Worried about being single-shamed at Christmas? Here's how you can beat it

Written by Katie Rosseinsky

Nothing screams Christmas like being quizzed about your love life by a random great-aunt.

Christmas doesn’t always feel like the most wonderful time of year when you’re single. 

Whether it’s Love Actually, The Holiday, a plethora of festive adverts featuring photogenic couples exchanging perfectly chosen gifts and hosting their equally gorgeous, equally coupled-up mates for lavish dinners or the dreaded ‘boy done good’ social media posts (see also: “I can’t believe what this one got me!”), ’tis the season to feel all too aware that you’re riding solo.

And then there’s the potential for awkward interrogation from extended family members or your parents’ friends who, despite the fact that they haven’t seen you for the best part of a decade, think it’s somehow appropriate to ask probing questions about your love life (or total lack thereof). Bridget Jones’s Diary might not be the pinnacle of cinematic realism (there’s the eternal mystery of how she affords that Borough Market flat on a PR assistant’s salary, for one thing), but the scene where our heroine attends the annual turkey curry buffet and gets waylaid by elderly acquaintances bemoaning her lack of partner could basically be a documentary.

With more opportunities for questioning from relatives, increased relationship bragging on your Instagram grid and romantic seasonal meet-cutes kicking off every time you switch over to ITV2, it’s no wonder that young people feel painfully aware of being single over Christmas – and unsolicited advice from distant relatives in their 60s (“You’re too fussy!” or “Don’t leave it too late!” being classic refrains) only makes it worse. “You might be genuinely focused on other things than relationships… but this is the one thing that gets referenced repeatedly,” says Ngozi Cadmus, founder of Frontline Therapist, noting that this “can make you feel that being alone is wrong (which it isn’t)” and “make you hyper-aware of your single status”. 

These questions don’t necessarily come from a bad place, but when they’re handled poorly, they can have a major impact on our self-esteem. According to research from dating app Bumble, 30% of Gen Z and millennials said that they feel more self-conscious about being single during the festive season, while more than one in three (38%) said that their friends and family made them feel bad about not bringing a plus one to Christmas events. One in four survey participants also said that questions about their dating life made them feel unvalued or unworthy over the holidays.

Festive single-shaming, it seems, is making young people feel bad about themselves at the very time they’re supposed to be having fun and giving themselves a break from the pressures of the year so far. So what can you do when you’re faced with a not-so-subtle inquisition about your romantic prospects? And how can you stop these questions bringing you down? We’ve asked three experts for their go-to tips for beating Christmas single-shaming for good. 

Set boundaries beforehand

Boundaries are always important – and never more so than at Christmas

“One thing to be aware of is… to set proper boundaries with your family,” advises Juliette Karaman, founder of Feel Fully You. So, before that big gathering, “explain to them that constant questioning and teasing about your single status affects you and [tell them] that if they are going to continue to do so you will remove yourself from the situation. This is a boundary with a firm consequence – it protects you and gives them very clear guidelines as to what you will and will not accept.”

Be honest

On a similar note, if a recent break-up is a trigger point for you, says mindset coach Rebecca Barr of The Femalepreneur Coach, then tell your family that you do not wish to speak about it. “They should back off accordingly – if not, you have to protect your energy and your sanity first, so do not be afraid to remove yourself from an uncomfortable situation. Not everyone gets to have access to you if they are not respectful of your feelings, even if they are family.” 

See the other side

Barr also recommends reminding yourself that “your family’s concern comes from an unconscious belief that in order to be happy, you have to be in a relationship”. It’s what society has drummed into us for centuries, even “dating back to caveman days [when] relationships led to safety which equals survival”.     

Don’t get defensive

It’s all too easy to retreat into your shell when faced with a barrage of questions or to snap back with a justification (either way, you’ll inevitably think of a snappier riposte when you’re washing your hair the next morning). “Don’t feel the pressure to justify your position or become defensive,” Barr says.”Assert your boundaries as to what you feel comfortable sharing and deflect back questions that you feel are overstepping and downright nosy.”

“You do not have to justify your singleness to anyone,” Cadmus agrees. “The way to deal with [these questions] is by politely saying you are focused on other things.” It might be easier said than done, but confidence is key here. 

“Your family will respond to your energy,” Barr adds. “If you are happy to be single (and do not want to be set up on blind dates by distant family members, thank you very much) then relay that decision with confidence. If they feel a sense of uncertainty or unhappiness, they will feel the need to rush in and offer solutions to your ‘problem’.” 

Take time to focus on yourself

Take time for self-care at Christmas

When Christmas rolls around, bringing with it packed schedules and late nights, it can be easy to neglect the things you love doing and skimp on self-care, but you’re more likely to feel that confidence in yourself if you make time for these activities. “My biggest advice is always to find things you love that make you secure about yourself,” Karaman says. “Try to spend time with yourself, and you will see that your happiness doesn’t depend on someone else.”

Images: Getty

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