Bored Caucasian woman wrapping Christmas gifts
Credit: Mike Kemp/Getty Images

The holidays are a rough time to be coupled up, and you wouldn’t be the first person to realize that you need to break up while you’re home for the holidays. There’s something about the festivities and being with family that can shine a light on your relationship and make you realize that something just isn’t working anymore.

But it seems especially cruel to break up over the holidays, so we often put it off.

There is literally never a good time to give someone bad news, so you might as well just break it to your partner whenever you feel it, and if that’s Christmas Eve, so be it. They’ll survive. It sounds harsh, but life it too short to waste anyone’s time, least of all your own. Obviously, if you’re in a long-term relationship, you might not want to bring it up just as they’re slicing the turkey at the holiday table. But don’t drag this out, either. It’s much more cruel to stay with someone just because they bought you an expensive Christmas gift or because you don’t want to brave New Year’s Eve alone. You wouldn’t want someone to string you along, would you?

Remember that the holidays are also a great time to meet new people, so don’t just stay with a casual partner simply because you want a plus-one on your arm. Here are some things to remember when breaking up over the holidays.

1Do it in person.

Most breakups should be done in person because that’s just the right thing to do, but over the holidays, it’s even more important. Don’t text or do it over the phone while your partner is with their family over the holidays. Family time is intense enough without adding stress to it. So try your best to break up when you’re actually together in person.

2Set rules about contact.

There is nothing more gut-wrenching than getting dumped during the holidays and then getting the well-intentioned but tragic “Happy New Year” text. When you break up over the holidays, set some ground rules about not communicating you’re comfortably and safely in the new year. This is actually one good thing about a breakup during the holidays: There’s a built-in cool-down period if you allow yourself to take it.

It might seem like a “nice” thing to do to let your newfound ex know you’re thinking about them, but don’t do it. It can hurt even worse and initiate a back-and-forth you just don’t want to have when you’re back in your childhood home trying to remember the best places to have a heated conversation in your childhood home without your little brother eavesdropping.

3Be a little more sensitive than usual.

<Unless this person was a complete scumbag (or even just a smidge of scumbag), consider your timing. We know we said not to drag it out, but a ton of weird stuff comes up for everyone during the holidays. Try to time the breakup so there’s some time for them to cry and be upset before the bigger holiday moments. As we mentioned, there is never a right time to break up with someone, but have a little compassion and try to time the blow.

4Do not make concessions!

One of the stages of grief is bargaining, and you might find that your partner still wants you to show up to their holiday work party or still come meet their mom for New Year’s brunch because she was so excited and they can’t bear to give her bad news. You need to take a hard pass on all this stuff. If you broke up with someone any other time of the year, they probably wouldn’t be begging you to accompany them around town (or at least it wouldn’t be viewed as acceptable), so don’t do it now just because you feel bad for leaving them during the merriest time of the year.

5You don’t have to return gifts.

This sounds superficial (because it is), but if you exchanged gifts before the breakup, you don’t have to give anything back. Unless you think it’s appropriate or happen to want to get rid of it, but in general, a gift if a gift, and it’s yours now.

6Remember that the holidays aren’t magic.

Although it may feel like a magical winter wonderland, the holidays are not actually magic. If your serious relationship is on the rocks or you just aren’t feeling your f*ck buddy anymore, getting through the holidays is not going to “make it better.” Just like the holidays won’t cure whatever ails your partnership, they also aren’t going to make a breakup any easier. Breaking up over the holidays is just like any other breakup, just with Christmas tree lights in the background, so you might as well get it over with.