This time of year is spectacular. Or not. Yes, we get to eat more, work less, shop till we drop, and frolic with friends and family. Also, it’s a time of reflection; and as we count our blessings, we may think about what’s missing in our otherwise fulfilled lives. Especially if we are single.
When I was single, the holidays put me in a bit of a funk. With no one to take to parties or make out with at midnight, being single during the holidays put an exclamation point on what I still wanted in my life: a loving man.
Now I’m married and grateful to have a magnificent man in my life. But as I talk to my single girlfriends and coach my single clients over 40, I feel for them; and I can still feel my sadness and disappointment as if it was yesterday.
It may be just moments: a flash of “Will I ever have a man to share the holidays with?” It can be a constant, low-level feeling of emptiness, or sadness when thinking about happier holidays past. Either way, it’s painful.
Here are tips I wish I had received when I was single and facing the holidays. This is about YOU making the best of the time for yourself and for other.
1. Make Plans.
My best advice to single women over 40 any time of year is to create their best life possible. If you’re not yet doing that for yourself, start now. Don’t wait for invitations or others to entertain you. Connect with old friends, throw a dinner party, sign up to volunteer, plan a girls’ weekend, read a great book or get tickets to a holiday show.
Make a list of five places you can go to possibly meet other singles over 40 who share your passions or interests. www.Meetup.com is a great place to start.
Don’t stay in the background; get out there! This is actually a great time of year to be out and about looking for connections — both with men and women. Oh! And you’ll enjoy your time!
2. Express Your Wishes.
If this is the time of year you are grilled about your love life – and it drives you nuts – clearly tell your family how you feel and ask that they kindly skip the interrogation this year.
Come up with a canned answer to use when your cousin asks you for the umpteenth time if you are dating. Something like “I don’t kiss and tell,” or “You’ll be the first to know,” should shut down any follow up questions.
As a single woman, gift giving may have inequalities or unrealistic expectations. Talk to your family members about picking a name, sharing gift giving, or going on an outing instead of buying “stuff.”
3. Take Care of Yourself: Body and Soul.
You should always do this, but this is the time you have an “excuse” to go for it and pamper yourself! Have a massage, sleep until noon, splurge on an overpriced pair of shoes, see two movies in a row and order popcorn at each.
Create a nice environment for yourself. Decorate your front door or mantle, or bake to fill your home with yummy smells.
If you think it will help you, chat with a therapist or coach. Let that person work with you to realize your feelings and make plans. This is a luxury you may not always allow yourself.
4. Do Unto Others.
Volunteer your time, offer to help an elderly family member or friend do their holiday shopping, or send loving and generous cards to the people you care about. Giving of yourself and feeling appreciated will provide a great boost to your holiday spirits.
5. Don’t Force Things.
Don’t have a first date at your company holiday party or invite a man you’ve just started dating to your family gathering. It may ease your tension about what you want for the holiday season, but it may also ruin your chances going forward with someone you like. You shouldn’t fabricate or rush things at other times of year, and there’s no exception here.
Wherever you are in your relationship: maintain it. Don’t push it.
6. A Date May Just Be a Date.
If you have a date, don’t overthink it. Avoid misunderstandings by keeping it in perspective. When a man shares time with you during the holidays, that’s generally what he’s doing: sharing time with you. The meaning women tend to put into this is often not shared by men. If he agrees to go with you to your parties or even takes you to his, it means he likes spending time with you. Enjoy it and be glad he likes your company, but don’t give it more importance that it warrants.
7. Remember that You’re Not Alone.
The idea that the holidays have the highest rate of depression and suicide seems to be untrue. But people do have issues: family, money, spouses, and dates can all be extra challenging this time of year.
Don’t hesitate to share feelings – good and bad – with friends. You’ll probably be doing a friend a favor if you opened up. She may want to talk about her feelings as well.
8. Practice Gratitude.
Write a list of all the things for which you are grateful in your life. Include people, things, experiences, dreams and possibilities. Read your list every day and add to it as you learn new things.
9. Nurture Your Relationships.
Openly share your gratitude and appreciation of the important people in your life. If you’re not accustomed to doing this or are uncomfortable doing it, write a letter and give it them as their holiday present.
10. Put Yourself Out There.
Get online, join a singles wine club or volunteer organization, go to a singles event, etc. If you’ve been waiting…just do it! When you are single during the holidays this is the best gift you can give yourself. It doesn’t mean you’ll meet Mr. I Love You tomorrow, but you’ll feel love and pride in yourself just by making the move.