With the holiday season coming up, new relationships can have a joyful glow and bring us even greater pleasure than at other times of year.
Conversely, being single and without someone special in our lives at this time of year can magnify our feelings of loneliness and neediness.
Either way . . . happily chugging along in a good new relationship, or still looking . . . the holidays can make us more vulnerable and at risk for making bad decisions.
We may feel that the relationship has moved along further than it really has.
Or we may be willing to settle for someone we otherwise wouldn’t have more than one or two dates with.
Make holiday dating easier for both of you
Robert Weiss Ph.D., MSW, who writes about love and sex in the digital age, advises:
“The first and most important thing you and your dating partner can do if you want your relationship (and your sanity) to survive the holiday season is to have a light but meaningful conversation in which you set some ground rules for things like gifts, social events, finding time to be together romantically, and having hot holiday sex (if sex is currently on the table in your relationship).”
He addresses the 3 most pressing holiday dating issues and includes things people have said to him about them:
“One time I broke up with a woman I really liked because I didn’t know what to get her for Christmas.”
His advice for gift-giving includes:
“Turn buying each other’s gift into a date. After all, shopping together and letting each other say yes or no to certain items is a great way to learn about each other and grow closer.”
Parties and Events
“Two years ago, my second date with a man was midnight mass, Christmas Eve, with his entire family, including his parents, kids, grandkids, and even his ex-wife. Yuck. There was no third date.”
He suggests that even if you’re dating casually, but you think it may get serious, go ahead and go to family get-togethers. But be sure to let them know in advance that things are casual, so people don’t make assumptions that things are serious.
“The stress of the holidays can be a real turn off sometimes. I mean, after a full day of work followed by some frenzied shopping and then a party, do I really have enough energy left for sex?”
He advises that if sex is already part of your relationship, plan a night for it in advance, so you’ll both be primed for it.
7 Holiday Dating Mistakes That Can Ruin a Relationship
Here are some relationship situations that typically come up during the holidays, and my suggestions on how to deal with them.
Click on any of the links below to go directly to that section:
1. Ignoring your dating game plan and deal breakers
Let’s say you’ve worked on a dating game plan. You know what your absolute deal breakers are and you’re committed to sticking to them.
But we’ve all been hammered so hard throughout our lives that we should be with someone special for the holidays – and especially on New Years Eve – that some of us make foolish exceptions, just so we’ll have someone to kiss under the mistletoe.
We’re suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to get to that happily-ever-after feeling faster.
We may be tempted to put aside our carefully considered list of acceptable and unacceptable traits in our ideal partner.
Let’s say you’ve determined that a smoker could never be your ideal partner, but right now that doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
Or, let’s say you want to wait a few months before having sex. But New Years Eve arrives only 3 weeks into the relationship . . . and you REALLY like her or him.
My advice. Stick to your plan even though it’s the holiday. Remember that these things are important to you.
No matter how great everything seems, take it slow. If your date doesn’t respect that, what does it say about their character?
Early in my relationship with Sam, and 5 years later with Cosmo, this issue came up.
I met both of them at the end of the year. In both cases, we wanted to wait a certain amount of time to have sex. The holidays came before that amount of time had passed. As much as we wanted to, we stuck to our plan to wait, and were always glad that we did.
Friendship holiday dating is probably okay, as long as you both agree that it means nothing more than that.
And go back to the initial work you did defining your dating plan. Haven’t done that work? Well, get to it before you’re into the thick of the holidays.
2. Messing up the holiday gift issue
Dating during the holidays means you’re faced with the problem of whether or not to buy her or him a gift, and how extravagant it should be.
If you’re only a date or two into a potential relationship, it’s probably too early to buy them any gift.
If you’re further along, a small gift is probably in order. Why not discuss it with them, and come to an agreement? Maybe keep it to a small dollar amount like, say, $20.
But certainly, don’t test the strength of the relationship by expecting a substantial gift, and being disappointed if they don’t come through.
3. Overdoing it with alcohol
Holiday dating often means more alcohol consumption . . . and risky or foolish behavior.
Unless you’re dating teetotalers, holiday dating can cause people to drink when they otherwise might not.
The liquor industry pumps us with notions like “What’s New Years’ Eve without champagne?”, store shelves are stocked with special holiday brews and concoctions, and at various functions people push drinks on us more.
You’re made to feel that you can’t have a good time without drinking . . . or drinking more than usual.
When you drink more than you’re used to handling, you can say and do things you’ll regret.
Play it safe. Don’t drink too much, or don’t drink anything. If your date keeps pushing drinks on you, even though you keep saying “No”, they’re not being respectful of your wishes.
And, you may have a problem-drinker on your hands. Pay attention to those clues.
Likewise, if you’re in recovery and want to stay that way, holiday dating can be particularly challenging for you.
I’ve pulled together some resources that should help in my article Sober Dating When You’re Over 60.
4. Introducing them to family and friends too soon
Holiday family gatherings can be stressful without the added discomfort of introducing your latest date to them.
Old hurts and unresolved issues can resurface, making for very unpleasant conversations. More alcohol than usual may be consumed, fueling unpleasant conversations even more.
You may have a hard time with these get-togethers yourself. Think about how difficult they could be for your new partner, especially if it’s early in the relationship.
