During the holidays, most of us hope to take some time off from work. But at the same time, many singles often find themselves working overtime at a job that never seems to let up: Being single.
There are, of course, the questions. “Are you seeing anyone special?” “When are you going to settle down?” “Why are you still single?” And so on.
Even when the questioner doesn’t intend to offend, fielding these queries can be exhausting. So part of giving yourself a holiday break is to remember: You don’t have to explain yourself or your life to anyone—not even Aunt Hilda.
During my (many) single years, I developed a two-part strategy for dealing with questions like this.
First, I’d offer a quick, bland answer. Are you seeing anyone? “Not at the moment.” Why are you still single? “I don’t know.”
Then, I’d quickly change the subject to something I knew the questioner wanted to discuss. “Do you have any new pictures of your grandchildren?” “How is the house hunt going?”
A member of my community page recently noted that she does something similar when confronted with the “Are you seeing anyone” question. Her genius response: “I’ve been getting to know someone and it’s still very new… anyways, how have you been?! Did you ever refinish your basement?!”
Of course, sometimes no one is really asking these questions. Sometimes the inquisition comes from within, which brings us to the second principle of taking a break: You don’t have to take stock of your life right now.
The holidays bring a one-two punch. First, there is a very strong focus on family—so if you don’t have a spouse and children, it’s easy to let the self-questioning demon take over your brain. All of my siblings are married. How come I’m not?
Then there is the fact that we’re at the end of the calendar year, a time when it’s natural to reflect and take stock, which often turns into a distressing rumination. Why isn’t my life turning out the way I want it to?
Instead of torturing yourself with this endless spin of why why why, try giving it a rest. Sit on the floor and play with your three-year-old niece (who doesn’t give a hoot about your love life). Ask your mom and your grandmother questions about their childhoods. Just bake the cookies, wrap the gifts, and enjoy whatever goodness the holidays bring you.
I know–this is much easier to say than to do. If the holidays are a time when your why-are-you-still-single demons visit, they won’t go quietly. They will press on you and try to convince you that it’s very important to do a full analysis of the situation immediately. They will try to convince you that this is productive, when all they’re really doing is sucking the joy out of your hard-earned time off.
But here’s the thing about upsetting thoughts—they’re just thoughts. If you don’t indulge them, they don’t exist.
So when the inner gremlins come, try taking a deep breath and sending them an out-of-office memo: “Thanks for your input, but I’m on vacation right now. I will think about this after Jan. 2.”
You might not figure out why you’re single, but you’ll give yourself some time, distance, and perspective. And, hopefully, a happy holiday.
Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.