For Kirsten, the holiday blues started early this year. Up until recently, she’d spent Thanksgiving at her parents’ house, using her old bedroom as a refuge when things became too overwhelming. But after her parents moved to a retirement community, the festivities moved to her brother’s house and Kirsten bunked in a room without a door.
“I’m going to attempt to go up just for the day, but that limits the amount of wine I can drink–and family holidays require wine,” she says.
For many singles, the holidays are anything but joyous. The emphasis on family and children, the proximity to judgmental relatives and the overall feeling that the calendar pages are flying by can make the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s particularly trying. I asked readers how they navigated the year’s final weeks. Here’s what they said:
After a divorce eight years ago, the holidays have been tough for Drew, especially since his three grown children live in far-flung locales, though he does see them on Christmas Eve. But for the past couple of years, Drew has started traveling though Europe in December and he finds that he loves meeting new people, exploring cultures, and discovering history.
“If you are feeling intrepid, it kind of defies loneliness,” says Drew. “In fact, there is much to be said for traveling alone and going where and doing what you want to do! I’m still optimistic that I will meet Ms. Right-for-me, but I’m more comfortable in my own skin than ever before.”
Karen adopts a needy family, buying toys for the kids and hoping to make their holiday wishes come true. “One of the best years of doing this was when I teamed up with some other single managers from my workplace and we bought bikes for the kids in a family. Great, unexpected fun,” she says.
SPEND TIME WITH YOUR TRIBE
Lisa says she’s lucky to have a nice group of friends to spend time with after she has Thanksgiving dinner at her mom’s nursing home.
“They definitely don’t stigmatize singles,” says Lisa. “In fact, these friends don’t stigmatize anyone, which is one reason why they’re my friends. They host an open house with a great crowd and nobody cares about your ring finger, except to ask who made the cool thing you might be wearing,” says Lisa.
Christmas, she says, is harder but even hanging out with good friends before or after the Big Day can help. That’s what Ana does before heading home for the usual onslaught of relatives telling her she’s too picky.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
You don’t have to spend a lot of money or travel the world. Finding small ways to treat yourself can go a long way. For Ilona, that means great concerts, books, food, and wine. “I also always make plans for after–to firmly know that life will continue,” she says.
“I like to look at the holiday season as a time to recharge and take stock, instead of focusing on what I don’t have, like a romantic relationship,” says Gina. “I make plans to catch up on the things I didn’t have time to do earlier, like reading that long novel I’ve always wanted to read or seeing that exhibition at the Smithsonian museum that is usually crowded with tourists on the weekends.”
AND IF ALL ELSE FAILS …
Anna suggests playing Singles Cliche Bingo as friends and family members trot out oh-so-original lines like “Have you thought of online dating?” and “You have plenty of time!”
And remember: You don’t have to go. Yes, it is important to spend time with family, even when it’s not always fun, but if the holidays are truly and consistently torture then it may be time to start thinking about how to protect yourself — I’ll have more on that next week.
Sara Eckel is 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 any questions here.