Dear Wayne and Wanda,
As I write this, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I’m already dreading the holiday season. Basically I’m just tired of going through the holidays alone. I was married once in my early 20s but it was brief and I have been divorced for about 10 years. I have no kids and no family in the area. I have a few friends who I do things with sometimes but they’re all busy with their own kids and partners this time of year.
I feel like I’ve tried everything to make the holidays positive and nothing works. All I can think about is being single, which I hate, and trying to start dating again — I want to, but I don’t know where to start — and how I don’t have a family yet (I want kids, but I need to first not be single, find the guy, get married, etc.). I even find myself missing my ex-husband and looking at his social media even though our marriage was awful and I know that deep down.
Any advice on how I can survive the next couple months?
First off, know you are not alone. Our society can be fairly tone deaf in recognizing that for many, the holidays aren’t a joyous time of merriment, but quite the opposite: a challenging weeks-long period where loneliness is amplified.
I’m going to zero in on something specific you said: that you want to try dating again but don’t know where to start. Well, what better time to start than now, as the holidays kick off, and all around you, others are filled with nostalgia, longing, and your same shared feelings of wanting earnestly to find a life partner?
Yes, dating is hard. Give online dating a try. Despite its stigma, its horror stories and its complexity, going at the whole dating thing via online platforms can make it slightly easier. Admittedly, like any dating, you will still likely encounter horror stories and complex situations, sure. But you can wade in and allocate a little time a day to reading others’ profiles and searching for potential connections. This is absolutely less threatening than going to a speed-dating event or approaching a stranger at a bar.
In the meantime, know that finding value in the holidays is not about being coupled up and there are lots of ways to create meaning. Some ideas: Attend one of the many holiday arts events in the community, like the “Nutcracker” ballet or a Messiah performance; volunteer at some of our local nonprofits that serve homeless and less-fortunate populations; or look among your own peer group for others who may feel similarly to you, and create your own traditions by hosting a holiday dinner or movie night.
I’ll second that you are not alone, and I’ll tell you exactly where you can gather with folks who are also in a funk without a holiday home, a fun family or a festive feast planned out for the weeks ahead: your local bars.
Hear me out: First of all, local bars and their owners understand that there’s a population of people who are alone, have nowhere to go during the holidays, and, like you, are feeling down. Bar owners often treat their regulars like a big dysfunctional extended family, which is why they’re usually open on holidays and offer a generous spread of holiday food, along with plenty of cheerful times and open arms for all comers.
Now, I’m not encouraging you to drink the pain away for the next month, but I will say that you have some control over getting out of this rut. So here’s an opportunity: Uber down to your favorite watering hole — or use Yelp to find a welcoming one — fill up a plate or two, have a hot toddy or two, maybe meet some new friends and smile a little. That’s a lot better than eating a turkey sandwich alone and slowly disappearing into your couch while hate-watching social media timelines and happy-ending Hallmark holiday movies.
You also aren’t alone even when you feel the loneliest. If you are truly depressed or just feel like you need someone, anyone to talk to, there are 24/7 care and crisis center phone lines operated by compassionate professionals who appreciate that this time of year is rough for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Use Google to find a line that works for you and don’t hesitate to call.