Eek! It’s the Holidays and I’m Single!

 By Nina Atwood

sngle-at-christmasSixteen years ago, the holidays came around but I was not in a festive mood. Everywhere I looked, there were constant reminders of what was supposed to be happening in my life: happy couples strolling along in the mall, television commercials featuring the guy giving the girl a gorgeous diamond ring, not to mention those holiday songs of love. I was divorced, had broken up with my latest boyfriend, and what I wanted most for Christmas was for it to be over, already.

I know firsthand what it feels like to feel left out, and that’s what most singles experience during the holidays. What I didn’t do then was take charge, but later in my single years before I met my husband I learned to do exactly that. I learned that if you are passive, opportunities pass you by, and that being proactive wins the day. That lesson, of course, holds true for just about any life crisis. Here are the three main reasons that you will find the holidays challenging, and what to do about them.

1. The media highlights the deficit. We life in a  highly commercialized culture, more so during the holidays than any other time of year, and virtually none of it is geared toward singles. This, despite the fact that single adult women (not including men) now number over fifty four million! The message of the media is that you should be in a relationship, and during the holidays that message goes triple, highlighting your single state even more than usual.

This deficit has an impact, whether you realize it consciously or not. A recent survey by a very large online dating service polled singles and asked them to rank order their wish list for the holidays. The survey found that most singles would rather find someone to date than get a job, if they’re out of work. Astounding! That’s in reverse of what it should be, but it shows how needy you can feel during the holidays if you are single.

We are wired for connection. Some say that being single should not feel bad, that you should feel no deficit. But in fact, it’s difficult to overcome that feeling no matter how much rationale you apply. Our brains work on two things simultaneously, all the time in the background – connection and safety. If you are single and want a relationship, you can feel even more desperate for connection during the holidays.

2. Families highlight the deficit. The number one question family members ask when you go home is “why are you still single?” It’s very stressful to think about the question, let alone try to explain. Family members don’t intend to add to your stress, but they do it inadvertently by asking intrusive questions for which you have no answers. This can make you feel reluctant to be with family, since you anticipate the questions. It can make you cut short your time with them, especially if you are the only single adult left in your family. A recent large survey of singles found that both men and women tend to lie about their status with family, just to avoid these issues.

3. Holiday depression can be worse. People in general are more prone to depression during the holidays because it’s impossible to live up to the expectations set by media – that your family will be perfect and you’ll have a magical time with them. If you’re single, the expectation to have someone with whom to share all those events is so high that you’re set up for a letdown.

For each of these challenges, there are simple steps to take – simple, but not necessarily easy. Sometimes the things we most need to do to resolve our issues are not rocket science, but they do require action on our part, action that takes us out of the usual comfort zones.

1. Set boundaries with family. I always recommend honesty – lying about your status provokes more questions from family members and that leads to more evasion. It’s simpler to have a stock answer that tells the truth but sets a boundary – “I am holding out for someone very special so that I will have the best shot at a good marriage that will last. I know that’s what you want for me. That’s all I really have to share for now, but you’ll be one of the first to know when I meet the right person.”

2. Take charge of your social life; consider having an adventure. The holidays are a great excuse to create your own adventure. Book an exotic vacation with a tour group, preferably a group of other singles. Don’t go alone – unless you are really emotionally secure, traveling solo can make you feel even more alone.

Throw your own holiday party. Ask three or four other single friends to help you organize and throw a party. Each single person asks three or four other single friends, for a couple of levels out. Very quickly, you will have a houseful of singles, and before the night is over, half of them will have a date for New Year’s Eve!

3. The best antidote for depression is activity. Before you feel the holiday blues descend, make contingency plans for combatting them. Set up regular workout times with one or more buddies who will hold you accountable for showing up. Physical exercise is a great antidote for depression – it triggers the release of dopamine, the brain’s natural pleasure chemical.

The next best antidote for depression is giving. Set up a schedule of time contribution to your favorite charities. Getting involved in something that makes a positive impact on the lives of others is one of the best ways to stimulate your brain’s feel-good chemicals. Research on happiness teaches that we do not get happy by trying to get what we want; rather, we feel a natural upsurge in happiness levels when we give to others – and not by writing checks, but by participating.

Yes, the holidays can be a challenge, but by putting things in place now, you have every opportunity to create and experience one of your best holidays ever. The side benefit of all of this is that by lifting your own spirits, you will be even more attractive to others. Who knows? By making yourself happy this holiday season you may attract someone very special – another proactive person who is making his own happiness!


Entry Filed under: Dating,Relationships


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