After heading into the most romantic time of the year fresh out of a break-up, stylist.co.uk writer Megan Murray explains why she couldn’t be happier to start the New Year alone.
For the past two years, I’ve found myself going through a break-up right before Christmas.
Each year it was a different love, but both were serious and heart-breaking in their own way.
The first was my marriage-material boyfriend of four years who decided to make a life in our home town of Nottingham, where I no longer wanted to commute back and forth from. The second was a whirlwind relationship with a passionate French man, who was full of romantic stereotypes and even a surprise trip to Paris.
In both instances, stepping out into the sobering light of single life mid-October, with my rose-tinted glasses on the floor and couples at every turn, has been interesting to say the least.
Obviously break-ups are hard at any time of the year: research has shown that not only is the pain of a relationship ending so real that it can even effect your physical health, but that women suffer more intensely than men. Dr Mark Silvert explains that this is because the body and mind are inextricably linked: “Nightmares, body aches, constant crying and insomnia are all normal after a break-up; the symptoms are very similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.”
When researchers at Binghamton University and University College London asked 5,705 men and women to rate the physical pain of breaking up with someone, they found that the females in the group felt their symptoms much more acutely.
The good news, however, is that although we feel more physical anguish, women also deal better with the aftermath of a break-up better than their male counterparts. Thanks to our ability to harness our social support systems (aka ‘the squad’) and process our emotions, lead author of the study Craig Morris says we recover “faster and more fully”. What’s more, not only do we deal with the situation better in the short-term, but we come out on the other side emotionally stronger, unlike men who tend to self-destruct.
Morris says: “Most women, broadly speaking, seem to be hit hard and fast by a breakup, but are less self destructive, utilise more social support, and recover faster and more fully.”
However, the festive frivolity of Christmas certainly doesn’t make things any easier, and so many people end up turning to an ex at this time of year that the behaviour is now recognised as a new dating trend, dubbed as ’Marleying’.
But although the shops are full of people hunting down the perfect gifts for their other halves, while many are planning their Christmas days together and know exactly who they’ll be kissing at midnight on New Year’s Eve, I don’t think this time of year is necessarily made any better by being in a couple.
In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that Christmas and New Year are both fantastic times to be single.
And I’m certainly not the only one who thinks this way. The Economist reports that the most popular time of the year for a break-up is two weeks before Christmas, on 11 December. Insights gathered from Facebook status updates reveal that the words “break-up” appear most in user’s statuses at this time of the year. Together, these findings demonstrate there’s more people living that single life in the festive season than we might have thought.
There are certainly advantages to being single at this time of year. On a frivolous note, I’ve saved hundreds of pounds and curbed hours of stress on not having to pick out a thoughtfully-chosen gift for a partner.
Even better, instead of having to navigate the politics of which family gets ‘us’ for Christmas dinner, I’m able to dedicate the whole time to the people that I love the most, the people who ground me and make me feel like ‘me’.
Of course, there are times when I want to collapse on the sofa in front of Netflix with someone warm next to me - but my best friend can easily take on that role. And let’s not forget that this is the most social time of the year: between the various friendship group gatherings, the university reunions, the work Christmas party and the big Boxing Day night out, there’s barely a chance to be alone.
If anything, I’ve found this season to be a perfect time to reflect on what and who makes me happy, and it’s given me the chance to make those people even more prominent in my life. With only myself to think about, I’ve been excited for each and every event, free to be present in the moment and always ready to soak up the effervescent personalities of my friends.
Realigning my priorities has seen me push myself to rise steadily to the top. Instead of considering where my partner’s career progression may lead us, or if their housing situation will affect mine, I’m able to be selfish in a good way. As we go into the New Year, I’m making plans and resolutions that are focused on helping me get exactly what I want out of 2018, which means I can dedicate the time zapped from being in a relationship to getting a promotion, and save the money spent on visiting his family for a holiday with my friends.
Of course, you can be in a relationship and make choices that benefit you. But for me, the mixture of social events, committed time with my loved ones and the dawning of a whole New Year has been an opportunity to concentrate only on the people who I know are in my life to stay.
This year, my New Year’s resolutions include career and personal milestones that I’ve always wanted to achieve. As the great Samantha Jones says on Sex And The City, “I’ve been in a relationship with myself for 49 years (okay, maybe 26) and that’s the one I need to work on”.
I don’t know if I’ll be kissing anyone at midnight on 31 December but I do know who I’ll be starting the new year with: me. And I couldn’t be happier about it.
Images: courtesy of Megan Murray