What Is 'Breakup Season' And When Does It Start?

The transition from easy-breezy (and typically social) summer — we miss the warm-weather hangouts already — to the slower, homier vibes of fall can be a challenging one for many. Suddenly, summer's distractions are falling away, and you're forced to take a bare-bones look at what actually makes up the most intimate parts of your life. For those in a relationship, this might include some less-than-ideal realizations about how their partnership is shaping up — and whether or not it should continue.

This type of relationship assessment and the resulting dissolution is so common during late fall and early winter that it has its own name: breakup season. Now, this isn't to be confused with cuffing season, which typically begins a little sooner — think late September and early October — and is oriented toward single people who want a temporary fling to maneuver into the cold months with. 

However, things are trickier for folks in relationships. Once the trick-or-treaters have come and gone (and the candy wrappers have settled), it's time to take off summer's rose-colored glasses and take a hard look at your relationship. Will this year's breakup season be the one where you decide that it's time to move on?

Why does fall invoke breakup season?

There are many reasons why fall triggers breakups. It may be as simple as being so distracted by summer activities that you were able to ignore incompatibilities until now. It could also be that you're struggling to see yourself making it through high-stress times like the holiday season with a person you already struggle to get along with. After all, the holidays tend to put relationship issues under a microscope. "When one person is not as into the relationship as the other, Thanksgiving seems like the ideal time to call it quits," counseling professor Michele Kerulis, Ed.D., LCPC, told Refinery29. Sitting through an uncomfortable family dinner? Not ideal.

Moreover, couples therapist Janna Comrie told the CBC, "If you already have any conflicts over financial issues or your shared social life, the holidays will draw attention to them." Of course, problems can exist outside of finances and social lives, too. Pay extra attention to your communication during this time to prevent miscommunication or arguing in any arena.

You could also find yourself wondering if your current partner is the one you really want to start a near year with. But if you have these doubts at the beginning of fall and wait to act on them until the middle of the holiday season, you may hurt those around you even more — and you'll undoubtedly ruin the holiday season for yourself, too. To avoid this, early fall is the last chance to easily break things off until March (thanks, Valentine's Day).

Breakup season vs. seasonal affective disorder

It's worth noting that the transition from sunny summer to shadowy fall can be extra difficult for those who deal with seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you've been diagnosed with depression or SAD (or suspect you might suffer from mental health issues that are exacerbated by the darker seasons), ensure that your early-fall itch to suddenly end your relationship isn't just a result of your lower mood. According to Cyti Psychological, this disorder "can have such a major impact that your partner may feel as though you are a different person at times." When fall triggers intensity of that magnitude, there's probably more than just breakup season at play.

If you experience symptoms like sadness, irritation, loss of interest in activities you normally enjoy, and fatigue that arrives along with the shorter and darker days, consider talking to a mental health professional. A licensed practitioner can not only help you sort through your feelings about your relationship but they can also provide you with a diagnosis and treatment, if necessary (via the Cleveland Clinic). 

At the end of the day, breakup season is a natural result of the inward nature of fall and winter combined with the pressure of the impending holiday season. Just don't forget to assess your own well-being, too, when taking a close look at your relationship.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.