I’ve spent 22 Christmas days alone. Well, that’s a lie, because my Christmases are filled with family, friends, socialising, celebrating and people. But for all but two years of my life, I haven’t had a romantic relationship with someone who I’ve swapped gifts and kissed under the mistletoe, and therefore I’ve often been referred to as being ‘alone’.
Forty-seven percent of singles dread Christmas Day because it makes them feel lonely, according to eHarmony research. It’s no surprise: everything from festive films to Christmas cards and even the queen of Christmas herself, Mariah Carey, tells us that Christmas is the season for love. Headlines will give you advice on ‘surviving’ the festivities when you’re single, as though not being in a relationship could mean you drop dead at any time. And the idea of not having a partner at this time of year is so depressing that there’s even a well-known dating trend for those who get in relationships just for the winter months: cuffing.
Anecdotally, a straw poll among my friends suggests that Christmas has even taken over Valentine’s Day as ‘Worst Day Of The Year To Be Single’. While rioting against the consumerism and OTT declarations of love associated with 14 February is empowering and acceptable, being single at Christmas is still quite taboo.
But let’s be frank: being in a relationship at Christmas is difficult. So difficult in fact that solicitors have dubbed 3 January ‘Divorce Day’ as they see a huge spike in divorce filings after the festive period.
While it’s often the claustrophobia of in-laws and irritation of a lack of work-based stimulation that can irk long-term cohabiting partners, for those relationships that aren’t at marriage-stage, it can be just as difficult.
Many modern millennial partners aren’t from the same town, meaning that Christmas tends to rely on dashing across the country the second you finish your Boxing Day leftovers, or either one of you having to squish in on the other’s family traditions.
Instead, this year, I’ll be spending my Christmas without the stress. I’ll enjoy a fake Christmas day with my dad and baby brother. I’ll recover before a boozy Christmas eve with my friends. I’ll spend Christmas day with my mum and siblings, having a few more relaxing family days before commuting back to London with no deadline.
Of course, I could do that with someone else. But, to paraphrase Ross Geller, I very much experience the pressure of entertaining. I hate thinking that the person I’m with isn’t having a good time, especially when they could be enjoying Christmas with their family, enjoying their own rituals and traditions. Also, I am very much an introvert, meaning that I recharge off of my own energy. I find it hard to spend consecutive days with other people, and Christmas time doesn’t offer any mental or physical escape, making it worse.
But let’s talk about the real juicy issue here: presents. I get that gifts are some people’s love language, but spending half of your November salary on Christmas presents for your partner? Nope, don’t get it. Especially when the average a person spends on their partner is estimated to be around £117, according to Nationwide. To me, a thoughtful £20 gift is always enough.
Yet, in previous years, as I watched friends splurging on designer T-shirts for their boyfriends, golden jewellery for their girlfriends or partners’ spa day gift vouchers, I felt something churning inside me. Had I got it wrong?
What if my boyfriend thought I was joking and ended up spending hundreds and I had to hand over his Primark dressing gown, mortified? Spoiler: he didn’t, thank god. But I am not sad to be missing out on the extra pressure of gift buying.
The problem really lies within our obsession with romantic relationships. I find as much joy from popping a bottle of fizz with my mum on Christmas morning as I would doing that with a boyfriend. I don’t think I’m missing out on a relationship when I can snuggle up with my best-friend-cum-housemate by our tree eating advent calendar chocolate as though the numbers are a challenge, rather than a calendar date. And being in a mistletoe-strung bar with no person to snog by default honestly couldn’t be less of a burden on my life. But it’s designed to be.
Do what you’re expected to do in a couple, by yourself. You won’t believe how empowering that feels.
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