For many over age 30 and not married or in a promising relationship, the holidays can be a desperately lonely time. You may look at others with spouses and children and watch them decorating homes and yards for the holidays and feel a longing ache.
For those who are divorced, the holidays can be a painful reminder of lost dreams. You may look back with nostalgic pain at happy Christmases during the better times in your marriage. You may suffer a little when Christmas morning arrives and you are alone because your children are with their other parent. If you are a single parent on a tight budget, you may stress and worry about being able to give your children the type of Christmas they are hoping for.
If you are widowed, Christmas may be an all too present reminder of what you have lost. You may be faced with being a single earner when your spouse had been the primary breadwinner–and you struggle to keep food on the table let alone afford a Hallmark Christmas for your kids.
For whatever reason you are mid-single, the holidays are more complicated. We tend to gather in families at the holidays, and mid-singles have non-traditional and more complicated kinds of families. (That will also likely be true in your future marriage if you are blending families.) The following are a few suggestions for navigating this time of year.
Change your mindset. There is not only one way to celebrate the birth of Christ. So, think outside the box. There are a zillion Christmas movies on Netflix and other platforms. If you feel like being home alone and not being very public at Christmas, you can easily make some popcorn get yourself in the spirit of Christmas by watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or “A Christmas Story,” or the many feel-good Hallmark movies available this time of year. You don’t need a partner or even children to do this. Change your mindset to something more hopeful.Isn’t the message of Christmas about the hope of redemption? If you need to feel redeeming love, celebrating Christmas rituals can be helpful even by yourself. If you are alone on Christmas morning, you might choose to go skiing and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate in the lodge on your way home. I did this one Christmas morning when I didn’t have my children and had great fun skiing by myself with virtually no lift lines. I video chatted with my kids that evening and shared in their Christmas joy. Technology connects the world in ways that can be very positive. Use it.
Start a new relationship. The holidays are a great time to fall in love. There are lots of romantic settings with lights, music, and cheerful atmosphere. I am not suggesting you force something just to have someone to spend the holidays with. But if you meet someone that shows some promise, Christmas can be a magical time. During my mid-single years, I met a wonderful woman who had never been married. We did lots of romantic activities and, ultimately, she came to dinner with my family of origin on Christmas Eve. By February, that relationship had fizzled. But I still look back on that Christmas as a beautiful memory because it held so much promise. So, if the opportunity is there, why not start a relationship at the holidays? Take advantage of the lights on Temple square or the myriad of free Christmas concerts and other activities in the community.
Renew friendships with other singles. If you feel like being social, the holidays are a great time to get together with friends for parties and dinners. There are also outdoor activities such as sledding, ice skating, or caroling. Many others are in the same boat with you, and you can forge meaningful friendships by getting together a group to do something fun together. I have a mid-single friend who put together a Facebook group for singles in his area to go to movies together. They are all in the same boat and they all love movies. It’s a brilliant idea.
Decorate. I am not suggesting you try to win the city Christmas display award unless that is your thing. I am not suggesting that you make Christmas a lot more stressful by decking the halls like Martha Stewart. But doing what you reasonably can to make your home look more festive can add some holiday cheer to your life, even if you are just decorating for yourself. The last several years of my first marriage, I had a beautiful 3000 square foot home with a vaulted ceiling in the living room. I used to put up three Christmas trees in front of the large window at the part of the home looking out toward town. The middle tree was 9 ft tall and the trees on the two sides were 7 ft. We also put up all kinds of other decorations throughout the house. When I became single, I moved into an apartment. There wasn’t room for such an extravagant display in that apartment. But I put up a simple 6 ft Christmas tree and decorated it with ornaments purchased at the dollar store, and I let it be enough. Your Christmas decorating does not need to be lavish or break your budget, and it does not need to take many days unless that’s just your thing. But putting up a few decorations can add a feeling of warmth and cheer to your home during the winter.
Think outside the box. Christmas is full of traditions and that is a beautiful thing about it. But if the traditions don’t serve us in our situation, we don’t need to hold on to them. Christmas is for us. We are not for Christmas. You are not doing it wrong if you decide to take a trip to Florida by yourself during the holidays and lay on the beach. So be creative and think of things that are enjoyable and meaningful to you, without being so tradition bound that you cannot be happy unless your yard has the giant light display or nativity scene your parents had. Make your own traditions that fit your budget and personality. And carve out some time to bring cheer to others that may be struggling with the holidays. If you don’t feel in a particularly festive mood, you can celebrate alone in a low-key way that will nonetheless bring you a little holiday cheer.
Life is full of difficult moments, and for mid-singles the holidays can be one of those. However, much of that depends on how we choose to interpret our situations. Remember what the angel said to the shepherds. ”[F]or, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). I think it’s safe to assume that “all people” includes mid-singles. It includes you.
About the Author for the Singles Column in Meridian Magazine
Jeff Teichert, and his wife Cathy Butler Teichert, are the founders of “Love in Later Years,” which ministers to Latter-day Saint single adults seeking peace, healing, and more joyful relationships. They are co-authors of the Amazon bestseller Intentional Courtship: A Mid-Singles Guide to Peace, Progress and Pairing Up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jeff and Cathy each spent nearly a decade in the mid-singles community and they use that experience to provide counsel and hope to mid-singles and later married couples through written articles, podcasts, and videos. Jeff and Cathy are both Advanced Certified Life Coaches and have university degrees in Family & Human Development. They are the parents of a blended family that includes four handsome sons, one lovely daughter-in-law, and a sweet baby granddaughter.