If Facebook is to be believed (and most of you probably do), most couples break up a couple of weeks before Christmas. Analysis of 10,000 posts on the world’s most popular social media network reveals that phrases like “break up and “broke up” pop up at its peak in the days leading up to what should be the “most wonderful time of the year.”
Take heart then when you’re suddenly single at Christmas. You’re not alone. Even celebrities call it quits during the holidays. Scarlett Johansson and Ryan Reynolds ended their marriage in December. Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens also broke up in December.
But why do couples split up during the holidays? Why would anyone prefer to be alone when everyone else is in a holly jolly mood?
Christmas, like Valentine’s, is a symbolic celebration; couples tend to find themselves faced with making a deeper commitment or fleeing. For some couples, the pressure of the season, with all its gift-giving, feel-good air, has the opposite effect. And so, one will flee.
Another school of thought on the matter has to do with reflections; most people would rather not spend one of the most important seasons of the year with a significant other if they don’t see a future with that person. Here, you’re likely to get the “It’s not you, it’s me” reason.
Let it Snow, Bring it On
The good news is that this, too, shall pass. Or, there are other fish in the sea. Or, time heals all wounds. Even better: You’re better off. Such clichéd words of comfort slide off like food on Teflon on people still reeling from the demise of a relationship; people mean well when they say those things, but they do nothing to help you get a handle on the breakup.
I find that listening without offering any insight and remark about “the deserter” is enough to kind of help a friend cope—if only for a day.
And this, being the era of the supremely pampered millennial worker, people going through a rough patch can also get some kind of support from their company. A boutique ad agency’s not only giving out dating expenses but also providing a breakup leave for its employees.
If you don’t have access to such perks, you can slay the beast that is the sadness of a breakup by turning to science.
Feel Better — Love, Science
A breakup, turns out, is like the withdrawal stage of addiction; the phrase “addicted to love” is right on the money it seems. Researchers suggest that this unfortunate experience in your life should be treated as though you were kicking a nasty habit.
So how do you kick it (no, not the person who broke up with you)?
- You can try the cold turkey approach, and just cleanse yourself of everything that has to do with your significant other. Don’t go to your usual places, and take control when the urge to call him/her rises.
- You can also take a pain reliever because the ache you’re dealing with is also physiological; it’s not just in your head. Aspirin, it seems, can have an effect on emotional pain. A study found that subjects who took acetaminophen reported reduced social pain every day; the pill works by diminishing neural responses to social rejection in brain regions related to distress caused by social pain.
- Next, process the breakup through calm reflection. If you’re a logical person, this may come easy and stop you from dwelling. Consider how you were as a person before the relationship, during the relationship, and following the breakup. Make a note of your frequency in wanting to be alone and how you describe the split; do you refer to it in the past tense or the present tense? Rational questions about your break up can help you cope with the experience.
- Finally, work on your mind and body. When you take better care of yourself, you regulate brain chemistry, which helps you better deal with the split. If you get the so-called revenge body out of this survival technique, even better.
Broken up. Un-coupled. Dropped. And, of course, unfriended — a relationship footnote, online and offline. Whatever you call it, the end of a relationship isn’t the end of you (and there’s another cliché).
So don’t take it lying down. It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” after all, and you’ve got presents to receive, hugs to give, and noche buena to devour.
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Joy has been a vegan for over 20 years. She's done a wide range of stories for magazines, from music and movies to business and culture matters. She continues to write professionally to this day — like, right this very minute.