By Lauren Chval Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Columnist Lauren Chval makes the case for why it actually may be a good idea to split up before Valentine's Day.
With Valentine's Day two weeks away, now is the time to make dinner reservations. It's the time for gift buying, flower ordering and love-letter writing. There's a lot to do. It's not, however, the time to be plotting a breakup.
Or is it?
If a relationship has soured, certainly it can be tempting to push through the most romantic day of the year before breaking things off. Who wants to be single on Valentine's Day? But there's a case to be made for splitting before the holiday.
Margie Mauldin is the author of "Feedback Revolution," a new book that provides tips for having a difficult conversation. She suggested that ending a failing relationship before Valentine's Day saves everyone from an unpleasant experience.
"On the emotional side, it's a lot of energy," Mauldin said. "Valentine's Day has a lot of expectations surrounding it. Having a person go through that when you're just going to break up seems like double misery to me. From a dollars and cents perspective, you're paying for a nice night out and flowers and chocolates. Right there, you're probably talking $100 or $150 that you're saving."
Clinical psychologist Michael Broder said that over his 40 years in the field, his patients have spent a lot of time and money working through their depression and anxiety surrounding Valentine's Day.
"Loneliness becomes really glaring during this time," Broder said. "But Valentine's Day is a fake, manmade milestone. If you're in a good situation with someone you can enjoy it with, then it's great. If not, there's a word for that: reality. If the reality is you're going to break up, I don't think you're doing them any favors by holding on until after Valentine's Day. It's one thing if you're going to work on the relationship, but if you know this relationship is a dead man walking, you owe it to yourself and the other person to move forward and start minimizing the pain."
Still, it's hard to deny the anxiety that might lead someone to putting off a breakup. For those who are conflict avoiders, Mauldin admitted that it might be easiest for them to default to their typical tendencies, especially if they fear a response of, "I can't believe you're doing this to me right before Valentine's Day!"
"But on the other hand, it's worth it to just look at the situation for what it is and say, 'This is not fair to me or the other person,' " she explained. "I'd rather breathe a big sigh of relief than go through all the ceremony of Valentine's Day if it's not authentic. It seems like a lot of unhappiness for a dinner and a box of chocolates and some flowers."
Broder agreed. Valentine's Day, he insisted, is just another day. If you're feeling pressure around the holiday, he stressed the importance of building some "emotional muscle" against the arbitrary standards of the day and really examining your motivations.
"Relationships work when they're based in honesty," he added. "And you're not being honest if you're pretending to be with someone if that's not where you want to be."
If you do decide to pull the plug, Mauldin has some advice based in her communications training.
"We teach the skill of thinking about what's in it for the other person," she said. "Put yourself in the other person's shoes. What about this conversation is going to be good for them?"
Basically, what can your soon-to-be-ex get out of this breakup? Maybe it's more time to focus on something your relationship has previously distracted from (whether that's a career or just a hobby), or maybe it's not having to deal with fights anymore. Mauldin advised selling the positives in the breakup, but above all else, she said, get it over with. Before Valentine's Day.
"I would rip the Band-Aid off."