Toronto Sun, Sun Media papers, December, 2009.
If you're thinking about breaking up with your partner, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Couples in rocky relationships are entering what's been called National Break-Up Season, the period between the December holidays and Valentine's Day when, according to a Yahoo Personals poll, people are more than twice as likely to think about breaking up than at any other time of the year.
"My practice is always busy in December," says Gary Direnfeld, a social worker and the tough-love talking voice of reason for couples on Slice TV's Newlywed, Nearly Dead?
"Christmas drives home the message we're all supposed to get along, love one another. When that isn't happening in a relationship, it feels more intense at Christmas."
Christmas and New Year's force people to focus on happiness and self-improvement and invariably leads to couples reevaluating their own relationships, experts say.
And not even the ludicrously rich nor the impossibly beautiful are immune.
In the celebrity world, for example, include the royal couple Madge and Guy Ritchie who are in the middle of a very public divorce proceeding. Paris Hilton and her latest boy toy Benji Madden are dunzo, while Brit pop crazy Amy Winehouse is splitting up from her jailhouse hubby Blake Fielder-Civil.
Last December saw actor Brendan Fraser split with wife Afton Smith, singer Natalie Imbruglia broke up with rocker hubby Daniel Johns. In December 2006, it was Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese.
Another poll by onlinedatingmagazine.com reported that 51% of the 1,000 single respondents admitted to staying in doomed relationships over the holidays simply to avoid ugly confrontations and hurt feelings.
So is it cruel and unusual punishment to break up with someone the night before Christmas? Not if you're being truthful with yourself, Direnfeld says.
"If you wait until after the holidays to break the news, your partner will feel betrayed," he said. "More often than not, motives aren't as altruistic as you want to believe. It's looking to save themselves from the grief it would cause their partner. Who are you saving here? The truth of the matter is, you don't want to be the bad guy."
Psychologist Patrick Keelan says the dumper should consider the "cost-benefit analysis" of breaking up.
The longer the relationship, the harder the fall. The more shared holiday events scheduled, the more stressful the split.
"If you're doing the break-up, consider the impact of the break-up over the holidays on your partner," Keelan, of the Calgary Counselling Centre, said.
Use your judgment about postponing the breakup, he advises, as it's likely to add stress to the holiday season.
While breaking up is hard to do, the holidays can also provide the perfect opportunity to digest a life change, Keelan points out.
"During the holidays people get time off work and life demands aren't as great," he said. "The holidays could be a good time rather than after Christmas because people are expected to perform at a high level."