A recent look at break ups on Facebook by graphic designers Lee Byron and David McCandless confirms what many of us in the mental health field already knew: That the most likely time to end a relationship is the holiday season, peaking the two weeks before Christmas. 

The good news is that if you can make it to Christmas (the fewest break ups of any day) you’ve got it made until March, when spring fever kicks in.

The three most common reasons for breaking up are: cheating, loss of interest and a long distance relationship that isn’t working. 

The findings by Byron and McCandless find that there is little difference in reasoning behind why males vs females break up. And, interestingly, 30% of all responses couldn’t give a definitive reason and simply said “it’s complicated.”

Another fascinating tidbit of from Byron and McCandless is that 75% of those born before 1975 broke up in person, but less than half of those born after 1984 did so. For these younger folks, 30% broke up by phone and almost 20% broke up by e-mail, instant message, or (shockingly) via Facebook. 

What does that say about the world we live in where you can decide your relationship is too complicated in the evening, send a Facebook message before you go to bed and be single and free by the morning, without ever having a discussion with your soon-to-be ex? It’s scary stuff with respect to the institution of marriage, but I digress. 

In this piece I'm here to analyze why the holidays have the highest breakup rate and tell you how to avoid becoming a statistic -- assuming a breakup is not in both of your best interests. Here are six reasons:

1. Stress: The holidays are the most stressful time of year (spending, drinking, parties, family time and obligations) and stress is a relationship killer. Moderation is the key. Know when to say no.

2. Quality Time: Though you may spend a lot of time around your significant other during the holidays, this is typically at parties, with a group of friends or at family functions. Plan time for just the two of you as well.

3. Meet the Parents: As a general rule meeting the parents for the first time should NOT be done during the holidays. Too much else is going on. Plan a weekend in the spring for a first visit.

4. Gift Giving: If you’re expecting a huge diamond necklace and get a gift certificate to the spa instead, it could be a problem. Discuss the financial parameters for gifts. Yes, it’s hard to talk about, but you need to do it.

5. Vacation Time: If you’re a beach bum and she loves to ski, a compromise will be needed. Whether to visit family or take a trip with just the two of you needs to be discussed well in advance.

6. New Year, New You: Many break ups occur because one partner wants a fresh start in the New Year. Discussing this, acknowledging in advance, that the grass is not always greener can help.

Here’s to a Happy Holiday season, and a 2011 full of healthy, lasting relationships!

 

Dr. Dale Archer is a psychiatrist and frequent guest on "FoxNews.com Live." For more, visit his website: Dr.DaleArcher.com.