Q: I'm done with my boyfriend, but with the holidays around the corner, I hesitate to break up now. How do you break up using good ex-etiquette?

A: You start with being honest. (Ex-etiquette rule No. 8, "Be honest and straightforward.") You make your boundaries clear, and you don't give them some cliché like, "It's not you, it's me." Because, of course, it's them. Rarely do people take responsibility for a breakup and really mean it. Aside from meeting someone new, there's always the possibility the relationship has just run its course. That's hard to hear if you are on the receiving end of the breakup, but true all the same.

Once you have kids, the rules are different. That's when you have to exhaust every avenue prior to walking away. Even if you think the relationship has run its course, you still owe it to your children to try. This is when I hear people attempt to explain that they were never really in a relationship — they just got pregnant, and so it's not the same. It is the same.

There are a few instances when a breakup might be merited. I say "might" because everyone has their own breaking point. Mandated reporters (teachers, therapists, doctors, etc.) must report to the authorities when someone is a danger to themselves or others. I use the same criteria.

1. When your partner is addicted and not in recovery, whether it is drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, etc. If they are using, you aren't living with them; you're living with the drug or addictive behavior. And often it's the dishonesty, the coverup and associated financial problems that are the catalyst for the breakup.

2. Violence or abuse, whether mental, physical or sexual. Everyone has the right to feel safe in their own home, and after addressing said issues and not being able to curb them, the desire to start fresh is understandable.

3. Mental illness, if the person is not trying to help him- or herself and family members feel that they're in danger. For example, a diagnosis has been made, meds have been prescribed, and the person refuses to stay med-compliant. As a result, their safety, your safety, or the safety of a family member is threatened.

4. Infidelity. Duh.

So, to answer your initial question, the best breakup is one that is done honestly and respectfully. Good ex-etiquette is "a code of behavior based on consideration, kindness and unselfishness." If you can hold off until January, it might make it easier on your soon-to-be-ex. Plus, it will eliminate the possibility that both of you will equate the holidays with your breakup. Kindness is the key. You never want to make someone feel stupid for loving you. That's not good ex-etiquette.

E-mail dr.jann@exetiquette.com.