How to make the most out of the holiday season as a single person.
The holidays can feel especially difficult as a single person.
For many of us, the holidays are about connection, which may feel daunting when we’re single.
This season can feel fraught with expectations - not only are we listening to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!” while braving the actual cold outside and watching Love, Actually alone on our couches, but we also carry the memory with us of holidays past - with family or loved ones - and intensely desire to recreate our past experience with our loved ones today.
Our loved ones may be present and willing to recreate our memories with us - but they may also decidedly not be present, or if they are, they may be unwilling or unable to connect with us in the way we need.
The gap between the connection we anticipate and the disconnection we actually experience can make the holidays feel isolating and anxiety-inducing - and often, it can fuel our desire for a romantic partner who we want but who we don’t have yet.
With all of this acknowledged, I still believe that even as a single person, the holidays can still be a beautiful time for connection.
But - we may need to rethink how we define connection for ourselves during this unique season.
Read on for the system I’ve curated to help my clients to redefine “connection” for themselves during this holiday season.
For many of us, the holidays are about connection, which can feel daunting as a single person.
That said - if we’re willing to workshop our beliefs a bit and to take a closer look at what "connection" could mean for us during this time of the year, the holidays can actually be a fabulous time to be single.
Why? Let's explore further.
Mix and mingle: The alchemy of weak ties.
Realistically, the holidays are the one time of the year when we connect the most with our existing networks - for better or for worse. This not only means that we tend to be more connected with friends and family during the holidays than at any other time of the year (hooray?), but it also means that we tend to be more connected with our extended networks during this season - which is actually ideal for those of us who are looking to date.
As Mark S. Granovetter showed in his landmark 1973 article, "The Strength of Weak Ties," a surprising number of people meet their significant others through “weak ties,” or what's since become the social science term for “friends of friends" (1).
With the emphasis on connecting with old friends and family, going home for the holidays, and attending holiday parties filled with casual friends and acquaintances, the holidays are a period when we see a large portion of our weak ties for the year.
Why do we think there are so many Hallmark movies about urban career women (for some reason, always lawyers?) visiting family for the holidays and ending up with childhood-friend hometown hunks? Because of weak ties, of course!
Just look at the memes . . .
With the science of "weak ties" in mind, the holidays can be an ideal time to establish connections with new people - if we know how to take advantage of the opportunities in front of us.
Holiday parties can be great places to be single.
While it may seem as though it's the people who are coupled-up who are having the most fun at the annual holiday office party, in reality, holiday get-togethers are unexpectedly fabulous places to be single.
Yes, those who are coupled-up do have built-in dates and conversation parters, but, realistically . . . the people who are in long-term relationships typically aren’t the ones flirting, getting into impromptu office shenanigans, and using the party to show off how fabulous they look in their new little red dress. But, now that you've read this - you can be!
Remember “weak ties”? Holiday parties are full of weak ties - in fact, most people at holiday parties are your weak ties! Most holiday parties consist of casual friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and those casual friends, colleagues, and acquaintances' friends and family - one of whom might be just your type.
So get out there and start making connections!
If you’re dating someone new, the holidays are an opportunity to test-drive how your new beau meshes with existing friends and family.
Ideally, when you’re dating someone new, it can be best to start small with the introductions by inviting your new special someone to less-intimate social events. That said, the holidays (and their attending casual social gatherings) can be an ideal time to test-drive how your new partner fits into your existing social circles.
Low-pressure social events (think: office parties and casual get-togethers instead of family Thanksgiving or your festive girl's brunch!) can be low-pressure opportunities to see how your date mixes with the social circles that you already move in, and to test-drive their social skills in ways that are light, fun, and not too laser-focused on the two of you as a couple.
Besides, if you happen to realise with dismay halfway through your office party that you do not actually enjoy your date’s company - don't fret! You can always attempt to pawn your date off on Stacey from accounting (you thought you noticed mutual interest there, anyway!) while you join your friends to stock up on caramelised bacon from the hors d'oeuvre table.
Do the fun stuff.
The holidays are that time of year that organisations and social clubs throw their holiday social mixers - get out there and attend a few!
Gingerbread house decorating events, cocktail parties, ice skating events - all are ripe occasions for meeting other singles.
Where I live in Denver, people love the outdoors, and if I were going to guess, I'd say that there's probably some cold and uncomfortable single's winter group hiking event organised for this month. I wouldn’t go to it (I'm not outdoorsy, and I hate the cold!), but I’m friends with many people who absolutely would love to spend their Saturdays freezing in the woods, and would thoroughly and genuinely enjoy winter hiking.
Our takeaway is: especially if you live in a large city, the holidays is prime time for all sorts of festive social events. If you look hard enough, you’ll definitely find one (or more!) that you enjoy, and where you could meet people with similar interests.
So pick a few that catch your eye - and then go and do those things.
A lot of the Christmas blues are grounded in loneliness and nostalgia.
To combat this, you don’t need a partner. What you do need are connection and community.
If you have family, draw on them. If you aren’t on good terms with your family, but you have a close-knit group of friends - spend time with them! Host a Friendsgiving. Call up that random relative you have in your city who you never see and invite them over for Christmas dinner. Volunteer. You don’t need a specific person or a partner to not be alone during the holidays, but you do need connection with other people.
There’s so much to do during this time, and honestly, you don’t need a date or a partner to do most of it. Go with your girlfriends to see The Nutcracker. Take your kids ice skating (and experiment with looking cute - you never know who you’ll meet!). Plan a holiday movie night with your sister - hot chocolate and Christmas pyjamas included. There are so many opportunities for warmth, connection, and holiday magic during this time - and there's no reason to sit them out because you aren’t partnered.
We may be single, and the holidays can still be a magical time for us.
We can continue to have Christmas cheer, holiday sparkle, connection and community, winter adventures, and maybe even romance - if we want and choose it.
But to do this, we’ll need to intentionally and consciously redefine what the holidays can mean for us, and how we choose to see them. We do this by creating new ways to celebrate community, tradition, and ourselves - whether partnered or not - during this season of connection.
(1) Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2776392