By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
Our culture promotes being part of a couple. It’s okay to be a single adult, but only as a prelude to being a partner. So, if you are single, the pressure is on. And it’s rarely more intense than it is during the holiday season.
However, if you are not part of a couple, you are in good company – I saw one website state that there are presently 54 million single adults in the U.S. (even if their statistic is wrong, they would have to be very wrong for you to be alone.) I know this won’t necessarily ease your loneliness, but it can at least help remind you that others are in the same boat and that you, specifically, are not the problem – if there even is one (yes, it’s okay to want to be single).
That said, you might benefit from considering the following:
Remember that the holidays are about celebrating peace and love. The season is best celebrated by giving of yourself – to those you love, as well as to charities or individuals in need. You can celebrate by being truly present while spending time with family or friends. You can also celebrate by volunteering time at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, nursing home, or someplace else that needs assistance. This will help you feel more connected and gain a healthy perspective on the meaning of the holidays.
Allow this to be a day of sadness and accept support from others. If you are lonely or sad, accept this. Talk to yourself, as you would a good friend – being compassionate to your pain. Talk with those who care about you, giving them the opportunity to comfort you and to feel good about themselves for being a good friend.
Think about your expectations. Too often, people unrealistically imagine that everyone else is living a Norman Rockwell holiday season – families and friends smiling and laughing and singing happily together. The reality is a lot less idyllic. Many people are single, separated, divorced, unhappily married, or widowed. Those in happy marriages might have serious illnesses, relatives who require their extensive help, financial problems, or major conflicts in their families. These reflections won’t change your situation, but it can help you feel less isolated or different from the rest of humanity just because of your struggles.
Create your own enjoyment. You don’t have to wait for holiday happiness to envelop you and lift your spirits. Instead, you can make your own happiness:
Treat yourself well. Indulge in a bubble bath, a special meal, or a good book. Consider starting a project, like making a photo album, painting your living room, or researching a future vacation. Do the things that feel good. You can do this with a holiday flair, or without all the lights and tinsel – your choice.
Celebrate the love in your life. Spend time with family and friends. Hang out or do something extra special, like going to the theater with them or simply playing with your niece or nephew. Don’t just wait for others to invite you – reach out to them.
Have a party! Arrange a dinner party, potluck dinner, or other activity with those who are also alone on the holidays.
At the end of the day (a holiday or any other day of the year), you are more than your relationship status. And your overall happiness depends on what you do with your life, not necessarily whether or not you have a partner.
If you would like to join a general discussion about this topic on the Relationships and Coping Community, click here.