How to break up like a grown-up

Is it possible to end a relationship and move on like a healthy, mature adult? Dreamstime/TNS

Dec. 11 is statistically the most common day of the year to break off a romantic relationship. Yes, people have done legitimate math on this.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been dumped — twice — on Christmas Eve. In both cases, the guys did it via email. One said he’d found someone else; the other straight up admitted his desire to stay single. Neither apologized for ruining my Christmas.

Why the rush to give up on love during “the most wonderful time of the year”? I think it has to do with what I call the Dating Holiday Trifecta (Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day). These are undoubtedly the most stressful holidays for couples, so when asked, many date dodgers give these reasons for calling it quits:

“I don’t want my partner at family gatherings or holiday parties.”

“I don’t want to spend money on my partner.”

“The holidays make me feel pressure to commit or even propose.”

“I want to end or start the year with a clean slate.”

Since so many daters are dumping and getting dumped in December, it raises the question: Is it possible to end a relationship and move on like a healthy, mature adult? When seemingly everyone is ghosting, going on the fade, breaking up via text — or worse — doing a breakup well is harder (and rarer) than you may think.

Here are a few ways to break up but still respect your soon-to-be ex, keep your dignity and be a good human in the process:

Do it in person or (at the very least) over the phone. You’re not in junior high. Face your date like a man (or woman) and have the decency to end things in real time and real space — with your real self.

Be kind. This is another human being you’re talking to. You dated them for a reason. This is no time to be petty or demeaning. Let them go and genuinely wish them well.

Be concise. Your now-ex has no time or emotional capacity for your lengthy monologue or play-by-play. Be brief and to the point. You can offer them an explanation, but you don’t owe them one.

Don’t argue or blame. The blame game never solved anything. This isn’t a court of law, so don’t try to make it one. Own and apologize for any hurt you caused. Agree to disagree on details if necessary, but remain respectful. Let everything else go.

Give your ex space. It’s over. And “over” means “over.” Don’t text, don’t call, don’t passive-aggressively say “hey” when you’re lonely in a week. Don’t stalk your ex on Instagram. Don’t check in with his friends or his mom. Move on.

Don’t talk bad about your ex in front of others. Take the high ground. Don’t play games, backbite or gossip. You’re better than that.

Don’t rebound. Process and learn from this relationship. Don’t jump into something new too soon, especially if your relationship was serious; it just comes across as desperate and tacky. Enjoy the holidays as a single person. You’ll be OK.

Of course, how you showed up in the relationship while it was alive is a factor too. You can make a breakup less painful by doing the following while dating:

Define the relationship. If you’re dating, say you’re dating. If you’re exclusive, make sure both of you know this. No one likes relational ambiguity. If I had a nickel for every time a guy assumed we were “just hanging out ...”

Communicate frequently. Healthy communication is essential to a relationship. Make sure you are frequently checking in with each other, voicing expectations and concerns and, most importantly, listening to, valuing and serving one another.

Set and keep emotional and physical boundaries. Define your boundaries at the start of your relationship. Remember, the further you go emotionally and physically, the harder and messier it will be to end things. I’ve had friends who gave up everything in a relationship only to be gutted when it was over. Their dating ended like a divorce. The amount of connection you have with another person should always be proportionate to the level of commitment you share.

Don’t lose who you are. Respect one another as individuals. Don’t look to your partner to meet all your needs, define you, complete you or fix your brokenness. Healthy individuals make healthy couples — there are no shortcuts. Chase after emotional, physical, spiritual and relational wholeness. You’ll never regret putting in the work.

The best breakups happen when both parties are mature enough to walk through the steps above. You’re only in charge of you, but the good news is, it only takes one person to break a toxic cycle. Give yourself the best chance of moving forward calmly and confidently by choosing to break up like a grown-up.

And maybe don’t do it on Christmas Eve.

Lisa Anderson is director of Boundless and the director of young adults at Focus on the Family. She is the author of “The Dating Manifesto” and connects with single young adults weekly on “The Boundless Show” podcast.

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