Is it harder to be single or in a relationship during the holidays?
For some this might sound like a silly question, but itís a solid one. There are pros and cons of both statuses, since there are expectations that come with being single or in a relationship around Christmas. There are also sacrifices you make to be in a relationship and things you give up when youíre no longer in one, but there are also positives to both.
Originally the subject of this column was by request, ďWhatís the worst part about being single during the holidays?Ē
But that subject by itself is a bit fatalistic and takes away a lot of the positives about being single (Yes, they exist). It also bolsters that annoying social treatment of singles by people in relationships.
Just because youíre single doesnít make you a monster, a social outcast or a person incapable of love, yet a lot of people who are in relationships tend to treat singles like that during the holidays. The worst is they have dinner parties that mainly focus on couples and make singles feel like they either have to find a date or are an idiot if they donít bring one, which is stupid. Singles can be treated like they have flesh-eating disease by partnered-up people, when in truth, unattached people have it pretty good at Christmas.
Letís start with the positives of being single during the holidays.
You donít have to deal with in-laws, which is huge and saves a lot of potential stress and drama as families donít fight over who gets to have you this year for Christmas and guilt trip you beyond belief into making a decision. It would seem families and in-laws can be stressful enough on their own to keep people out of relationships. Itís hard enough dealing with your own family sometimes, let alone add another one to the mix.
Then thereís money. By not having to buy expensive presents, you save a lot of money or can redistribute that money to spend on family members instead. You are also less likely to eat as poorly if youíre on your own, since you donít feel the pressure to play host or hostess in your own house and buy fatty holiday trays for the entire month of December.
You can get drunk and silly at Christmas parties and not worry about embarrassing a partner if you want to, and you can dress how you want (huge for men) or leave off shaving your legs for a few weeks (huge for girls). Thereís no walking on eggshells or worrying about hurting someoneís feelings for any decisions you make over the holidays.
Basically you have complete freedom and independence.
Who wouldnít want that?
Well, turns out a lot of people donít.
Being single over the holidays isnít always fantastic. There are moments of loneliness often heightened by marathons of romantic Christmas movies or music that remind you that you have no one to decorate the tree with this year. Sure, having freedom to do what you want during the day is great, but falling asleep alone on a cold, winterís night can hit the heart hard, no matter how proud you are about your independence.
Then there are the parties. Not having a date can be embarrassing, especially if youíre at one of those couple-orientated gatherings that make you feel like an idiot for not bringing someone. Often thatís enough stress to make people stay home. Even though you should never feel shame about being single, sometimes people put you in that situation, like parents nagging you about why you havenít found someone yet (the worst) or being the odd-person out at a table filled with happy couples.
Whether or not those couples are truly happy is another story altogether.
While couples may seem happy at their holiday parties, there are a lot of sacrifices and struggles made behind the scenes to be in a relationship at Christmas. The worst is probably trying to appease both families about visiting without upsetting anyone. Since thatís pretty much impossible most of the time, couples are often faced with making a decision to please one side of the family while insulting the other with the most grace possible. That can lead to fights, burning bridges and falling asleep not on speaking terms. The stress of family and family functions can be overwhelming.
Money is also tighter in relationships, as couples tend to feel the need, and want, to spend quite a bit more money on each other for Christmas than anyone else in their life. Then thereís the stress of whether or not your partner spent more on you than you spent on them, and so on. If you share bank accounts and your credit cards are close to being maxed, tensions rise and fights are likely to break out.
Then again, spending the holidays with someone special in your life can often outweigh all the stress and strain that comes with a relationship at Christmas.
While buying presents can be costly, doing the actual shopping for someone you love and watching them open that gift can be priceless. And in-laws arenít always the stereotypical nightmare you see in Christmas movies; they can be loving, warm and welcoming, and can also be more enjoyable to be around than your own family. Having a growing or extended family can also mean expanding your Christmas traditions as you share yours and they welcome you into theirs. Family functions donít always have to be negative.
In both situations, single or attached, having a positive experience during the holidays is ultimately up to you. Make good of what you have in your life and the good things that come with your present situation. Spending Christmas with someone you love doesnít have to be your partner; it can be friends and family, even your community.
Donít let a relationship status define you at Christmas. Instead, let your attitude, character and heart do that.
Love can be found in many places if you look hard enough.