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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Breakups and the New Year: 7 Reasons Couples Breakup

Romantic relationships begin and end every day, some couples form and we totally see it coming, and others we don’t. The same thing applies to breakups, some we can see coming others we don’t. However, when we consider the breakup of a romantic relationship many things are true, e.g., there were pre-existing problems in the relationship, the couple did not work through their problems, did not communicate their individual needs, or pretended there were no issues in their relationship. Unfortunately, many times before a relationship ends things have not been going well for a long time. Some couples will attempt to ignore the issues in the relationship while others will become deadlocked, unable to move beyond the issues in the relationship. Couples that are deadlocked keep fighting the same fight without resolving any of their relationship issues. While some couples will make the decision to end their relationship after many unsuccessful attempts to resolve their problems others will hold onto the relationship, electing to end it at the end of the year. It is not unusual for couples to end a relationship at the end of the year as many perceive the start of the new year as a fresh start.

While, some partners agree to put their relationship problems behind them, often without resolving their issues so they can maintain the relationship, others will end the relationship at the end of the year in search of a fresh start. However, for some, the pressure of spending the winter holidays with each other’s families revealed that partners were not as well-matched as they previously assumed. Partners are reluctant to end unhappy relationships just prior to, or during, the holiday season for a variety of reasons. Some of the reason’s partners remain in an unhappy relationship include, not wanting to upset his/her partner during a time of year that is often perceived by most as joyous, previous plans were made to travel together during the holidays, spend time with each other’s families, having to explain to families you are no longer with your former partner, not wanting to feel alone during the holidays, etc. Holidays are often perceived as a time of joy and happiness, a time to bring families closer together, not a time to create division. No one wants to be unhappy or make someone they once cared about unhappy during the holidays, so they often choose to delay addressing the issues in the relationship or decide to end the relationship after once the holidays are over.

Although, this may come as a surprise to some, but gifts play a significant role in whether or not partners decide to end a relationship. Gifts also factor into partners decision to stay together during the holidays, both gifts already purchased and gifts options that had been discussed between partners prior to the holidays. Sometimes the time and the cost of the gift can influence or delay the decision to break up. Consider this, if you have more time invested in the relationship or contributed what you consider to be a significant amount monetarily to the relationship than partners are more likely to try and make the relationship work.

Partners that share children or those that have developed a bond with their partners children are also more likely to try and make the relationship work regardless of existing problems. Couples will attempt to preserve the relationship through the holidays to maintain the illusion that they are a happy family out of a desire not to ruin that time of the year for their children. Beyond not wanting to ruin Christmas, few want to risk linking the holidays with a breakup or other unpleasant event. Ending a relationship/getting a divorce, or the death of a loved one can create negative feelings that can last a lifetime.

Reasons Partners End a Romantic Relationship at the Start of new Year Include:

• Partners do not want to “carry” last years problems or baggage into the new year
• They desire a fresh start, possibly with someone new or they want to focus completely on themselves
• The do not want to create negative memories during the holidays that can impact future holidays
• The do not want to disappoint family and friends by ending the relationship during a time associated with joy
• The pressure of putting on a “happy face” to maintain the illusion of good cheer has ended, along with the holiday
• Partners want to keep their families intact for the holidays
• Partners do not want to disappoint children during the holidays

Most partners that contemplate ending their relationship have struggled with the idea of ending it for some time, often for several months. However, once partners have made the decision to end the relationship there are several “debts” that had been added to the ledger over time, prompting them to end the relationship and start fresh. For many people, the start of a new year puts people into reflective phases where they tend to examine what is and is not working in their lives. We become very reflective as we think over the events of our life the previous year, e.g., successes, failures, opportunities, personal growth, additions, loss, etc. Those self-reflections sometimes result in partners realizing they are no longer happy or fulfilled in their current romantic relationships. January is often dubbed the “breakup month” because of the increase in relationship breakups, separations, and divorces that occur during the month.  January being the start of the new year is perceived by most as a time of new beginnings, a time to do away with the old by ushering in the new. The thought of starting the new year with unfinished business or bringing baggage into the new year can serve as a motivator for partners to end a relationship that is no longer working.

Finally, the holidays with its additional family and financial stresses sometimes prove to be proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. The holidays tend to emphasize the cracks that are already present in the relationship. With avoidance or failure to resolve relationship issues appropriately cracks can deepen, becoming more pronounced as couples strive to ignore, put off, or minimize that problems exist. However, once the holiday season has ended, some people get a “second wind”, a desire to carve out a different life, a different path for themselves that no longer includes their current partner. For partners, this “second wind” includes identifying opportunities, changes, and areas of improvement that a partner can make leading to personal growth, self-fulfillment, and achievement.

Breakups and the New Year: 7 Reasons Couples Breakup

Bates-Duford, Ph.D., LMFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, LMFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2019). Breakups and the New Year: 7 Reasons Couples Breakup. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Jan 2019
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