Some people avoid family holiday gatherings all together, and have established a tradition of getting together with friends instead, for a more peaceful meal.
Whether your tradition includes family or friend get-togethers, introducing a new-comer in the form of a potential partner can be sticky . . . for your date and for you.
Imagine your date sitting down with a group of people you know very well. She or he won’t know anyone, and they barely know you.
If it’s early in the relationship, say, only a few dates in – even if things are going very well – think twice before choosing a holiday meal to bring in your date for the first time.
For my first holiday seasons with Sam and 5 years later with Cosmo, we decided NOT to bring the other to one of these events. Things were too new and perhaps too fragile. It was a good decision.
5. Breaking up with them during the holidays
I suppose there’s never a good time to break up with someone.
If you’ve only had one or two dates, you’re not really “breaking up” because you don’t have a relationship yet.
But, the impact to the other person can still be powerful, especially because they may have been counting on being with someone over the holidays.
On the other hand, if you suspect they’re emotionally unstable and you’re afraid they’ll fall apart if you break it off before the holidays, it’s probably better to end things sooner than later.
Don’t set yourself up to be co-dependent with anyone. You may do more harm than good by waiting.
Putting their emotional stability aside, it’s not a good idea to string someone along, letting them think you’re into them, just so you won’t have to break up during the holidays.
I’m hedging because each circumstance is unique and should be well thought through.
What I can advise is this – whatever you do, always be kind and respectful.
About 15 years ago, my ex-husband (we had a 30-year relationship) magnanimously waited until January 6 to abruptly, and without warning, walk out on me. I could see that he was quite proud of himself for taking care of “the problem” (that is, me) so neatly. He’s probably still patting himself on the back for that. The pain was no less devastating for me because he waited until after the holidays.
I don’t know. Maybe it would have been worse if he did it during the holidays.
If you’re the victim of a holiday breakup, Certified Dating Coach Damona Hoffman offered 5 healthy ways to recover in a Huffington Post article:
- Make a list of your wants and needs in a mate for the future.
- Get a date. Go to online dating sites where new memberships surge between Thanksgiving and New Years.
- Give yourself a break. Don’t beat yourself up about it. If it’s not working for one person, the relationship probably won’t work at all.
- Call a friend. Don’t hibernate. Surround yourself with those who care about you.
- Take a trip. Even a long drive can help shake you out of your misery.
6. Taking a trip together
It sounds so romantic to go away together over the holidays.
You’ll go to some cozy little hideaway and really get to know each other.
Or you’ll take a cruise and enjoy all the activities together.
If you want to pretty much guarantee that you’ll have a miserable holiday season, take a trip with someone you’re newly dating.
Think about all the stressors associated with travel. Adding the stresses of getting to know someone new to those and you have the perfect recipe for misery.
Things could go beautifully, but is it worth the risk?
Things could so easily go badly, and then you may be stuck with this person until the trip ends . . . especially if you’ve chosen to take a cruise.
Inagine what it would be like to have to share a room with someone you can no longer tolerate.
7. Reconnecting with your ex
We all get sentimental and nostalgic during the holidays, remembering past good times with spouses and in-laws.
It can be tempting to want to rekindle old flames, or just see if there’s a chance to start things up again.
Connecting with an ex during the holidays actually has a name, based on the Dickens’ character: Marleying.
Named after Scrooge’s business partner Jacob Marley, who revisits Scrooge as a ghost on Christmas Eve, Marleying refers to exes who reconnect after having no contact for a long time.
“Researchers at dating site eHarmony coined the term after they surveyed more than 4,000 British adults to find out whether they’d experienced the trend. The research revealed that 11 percent of singles have been Marleyed, while 8 percent admit they’ve contacted an ex themselves. Christmas Eve is the date we’re most likely to receive a text from an ex, according to the findings.”
This trend is particularly prevalent during the holidays because single people often feel particularly lonely this time of year.
Thoughts can easily dwell on the just the good things about a past relationship. All the bad stuff may be overlooked or even forgotten about, if you’re desperate not to be alone on the holidays.
If you’re thinking of reaching out to an ex, Bumble suggests you ask yourself these questions:
- Have the reasons or circumstances that led to the breakup changed?
- Would a reunion fall into the “short-term gain, long-term pain” category for you or your ex?
“If you find out the reasons for the breakup have changed, it might be worth reaching out. But if not, be wary of your feelings—and theirs—as meeting up could open old wounds. Make your intentions clear, and if they feel the same way, a holiday meetup could lead to a rekindled romance.”
Even so, it’s probably best not to go into it with the expectation that romance will kick in.
Just be glad to have a brief encounter with someone you once had a serious relationship with.
How to Write Opening Messages to New Matches
If you plan to continue dating over the holidays, Bustle suggests some things to message new matches. Many of these would also work as ice-breakers on first dates:
- What’s the best gift you ever received as a kid?
- If you could wake up in any holiday movie, what would it be?
- What’s the most cringeworthy thing your family said at holiday dinner this year?
- If you could spend the holidays anywhere, where would you go?
- What three words describe your holiday shopping style?
- What’s your favorite childhood holiday memory?
- What holiday food best describes you?
- Are you more of a leave-the-twinkle-lights-up-until-March or take-all-the-decorations-down-the-day-after Christmas type of person?
- What’s your family’s sweetest or strangest holiday tradition?