The Holiday Break-Up

'Tis the season for holiday cheer and...break-ups? Yup, that's on the menu too. Here are Modern Manners Guy's 3 rules for calling it quits during the holidays.

Richie Frieman
4-minute read
Episode #322

Take my friend Gretchen whose boyfriend dumped her last year only three days shy of Christmas.  What bothered her the most was not the break-up itself, but the timing of it.  Her boyfriend (like any person wanting to end a relationship) knew weeks ahead of time that he had a change of heart.  Yet he was too chicken to end it then and instead allowed her make holiday plans with family and friends for the two of them. Had he just broke it off in November (or earlier), it would have saved her a boatload of stress, heartache, and embarrassing explanation.

When you know your heart is not into the relationship, take a good day or two to sit back and analyze those feelings. Make sure your mind is 100% made up. But once it is, don't drag it out. Have the decency to end things before your unwitting partner makes holiday cards with a picture of you two in matching reindeer sweaters. 

And if you do feel pressured to end it right before Santa comes down the chimney, take another step back and just let the holiday happen.  It won't hurt you to keep them out of the loop for 48 more hours. I mean, even the Grinch wouldn't do that.

Tip #2: Break Up in Person, Always!

A while back I wrote an article called How NOT to Break Up with Someone, where I outlined the most unmannerly ways of breaking up. The three worst are by text, by email, or by simply not calling.

Here’s the deal, if you’re over the age of 15, you no longer get to dump someone via electronics. And if you’re an adult reading this, you shouldn’t even be considering this as an option. Not for a regular break-up and absolutely not for a holiday break-up. Why?

See also: How to Handle Friends' Divorce


Well for starters, it’s shallow and immature. When you dump someone behind the veil of text or email, the dumpee doesn't get a sense of closure. And depending on how you phrase things electronically, you can potentially be unclear and leave a window of hope open (which is even worse than being super direct). A break-up is done in person. Period.

I know it stinks to face someone when you're rejecting them, but it’s even worse when you get caught in a back and forth text break-up conversation. That's just painful. And if you do this very close to the holidays, you earn some seriously bad karma for the new year. Beware!

Tip #3: Don’t Go Big on Presents

As I said in Tip #1, timing is key for a holiday break-up. One of the big hitches in the holiday break-up is when you wait too long to do it and get stuck having to exchange gifts.  So if a gift is supposed to come from the heart, and your heart skipped town weeks ago, how do you pull off a gift that says, “You’re special…just not that special…especially not to me”?

See also: Gift Ideas for the Unofficial Relationship (Part 1) and (Part 2)


Harsh? Maybe, but holiday couples are expected to really roll out the red carpet for gift exchanges (or so every jewelry store commercial tells me). So if you’re planning on splitting anyway, why empty the bank on someone you’re not really into?

If you are going to break up with someone during the holidays, don’t lead him or her on with an elaborate gift. This sends false signals and honestly, it's just not very economical on your part.  When it comes to gift giving in general, no one should ever challenge the price of a gift – whether you’re in love or not. When you know the end is near, do not try to fake your emotions behind a hefty price tag.  Stick to the basics, something reasonable, something nice, but not something that makes a person believe there is a long future ahead.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my bestselling book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success.

Man courting woman image courtesy of Shutterstock.