a very big part of the holiday season — and, apparently, a cause for breakups.

According to Dr. Dorree Lynn, a psychologist, the act of giving a present isn’t as grand of an issue as what the gift actually stands for.

“If you’re not sure, particularly if you haven’t been dating for several years, a lot of people have issues about gift giving and how intimate the gift giving is,” the psychologist said to ABC News a few years back. “They get frightened because they don’t want to put pressure on the other person, but on the other hand they don’t want to feel like a fool giving something and not getting anything back.”

It’s important to note that, at least according to Sultan, gift-giving practices will function as magnifying lenses. They won’t cause a breakup but they may illuminate factors that, in turn, may lead to ending relationships.

“If a relationship is strong and healthy, then something like a gift would not have a major impact on its status,” Sultan said. “Perhaps someone’s partner might be disappointed that they received something they already had, or something that didn’t match the quality of their gift to their partner. However, any conflict relating to this would not be enough to break people up.”

An already-shaky commitment can be a problem, though.

RyanJLane via Getty Images

Gift-giving expectations can put a lot of pressure on a relationship.

“A relationship could be just hanging on, and in this scenario even small and seemingly superficial interaction between partners, such as gift giving, can have large emotional implications attached to it,” Sultan explained. “If someone in a bad relationship views their partner’s gift as inadequate, then they may view this as a slight, or a sign that their partner does not respect or love them. This may have a catalyzing effect in the downfall of a relationship, as an argument or conflict relating to gift giving could bring to surface all of the troubles and other conflicts relating to the relationship.”

It works the other way as well: having to buy someone a present may force you to confront your feelings about the person.

“This is not always the case, but someone may think, ‘Wow, I can’t find the motivation or desire to buy this person anything, or anything nice at least, I guess I don’t really care about this person as much as I thought,’” Sultan said.

The dreaded commitment rush

Let’s say you do decide to bring your partner to a family dinner… will you then feel like you have to commit to a deeper relationship than you’re actually willing to do?

The worries aren’t entirely unfounded.

In fact, according to a survey by The Knot, proposal season kicks off around Thanksgiving and ends as Valentine’s Day approaches. Within that time frame, which is when 40% of engagements occur, Dec. 25 is the most popular day for a proposal (followed by Dec. 24, New Year’s Day, Dec. 22 and Feb. 14).

That is all to say: the holiday season comes along with relationship-adjacent expectations that mostly lead to greater commitments. It should come as no surprise, then, that some may use this period to actually think of their own romantic status to either take a step forward together or, perhaps, realize that it’s time to break things off.

End-of-the-year reflections

Overall, it seems like the holiday period is a time for reflection, which is exactly the state of mind that people find themselves in come the new year, in specific.

“The new year is often accompanied by resolutions and aspirations of getting your life curated and channelling a positive intent,” said Kumaar. “This rejuvenated energy to give a fresh look to life and gain control may lead to breakups.”

Perhaps a severing of ties was already on the horizon, but with the arrival of a new year that comes along with constant calls for contemplation (even commercials seem to be geared towards ameliorating oneself towards the end of December!), the breakup process might just be accelerated.

Sultan echoes those sentiments: “As people set resolutions and contemplate personal growth, they may reassess their relationships and consider whether they align with their evolving goals and aspirations,” said the expert. “This self-reflection can lead some individuals to make decisions about ending relationships that no longer serve their well-being.”

Basically, if your relationship stands the test of holiday-related stresses, you can be pretty sure that you’ve got a strong connection going on. Perhaps reassess things in a few months, when Valentine’s Day comes around?

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