The holidays are right around the corner, and by now you are either excited to spend them with your partner or you are dreading it.  If it is the latter, don’t ignore the signs of discontent or distress, which often manifest themselves in the form of procrastination either with making any plans or buying gifts, as this will only make the situation worse.  Instead, try to be honest (at the very least with yourself) and figure out either a coping strategy or an exit plan.

Many people break up around the holidays because inevitably as the end of year approaches we start to look back at what we have accomplished and what we want for the year ahead.  During this time of reflection, it’s hard to avoid certain painful truths, especially with respect to our intimate relationships.  The ultimate question is this: do you see a future together?  If the answer is a clear no, then it’s time to call it quits.

Although in business dealings we all know to hire slow and fire fast, in our personal lives we tend to drag our feet far longer than we should before we cut ties.  Some of this definitely has to do with our hope that we can rekindle that spark we once felt in the beginning of the relationship.  That honeymoon phase is intoxicating for sure, but over time, the infatuation phase subsides and you start to see the other person for who they really are, and as you collect more data points you either feel like the luckiest person on Earth when you are with your partner or enough bad incidents have caused significant doubt that this relationship can progress any further.

No matter how much time/energy/money you have invested in the past together, you cannot fall for the sunken cost fallacy.  We all need to know when to stop investing in a losing cause.  The most common reasons people will bail include (1) their partner never seems happy, (2) they refuse to stop drinking or get counseling, (3) they’ve grown tired of babysitting a man-child or princess, (4) there is no longer any trust or respect between them; (5) they dislike the person they have become and (6) they no longer feel the couple belongs together.   Any one of these is just cause to call it quits– sooner rather than later.

When in doubt, here are a few steps you can take to help you get clarity on the situation.  First, find a therapist you can trust to help you figure out if the problems are manageable or insurmountable.  Second, take a trip with your partner and see how you feel when it’s just the two of you without the pressures of work, family, and other daily stressors.  Third, go on a solo trip and see whether you miss the other person or you feel pure relief to be away.  Fourth, play out in your head an exit strategy– and then put pen to paper and map out all the steps needed to unravel the relationship.  Then ask yourself this one question: are my chances of being happy and at peace better if I stay or if I bail?

There is a lot to be said for being in a partnership, but only if it is a healthy one.  When someone continually puts you down, causes public scenes, becomes belligerent for no reason, reminds you on a daily basis how lucky you are to have him/her around, and uses fear, guilt or intimidation tactics to manipulate you, this is a situation beyond repair.  Seriously abusive behavior cannot be tolerated, and if you stay, you will either get sick or wind-up dead.

For over 20 years, I have helped my divorce clients develop a plan to get out safely.  There is no one perfect formula to follow to get it right because each family and the needs of the individuals involved are all different, but the practical mechanics of splitting up should be fairly straight forward.  The first priority needs to be figuring out your options for housing and financial independence.  Find out the best way to safely and gracefully extricate yourself from your current situation.  This may require you to seek the advice of a life coach/counselor and/or an attorney, and definitely get some feedback from your financial advisor to avoid committing financial suicide.  But remember you can always make more money, but you only have one life.

We all have a right to live in peace, free of unnecessary drama.  There are some out there, however, who simply don’t know how to maintain that– do not make that your problem.  Get our and give yourself the space you need to mourn the loss of the relationship you wish you could have had together, process the pain, and know that next year you will be in a much better place–you just need to be patient and let yourself emotionally heal from all the unresolved trauma.

By Regina A. DeMeo