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12/14/2018 14:32 EST | Updated 12/14/2018 16:17 EST

What To Do With Gifts During A Holiday Breakup

Snow is in the air and the writing is on the wall. Here's how to navigate this sticky situation.

"Breaking up is hard to do-whooo-ooo."

So sang Paul Anka, and now you know why. Movie scenes from "Love Actually" abound while Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" plays in the background, but your thoughts are focused on the writing on the wall.

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You wonder to yourself: to gift or not to gift, before or after you break up?

This most wonderful time of the year is full of sticky gifting situations, and it gets worse if you are planning a break up or are newly broken hearted. Read on for solutions.

Should I break up before or after the holidays?

Before is generally best. Be real. Don't carry your secret until January 2, especially if you know that the soon-to-be-broken-hearted ex is going to be surrounded by family and friends. In that close and cozy circle, they have the opportunity to find comfort amongst loved ones, and who knows? Maybe even kiss a new love on New Year's Eve.

Keep the breakup kind and clean, then exit. No lengthy explanations or specific situations, just differences in values. Don't linger.

If you have decided to wait until after the holidays, set minimal expectations during the holiday season. Suggest a small budget for gifts and limit time with family. This will diminish your chances of regrets or of lying. But get ready to change topics quickly as you get quizzed by family!

How do I break up at a gathering?

You don't. Breaking up during a party will make it all about you instead of the conviviality of the gathering. If you cannot stand the thought of being with that person for one more holiday celebration, you have two choices: 1) don't attend or 2) pretend until the day after.

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I was broken up with. Do I keep gifts I've received?

Your choice. A gift is a gift no matter what the circumstances are. A gift should not come with strings attached, nor an elastic band. You don't have to give the gift back.

But you may choose to. Giving the gift back may help you to move on by removing the object — and any painful memories associated with it — from your home and sight. If you offer to return a gift, and they refuse to take it back, make someone in your world happy: pass it on.

On the flip side, never ask for a gift back. It is tacky. Exceptions are family heirlooms.

If the other volunteers to return your gift back to you, follow your heart. Let them keep it, or accept it back and return it to the store. Stores have great return policies at this time of the year, plus most associates will be very empathetic to your story.

Uh-oh, I unwrapped an engagement ring

Yikes, was he planning on popping the question during the holidays? You will have to politely decline.

Don't play into hints. Communicate clearly that you don't feel ready to marry.

If the proposal comes, let your body language communicate that you will decline. Don't smile. Don't kiss. Bow your eyes. Hug. Be civil and benevolent. Say that you don't think that you are compatible for marriage.

If this is a public proposal, go right to the hug. State that you are overwhelmed. Ask for a couple's moment alone.

If you get caught up in the moment and accept, to avoid embarrassment in front of family and friends, let your true feelings known in private. Be empathetic without giving hope and being definite.

And if you got the ring, you should give it back. Yes, you must, even if you are totally gaga over it! An engagement ring is considered a conditional "on acceptance" gift. So the offerer may get his money back, return it as soon as possible and absolutely before it is altered to your size.

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Do I still give gifts to my ex's family after a breakup?

If you already bought the gifts, in most cases the answer is "yes." You do give gifts, especially if they are for children. Whether you are a couple or not should not alter what you already budgeted for or have purchased with an open heart.

If you have not yet purchased the gifts, you have no obligation to contribute, but you may still want to share the magic of the holiday season by giving.

My friend was dumped or has broken up. What's an appropriate gift?

The one commodity that we all have in common with Santa Claus, the elves, world leaders and hockey players is: time. Offer the gift of your time. Your presence is the present. Listen or silently be there. Bring favourite treats. Indulge in their preferred activities. Remind them of how great they are.

We planned a holiday party together. Do we still host it after we split?

Why not? But only if your breakup or divorce was amiable. Make sure to advise guests of your new relationship status and give them the option of bowing out. Based on their comfort level and social ease, some guests may wish to now decline their accepted RSVP. Allow them to do so.

Divorce parties are on the rise and allow people to continue relationships or have closure. In 2011, three years after their 200-guest wedding, Bonnie and Charles Bronfman gathered 100 of their closest friends and proclaimed that their friendship was stronger without being husband and wife. If you plan to attend a divorce party over the holidays, there is no gift obligation.

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Whether you are the person who is breaking up or the broken hearted one, give yourself the gift of self-care, focus on you and be the present from you to you, come 2019.

You have sticky situation? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will write back. Your situation could inspire a blog post and help others.

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