It starts a week before Halloween and doesn’t really leave the pit of my stomach until right after New Year’s: the constant reminder that I’m utterly, totally, completely, single. It’s a story that I’ve told countless times before (and one that I’m working hard to let go of and tell a better tale of independence and hope), but for the vast majority of my 20s, I’ve been the single aroung the holidays. In fact, my last real, significant relationship was at the age of 23 and now, a few months past my 28th birthday, I’m looking ahead to another holiday at home with my parents, sans boyfriend.
Most of the time — or I’d guest-estimate 70 percent — I’m so thankful for the life I have. It’s full of strong, meaningful friendships, plenty of travel plans and impromptu trips, a healthy, happy body and mindset, a fulfilling career that I’ve worked hard to achieve. But even after all the articles have been written, the champagne has been chugged, the miles have been run, I find myself coming home to the same empty bed, wishing I had someone to share my evening with. And my adventures. And my daily thoughts, stresses and cares. And my life.
“During the holidays, we often find ourselves in circumstances that seem to highlight our single status," psychologist Karin Anderson Abbrell tells Bustle. "We may feel awkward if we're the only single adult at family gatherings — a feeling that is exacerbated by the fact that you, your siblings, and cousins used to be on the same page, but now that they're married with children you're ‘left behind."
In an effort to be more positive and to look forward to dating (instead of dreading it), I’ve been focusing on all of the ways I can find gratitude in my solo status. While it seems like a curse and a burden when I’m feeling lonely, there are some benefits of this time in my life. My resolution to myself is to see those more — and here’s how you can, too:
1. Understand Why You’re Feeling Blue
I’m definitely not alone in those uneasy feelings during the holiday season. In fact, according to a recent study from dating platform Badoo, one third of singles feel more stressed during the holidays. So many events — parties, ice skating, gift shopping — fell like two-person affairs. And when there’s only one of you around, it can be tough to stomach all of the celebrations alone.
It can also be a constant reminder of how your life isn’t quite moving along, and that your parents are spending more quality time with family members who have begun the wedding, marriage, babies checklist. “Siblings and cousins with kids now bond over parenting concerns — they have no frame of reference for your frustrations with dating apps and the culture of Netflix & Chill. This lack of common ground can feel alienating for even the strongest, most self assured singles,” Abbrell says. “Furthermore, family members may ask invasive questions about your love life (or lack thereof) and focus on this one area — as if your relationship status is the only facet of your life worth discussing. All these realities can make a person who typically feels pretty happy with herself/himself feel lonely, out of sorts, and not particularly grateful.”
2. Take A Moment To Look Inward
In between decking the halls and trying not to drink all of the mulled wine all by yourself (no judgement), Abbrell suggests pausing the holiday cheer to take inventory of your own wellbeing. And no, not just to check in on your mental state, but to realize how much work, strength and well, overall toughness it takes to be single.
“Flying solo throughout your adult years takes grit and guts! It's not easy adulting sans partner but by doing so you develop strength and self-sufficiency. Be grateful for that and be proud of it!,” she tells Bustle. “You're showing yourself what you're made of and learning things about yourself that can only be learned on your own. Another bonus: learning to be happy alone makes you a better partner because you won't look to your spouse to ‘complete you’ or make you happy. You know that's your job!”
3. Remember You Don’t Have To Accommodate Anyone
Once you’re in a relationship and even more so when you’re married, you can’t just fly home for Thanksgiving. Or decide to spend two weeks on your parents’ couch, without a care in the world. Once you become part of a twosome, your plans, responsibilities and calendars double. You may have the stress that comes with dating (and that’s no joke!), but the bickering between lovers isn’t something you currently have to consider.
“Every time that you see a relative or friend couple fight or be stressed due to the holidays and their relationship, be glad that this is not you, and that this is not something that you have to deal with right now. You do not have to negotiate with anyone, have tension with anyone, and can just enjoy the things you love about the season,” psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez tells Bustle.
4. Take Off Your Snow-Smudged Glasses About Being In A Relationship
Everything — and yes, everything — looks better from the outside than the inside. Though the thought of having a partner in crime for your life seems like everything would be perfect, being in a relationship isn’t easy. It requires a lot work, compromise and hard work. And though you might think your couple friends are super-duper happy, especially when that’s the fact they put on at events or in holiday cards, experts say you never really know.
"Even though you may wish you had a plus one on your arm, at least you're able to live authentically. Many couples fake their way through the holidays — they may look like they're happy, but actually they're in miserable relationships wishing they could leave but unable to break away,” Abbrell says. “Plus, singles may feel lonely sometimes, but no one is lonelier than those alone in a marriage. Be grateful that your occasional loneliness is due to actually being alone, as opposed to loneliness that comes from being stuck in the wrong relationship!”
5. Remember Why You’re Still Single
“A lot of people settle — whether they fully realize or not. They marry because ‘it seemed like the next logical step’ or because 'my biological clock was ticking’ or ‘everyone expected me to propose so I did’ or 'I was worried no one else would come along.' Sure, sometimes people make mediocre marriages work,” Abbrell says. “But you can be grateful that you haven't caved to the pressure to couple up and that you still have every reason to be excited for that truly extraordinary relationship that's in your future!”
It’s not because you’re unloveable. Or difficult. Or ‘anything’ enough. It’s for one reason and one very simple reason only: you haven’t met the right person yet and you’re not willing to settle until you do.
Images: Fotolia; Giphy