Heading Into The Holidays Alone
6 tips for turning dread Into delight this holiday season.
-Dr. Anne K. Gross
We’re re-running this piece because if your Aunt Gladys gives you grief over the holidays, you’ll be able to use one of these combacks
Are you dreading the holidays because you’ve just broken up with your boyfriend, or have been single for awhile? Whether its hearing your Aunt Mary ask once again, “When are you going to get married?” to contemplating spending nights alone in your apartment, or being surrounded by holiday cheer when you feel anything but, you wish that December would disappear as fast as Dorothy liquefied the Wicked Witch of the West.
Know that you are not alone. As women, we still have many expectations placed on us when it comes to relationships–and the holidays often exacerbate any uncomfortable feelings we have about being single. But don’t despair. Look at the holidays as a time to shine for who you are. Here are my six tips to turn dread into delight.
1. Figure out how to make family celebrations work for you.
It’s understandable that thinking about seeing Aunt Mary at the holiday dinner party makes you want to flee, but don’t. For one thing, it gives her too much control over your life.
Instead, have a polite, but well-thought out comeback when she or others make seemingly “helpful” comments about your single status. Here are my suggestions:
• In response to “Why are you not married?”
Try this: “Although I’d like to marry at some point, it hasn’t stopped me from living a full life. So please don’t worry about me.”
• In response to “I’m so upset that you broke up with your recent beau, I thought for sure he was the one,”
Try this: “You know, I’m sad too that it didn’t work out, and although I’m going through a difficult time, it’s not the end of the world. I know I’ll find the man of my dreams soon.”
• In response to “What’s wrong with you that your older sister is married and you’re not?”
Try this: “Nothing.”
2. Outside of the traditional holiday parties, think of other ways to spend time with your family and friends.
With parties galore, holidays seem geared towards couples, so try to plan more intimate get-togethers with family and friends. If your sister is coming into town, send her an email in advance to plan a lunch or coffee with just the two of you. And the same goes with your mother. Talk to her about spending an afternoon together in the kitchen cooking your favorite holiday dish before the crowds appear.
Now is also a good time to be proactive and reach out to people you haven’t seen in awhile. Set up a movie date, a shopping trip, or a dinner at your favorite restaurant.
3. Develop your own traditions.
If you don’t want to go to the New Year’s Eve party you’ve attended for the last ten years, maybe it’s time to do something different. Plan an evening with a smaller group of friends, where you can skip the romantic midnight kiss under the mistletoe. Think about having a low key affair: a potluck dinner, a game of Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, or Scrabble. Who says that there is only one way to bring in the New Year?
One of the best ways to feel good about yourself is to give to others. And there is no better time to do this than on the holidays. Sign up to volunteer at a homeless shelter, give out turkey dinners at a food bank, or take care of your friend’s pet when she heads out for the holidays. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas check out your local hospitals–they are always eager for volunteers on Christmas day.
5. Don’t go overboard on New Year’s resolutions.
Our society is obsessed with setting goals, but sometimes we’re so focused on how we need to improve our lives that goal setting makes us feel worse, rather than better, about ourselves. So this holiday season, buck the trend and focus on looking back and feeling good about where you are in your life. Draw a list of all the things you’re proud of – whether it is your close circle of friends, your work, or how you finally stopped procrastinating and redecorated your bedroom.
6. Don’t avoid spending time alone.
Rather than dreading spending time alone – plan for it. Fix a nice dinner, curl up by the fire with a mug of steaming hot chocolate and read that book that everybody is talking about, or watch a favorite movie. Be sure to turn off your computer so you’re not tempted to check your emails or see whose on Facebook.
Remember, too, that the holidays are a stressful time for a lot of people, not just singles. But with planning and creative thought, you too can create your own holiday cheer.
Anne K. Gross, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who writes regularly for BettyConfidential on personal growth and relationships. You can follow her blog Opening Doors to Intimacy at annegrossonline.com/blog.