When the music is merry, the drinks are flowing, and the calendar is filled with holiday parties, it's hard to step away from a toxic or negative relationship, or just a relationship that’s not working for you. I’ve been there. I’ve put off breaking up during the holidays because I didn't want to hurt the one I loved — even though I was "in love" no more.
Duncan* was a Christmas connoisseur. I mean, he’d be an elf if he could. He’s that guy who brings out the Christmas tree, lights, and ornaments the day after Halloween. He plays Christmas tunes in mid-November, and starts spraying the house with a pine-scented room spray come Dec. 1. His fridge is filled with eggnog, and holiday-themed cookies are in a tin on the counter. This guy doesn't f*ck around when it comes to the holidays, which, in turn, f*cked with my plans to break up with him.
We were having troubles throughout the fall. Whenever he got drunk when we were out together, he would get jealous or upset and make a big scene. But did I really want to be alone? Did I really want to show up at a function filled with couples, single and on my lonesome yet again? Plus, I truly cared about him, and the idea of hurting him at his favorite time of year weighed heavy on me. So I figured I could wait it out. We had been together for 10 months already and had some trying times, so what was one more month or two in the grand scheme of things?
I stayed. I found myself biting my tongue more, just nodding when he had his consistent mini-temper tantrums. Staying with someone when I had already emotionally checked out was a weak move. I was less physically available; I made all the clichéd excuses to avoid him in the bedroom; and I started spending less time with him. I'm sure he had a hunch that something was wrong.
I knew the situation was toxic and I had to find a way out.
But with each passing day, I could feel my resentment toward him building. Whenever he overreacted to a situation or made degrading comments at the expense of others, I knew for certain that he wasn't the guy for me. I'd hold back tears. My throat felt choked up. The weight on my shoulders was unbearable. As tough as that reaction felt, it helped in a way — it let me know I wasn't making a mistake. I knew the situation was toxic and I had to find a way out.
I started hoping that he would dump me first, but by the first week of December, I couldn't take it any longer. I was dragging out the end of our relationship to prevent hurting him, but in turn, I was hurting myself.
I finally sat him down to tell him my plans to leave for a bit, to have some space, and see how we both feel with that distance. I expressed my concerns and why I didn’t feel they’re mendable, and I was sure when I explained my feelings that I never put blame on him.
That day after I had packed up half my stuff, the gravity of what I was doing hit him hard, and he asked me not to go. To not give up. I agreed to drag it on. "It’s the holidays, after all!" I thought, as I reminded myself that I’m a person of my word and I had already committed to some of his family's celebrations.
There’s never going to be a good time.
Looking back, I should have trusted my gut and removed myself from the situation immediately, despite the pain it would have caused us both in the moment. At least we wouldn’t have developed more memories, and I wouldn’t have met his extended family. Better yet, if I left and he was hurt, he’d have those closest to him to act as a support network to help get him through the split and help push him to move forward.
There’s no going back now but if I were to give a piece of advice for anyone staying in an unhealthy relationship just so you have company at holiday parties and family functions, or because your partner loves the holiday season, I’d say run. There’s never going to be a good time.
*Name has been changed.
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