The holidays can be that time of year when many couples pack their bags and go home to meet each other's families for the first time. Either that, or they stay in and spend it side-by-side luxuriating in all the festive activities the season has to offer. So what happens if you aren't at the celebrating-together stage of your relationship, or due to current events, simply can't spend the holidays with your partner?
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, it isn't a big deal to have separate holiday plans, or to be apart for a week or two. But it can still feel that way due our deeply-rooted expectations, as well as the messaging we all receive this time of year. "Popular culture celebrates love during the holidays," Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and dating expert, tells Bustle. And it can be nearly impossible to escape.
Watch a commercial or holiday movie, and what will you see? Couples cozying up by a fire, sipping hot chocolate, strolling hand-in-hand — getting engaged by twinkling lights. Add in the ever-present parade of posts shared by friends on social media, plus the uniquely lonely situation we'll all be in this 2020 holiday season, and Bennett says you're bound to feel a little letdown.
So, the moment you catch yourself wistfully staring out a frosted window and wondering how to stay close to your partner during the holidays, that's when you'll want to throw yourself into other activities. Busy yourself by baking cookies, ice skating with your siblings, decorating your apartment — whatever might take your mind off your loneliness. And, of course, make it a point to keep in touch with your significant other as much as possible, even though they're far away.
How To Feel Closer To Your Partner During The Holidays
The best place to start is by establishing a few "rules" before the season begins, so you can both look forward to a comforting level of structure. "[Choose] a regular time to check in, whether it's a call before bed, or first thing in the morning," Haley Neidich, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist, tells Bustle. "That way you can ask each other about your day, and feel like you’re part of one another’s experiences."
You might also want to send each other photos whenever a moment stands out, like when your dog sits adorably beneath the Christmas tree, or when you successfully bake gingerbread cookies for the very first time. "It could even just be a heartfelt 'I miss you,'" Neidich says. "These brief notes send the message that your partner is still top-of-mind, despite being out of sight."
To make it extra special, embrace the spirit of 2020 and jump on FaceTime or Zoom, Bennett says. Give each other tours of your childhood home, show off recipes, introduce relatives, etc. It'll be a great way to start sharing your holiday traditions, learning more about each other's families, and also provide a sense of company — especially if you're sitting at home alone.
And then, of course, you can exchange presents with your partner. Even though you can't open them together, Bennett says exchanging a little somethin' will help you feel closer. Plan ahead and have a gift mailed to your partner's house, or send them home with one and ask that they wait until the holidays to open it. It'll serve as a nice reminder of your relationship.
If you're on a budget, hand-written notes are also sweet. You could even write one for every day you'll be apart, if you're feeling particularly creative and/or energetic. "It's easy to get busy while at home, especially during the holidays, and these letters or gifts can show your partner that you are still important to them while you are away," Rachel Elder, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor, tells Bustle.
Keep in mind, though, that these tips aren't the only ways to stay connected during the holidays, and they aren't guaranteed to totally cure loneliness. So be flexible, Ellen Ross, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle, "and listen to how you can meet your partner's needs and be sure to be specific about how your partner can meet your needs."
Whether it's with a phone call, a note, or something else entirely, listening to each other will help you both feel as content and connected as possible, until you're back together again.
Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and dating expert
Haley Neidich, LCSW, licensed psychotherapist
Rachel Elder, LMHC, licensed mental health counselor
Ellen Ross, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist
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