Returning home for the holidays can be difficult to stomach under normal circumstances. When you add a break up to the recipe, you’ve got something harder to swallow than even the driest of turkeys.
With Thanksgiving coming up, I’m reminded of the phenomenon referred to (so unsympathetically) as the Turkey Dump. If you’re unfamiliar, this is when college and university students who live away from home return for Thanksgiving and promptly break up with their significant others. According to data collected in 2009 from Facebook status updates (by data journalist David McCandless and design technologist Lee Byron), it isn’t just a myth. Indeed, they noticed break-up rates began to increase around Thanksgiving and peaked about 2 weeks before the winter holidays and they saw a spike again during spring break.
Curious about why it happens? Some speculate it’s because the holidays present a whole new set of expectations in a relationship that can feel all too “real” (e.g. meeting the family and friends); others postulate it’s because the holidays turn attention to the opportunities and options up ahead.
Getting Through It
If you’re among the heartbroken you probably don’t much care why it happens, so let’s turn to the important stuff. Here’s what to do if you find yourself in splitsville for the holidays:
- Remember that holidays can be spent with family and/or friends. Take this opportunity to foster the other valuable relationships you have in your life.
- Have a prepared response for those who ask about your relationship status. Know that you don’t owe anyone details about what happened.
- Try to meet new people at a holiday party or out with friends.
- Let yourself be distracted by the holiday festivities and events.
- Take a trip if you can—near or far—and get lost for the holidays.
It can really suck to have a relationship end during the holidays, but having a few days off can be a blessing. Use it to take some time to yourself and, if you’re able, be with those that you love.
Struggling with the process? Here are some other tips that can help you keep it classy through a break-up.
I don’t know about you, but the thought of asking others for what I need is extremely challenging. I pride myself on being independent and self-reliant, but I’ve come to realize that a necessary part of that is being able to ask others for what I need from them.
Try to imagine this scenario:
You’re on a date with someone you really like. You’ve been dating for a while and you’d like the relationship to be exclusive. You’re not sure if the other person shares your feelings. You’ve done some reflecting and it’s very important to you, so you decide it’s time to share your feelings and have a talk about exclusivity.
This talk involves asking for something you need, in this case, exclusivity in the relationship. What’s so scary about that?
In my own case, I fear that I might be rejected.
So, how do I ask for what I need despite my fears? Below is a list of things that help me prepare. Give them a try.
1. Check in with yourself
Ask yourself, “How am I feeling about this conversation? Do I know what I want out of it?”
2. Map it out
Lay the key points you want to address out for yourself.
3. Imagine how the conversation will go
Consider other perspectives– try checking in with a trusted friend or family member and get their feedback.
4. Take a deep breath before going in for this talk
When you’re anxious your brain forgets to think and your body goes into survivor mode. Help your body and brain calm down by taking a few deep breaths. Some mindfulness practice would also be super helpful here.
5. Ask for what you need
Describe the situation and tell the person what you need (you can say something like “we’ve been seeing each other for a while now and I’m really starting to like you. I want to know where this is going. Do you see this becoming a long term relationship?”)
6. Acknowledge yourself
At this point, no matter what happens, remind yourself how brave you were to ask for what you need.
Remember, if we don’t ask for what we need, we won’t ever receive it. However, the other side of that means we also need to accept that it’s the other person’s right to say no. Whatever happens, at least we have the answers we need.
As always, you’ve got this!
Unlike our family, we can choose our friends. So in a way, friends are our “chosen family”. It’s important that we choose wisely and surround ourselves with supporting and loving people. Happy International Friendship Day!
Are you finding yourself lonely during your summer away from campus? Look no further!
Here are the top 3 places to check out to meet new peeps!
This is a great website to meet people who share similar interests to you. Sign up on the website, choose the categories that interest you, i.e. sports, nature, movies, etc., and then get out there!
Yes, you read that correctly. Bumble—best known for its dating app—also has an app to meet your future bestie. Add a few photos of you in your element, write a brief bio and then start swiping!
You’ve probably bought tickets on Eventbrite before (maybe even for a Shift event!) but did you know it’s also considered the “new” meetup.com. Perfectly Search by date, location, cost and category to find the perfect event to mingle with like-minded folks.
I recently made a surprise trip to see my parents in Michigan for my Mom’s birthday. Before I committed to it, I had to check in with myself about the decision because, while my relationship with my parents has always been complex, this year the struggle has been especially real. I had to hold both of them accountable for some tough and painful stuff. There was heartbreak on both sides. I stepped away and took time to process it all before I reconnected with them.
I’ve made a concerted effort in my relationships with both of them to show up out of a desire to connect instead of out of obligation or any narrative of what daughters are “supposed” to do. After checking in with myself and deciding that visiting them felt right for me, I hopped in the car and made my way. It wasn’t a long visit but at one point, as I was walking out to the car from their home, I caught a glimpse of a chalkboard hanging on the wall. On the chalkboard was a long list to track donations my parents had recently made: Ocean Conservancy, Planned Parenthood, The Audubon Society, Doctors Without Borders, the ACLU, and more.
As soon as it caught my eye, a feeling of warmth spread through my body and sank into my bones. It was a beautiful reminder of one of the things my parents have done remarkably well: they seamlessly and effortlessly imparted to my siblings and me what an absolutely non-negotiable responsibility we have as citizens of this earth to give back in some capacity.
Parenting is the hardest job on the planet on a good day. The caregiver-child relationship is unique and lays the groundwork for every person’s future intimate attachments. Parenthood often brings up our parents’ own childhood trauma and difficult experiences. The work of a lifetime comes in understanding our parents as people versus our parents as caregivers. We are allowed to say that our parents are good people but were inadequate caregivers. It’s okay to say that the parents we got were not the parents we needed. It’s okay to love them in spite of it or to distance ourselves because of it.
My parents had a tough time as caregivers. But I can tell you as humans, they remain two of the kindest, sweetest people I’ve ever known. They wove kindness and generosity into the fabric of our family so effortlessly that I barely noticed until I reached a place where I could look back and see it in completion. It was as if, all of a sudden, a beautiful tapestry appeared out of thin air.
The list of donations on the wall was a beautiful reminder of one of the things about my parents that I’m grateful for. But I was only able to get there because I gave myself the time, space and permission to heal and rage by any means necessary.
We get so many social messages that say we need to love and support our family unconditionally and I’m here to tell you otherwise. Everyone has a different process and comfort level but if you are struggling with guilt because you don’t want to be around your family or talk to them, I want to reassure you that it is okay. It’s okay to prioritize your healing over your family members’ feelings. It’s okay to feel how you feel in its fullness. Maybe you’ll get to gratitude, maybe you won’t. But you can’t skip over the hurt and the pain on the road to healing.
If you do find it comfortable to feel gratitude for your parents, don’t use it to rationalize cancelling out the hurt, anger, and pain you feel. We can feel opposing and conflicting feelings at the same time without having to cancel any out. Our relationships with our parents are the most complex of our lives. To view them only as black and white does a disservice to our healing process. If you cover up the hurt with gratitude, you’ll only get so far. Your healing will reach a ceiling.
There’s almost always some good stuff about our parents. But those things aren’t our first stops on the path to healing. They aren’t what needs to be seen and heard first. There is room for all of it but don’t be afraid of the darkness in the tunnel. If you’re courageous enough to move through it, you will find the light at the end.