Single during the holidays – this was probably NOT how you pictured your life at this stage. Whether you are accepting and content with your singlehood or plunging forward with dating, this time of year can create a big speed bump in your forward progress.
When I was single during the holidays, it put me in a bit of a funk. Feeling self-conscious at family gatherings – “No, Aunt Myra, I’m not dating anyone special.” And with no one to take to parties or make out with at midnight, I was further reminded of what I still wanted in my life: a loving man.
Now I’m married and grateful to have a magnificent man, Larry, in my life. But as I talk to my single girlfriends and coach my clients, I feel for them; and I can still feel my sadness and disappointment as if it were yesterday.
It may be just moments: a flash of “Will I ever have a man to share the holidays with?” or remembering past holidays with someone we loved. But for most of us, these pangs do come. And it can be painful.
Here are tips that I wish I had received when I was single during the holidays. This is about YOU making the best of the time for yourself.
1. Make Plans
My best advice to single women any time of year, but especially for the holidays, is to create the 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 potluck dinner party, sign up to volunteer, plan a girls’ weekend, go to your local bookstore and read a great book.
Make a list of five places you can go to possibly meet other singles who share your passions or interests. Meetup.com is one of the best sources for finding fun things you can do as a single woman and, the best part is, you can go alone and not feel weird.
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 kindly ask that they skip the interrogation this year. When in doubt, divert. “Yes Uncle Bob, I’m still single. Tell me more about your new boat.”
If you are dating someone new, the holidays can be particularly weird – for both of you. You can talk about the elephant in the room and express your wishes like a grownup. “I’m sure we will both be busy during the holidays. Maybe we can get together for a celebratory glass of champagne at some point. How does that sound?”
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 home, or bake to fill your home with yummy smells. Greens on your mantel or a wreath on your door?
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.
Even baking cookies for the office, or giving your neighbor’s dog a Christmas stocking will enrich your mood.
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.
Men also feel this extra pressure of the holidays. Some of them even go into hiding because they don’t know what to do. All the more reason you shouldn’t fabricate or rush things at this (or any) time of year.
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 “meet the family-friends-colleagues” events 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 and memories – good and bad – with friends. You’ll probably be doing a friend a favor if you open 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. Even make a list of what you are grateful for about yourself. 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, the holidays are the perfect time to get started. Giving someone a favorite photo of the two of you or a particularly personal hand written card as a holiday present will make you both feel better.
10. Put Yourself Out There
Get online, spruce up your profile, join a singles wine club or volunteer organization, go to a singles event, etc. If you’ve been waiting…just do it! This is the best holiday gift you can give yourself.
Being single during the holidays may not be your favorite thing. But by adjusting your expectations and taking care of yourself and your relationships you may enjoy it more than ever!
One approach that no blog seems to even consider is simply opting out of the holidays. Like the old Nike commercial, just say no. True, many folk here have family but often family events can be very stressful. Being Native and by design removing myself from the consumer society as much as possible, the holidays are seen as a sort of club to which I never belonged. Even when the last of my family was alive, my dads rigid need for routine and the strained history of his marriages, especially at holiday times, made this time of year very tense. Now I see the holidays as a time to free myself from schedules and routines, get out on a trail, ski round a lake where it won’t be very crowded. I give generously to numerous charities as I know what it’s like to be a poor child at this time of year. I don’t need the xmas cookies, excess rich foods, the drink; no one does. I celebrate the Solstice which is the new year in many cultures and marks something tangible. Many state you must support the local economy this time of year whether folk need stuff or not. I say support your local economy with real needs year round so it’s not dependent on fake demand. I buy carefully selected presents year round, give them when I feel like it. After the breakup of my marriage and a very hard breakup with a cheater here, those first holiday periods were soul crushing mainly because I had expectations of holiday companionship that was/is not attainable where I live/lived. Later a few years ago, I was going to shovel out someone in need and wondered why so many cars were going by full of strangers; it was xmas day and I totally forgot. Good. I am currently in a long distance rship and we will be together for Solstice and he’ll spend the required holidays with his grandkids; at our age, neither of us needs more stuff, to decorate, and will probably try to be outside staying active.