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Kristen Houghton

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Staying Together for the Holidays Brings False Hope to Bad Relationships

Posted: 11/23/11 02:32 PM ET

No one wants to be alone for the holidays -- even couples who are well aware that whatever they had is completely over and gone. Staying together "just for now" may seem to be the solution to going it solo during all the parties and festivities.

If you're in a relationship that has been having major problems, the holidays are not the best time to analyze what you need to do. Holidays bring a dreamlike quality to couples. Even with all the stress and rush of the season, even when you know deep within your heart that you need to make a change and leave the relationship, there is a nagging thought in your mind that begins to feel a sadness that you as a couple are in trouble. You begin to look at the other person and endow him or her with qualities they may not really have. Maybe they're not so bad after all; maybe we can salvage "us" as a couple. Perhaps we're just going through a bad time.

It isn't reality; it's all the holiday music, traditions, the peace on earth, good will to all and the umpteenth broadcast of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" that is clouding the practical side of your brain!

The holidays bring a false hope to a relationship that both partners already know, and completely acknowledge, is over. The pleasantries of the season make you think that perhaps, just perhaps, you are being a bit hasty in ending the relationship. Looking at the other person with eyes misted by "visions of sugar plums" and holiday spirit, both emotional and liquid, you start thinking that a second or even third chance at staying together might be worth the effort. It is usually not.

It seems that more couples stay together during the holidays than at any other time of the year. The thought of not being alone for a time of year when "everyone is with someone" is one reason. Another is the fact that we second-guess our best judgment about why we considered breaking up in the first place. In the spirit of the season, we make promises we have no intention of keeping.

It isn't just the people involved in the bad relationship. The facade of pretending to still be a couple has consequences beyond the relationship. Family and friends will assume that all is well with "the two of you." You begin to be seen as a twosome again and staying together then becomes a forced requirement.

However, when the holidays end, you are left with the same problems and unhappy situations that caused you to want to end the relationship in the first place. The problem is that if you're already having problems, the holidays didn't really help one bit and your sentimentality was ill-placed.

Before you let the sparkle of the season blind you to the reality of your unhappy relationship and allow you to second guess the reasons being together is not going to work, stop, step back and think. No matter how tempting it may be to be part of a couple "just for now," be realistic, not fatalistic. This isn't your last holiday season. These current holidays will come and go, there will be new ones in your future, and you will be happy again. One of the biggest myths we tell ourselves is that someone else can make us happy and that any relationship is better than none at this time of year.

Staying in a bad relationship just because it is the season of togetherness and presents is not the best solution to your problems. The misery of an unhappy partnership will only be prolonged if you make the choice to stay.

Holidays can be likened to being a guest at a wedding. You are dressed beautifully, surrounded by pretty gifts and wonderful things to eat. For that one day, everything is perfect. The next day, however you find that the magic hasn't lasted; you're back to your imperfect life wearing ordinary clothes and eating hamburger.

© 2011 Copyright Kristen Houghton

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