Friday, January 1, 2010

How the Holidays Affect Relationships

In 2003, Jessica Comeau’s older brother was 32, and that year for Christmas, his girlfriend gave him an ultimatum: Get down on one knee by the time Santa had done his rounds or it was over between them.

After all, they’d been dating for seven years.

Comeau says she and her brother drank their weight at a local bar, and by the time they got home, he seemed morose. In an effort to distract him, she put on a funny movie and fell asleep on the loveseat.

By the end of Christmas day, with the whole family gathered, he’d failed to make his deadline.

But all ended well: Within a year, his ex announced her engagement to someone else. Her brother too eventually got married—to a woman he proposed to after four months.

Comeau’s story, however, illustrates a larger point: For anyone in a long-term relationship, the holidays aren’t just fun and games—they’re a make-or-break month or two.

Call it the holy trinity—you have all your friends and family in one place, time off from work to actually reflect on your life, and that ever-present holiday spirit, urging you to surround yourself with your nearest and dearest. Suddenly any ugly are-we-or-aren’t-we, should-we-or-shouldn’t-we relationship ambiguity looms larger than the balloons in the Thanksgiving Day parade.

Some couples crack under the pressure and call it quits. But at least an equal number, surrounded by loved ones and sleighfuls of good tidings, decide to make it official.

In fact, depending on whom you talk to, December vies with February for the month of the year when the most diamond rings bedazzle new hands.

According to a spokesperson from, the new Microsoft-powered search engine saw searches for terms like “diamond” and “engagement ring” spike by nearly 340 percent during late October and early November.

“Thanksgiving to New Year’s is our best time for business,” says Lita Asscher, president of Royal Asscher North America, the company that created the popular Asscher-cut diamond. “Percentage-wise, the last three months account for 50 percent of engagement rings we sell each year.”

“It’s hard for men to know exactly when to propose, and many want to do it around family,” concurs Yehouda Saketkhou, chief designer for Yael Designs, a jewelry house in San Francisco. “Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are the busiest occasions for sales.”

Many women too are aware that it’s a prime season for more than mistletoe: "Women are romantics by nature. When they’re in a relationship that’s going well, most are hoping for that ‘unexpected’ ring to appear in their stocking or in front of a fire,” says Svetlana Novikova, a matchmaker in New York City.

Some who don't get one are let down, she says. Others decide that the relationship isn't going anywhere and call it quits—while promising themselves they’ll find true love in the New Year.

That’s just what happened to Stacy Shwed, 35, a psychologist on Long Island.

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