As I approach my fourth solo Christmas, I’m reminded of last year’s Netflix film, Single All The Way – the protagonist, Peter, is so desperate to avoid judgement from his family over his perpetually-single status, he persuades his best friend Nick to pose as his other half.
Much like Peter, I’ll be the only uncoupled one at my family dinner table this year, but personally I’ll be wearing my single status like a badge of honour.
Under different circumstances, in a different year, I’d like to be sat there with a partner to get me through games of family Scrabble. I’d like to integrate someone special into my family and me into theirs. Maybe, one day…
This year, I’ve prioritized other passions over dating
But the past year has actually been one of the best of my life, mainly because I’ve prioritized other passions over dating. I spent last year, between Christmas and New Year, working out how I’d like the next 365 days to look. And a year on, it’s satisfying to see the results.
I made an intentional choice to travel as much as feasible: sometimes for work, sometimes with friends, sometimes tacking on a couple of days on to a friend’s wedding (a concept I call ‘hybrid solo travel’ as you’re not alone for the whole time).
Rather than escapism, traveling has been a means for me to gain perspective, zoom out of my life and identify what I want in all areas: work, friendship and, yes, future relationships, too.
It’s also been a time for platonic friendship
It’s been a time that, instinctively, feels pivotal – a reckoning with what my next decade, or five, might look like. The idea of compromising this special period of my life because of a fear of what being uncoupled might say about me, especially at a certain time of the year, feels absurd compared to what I’ve gained. And this includes an empowering sense of gently steering my life in the right direction.
It’s also been a time for platonic friendship. For instance, I decided to readdress my relationship with the opposite sex this year. In the past, my friendships were mostly female – but I realized I needed to heal my relationship with men through being just friends with several of them. It’s given me a fresh perspective to take into 2023, and I think my future romantic relationships will be healthier as a result.
We all make sacrifices and, in the meantime, my love life has had to take a back seat. The first six months were spent on a dating hiatus. The second very much single and open to a relationship, but simultaneously living my life without throwing opportunities away in the name of love.
Travel has enabled me to live a richer life among friends
Earlier this autumn, for example, I had the chance to stay with a friend in Lisbon for a month. So, I took it, rather than give in to the romantic temptation to stay home and see what might happen after a promising first date. The man, it transpired, wasn’t worth the debate.
Meanwhile, living in Lisbon – which I later extended for another month – allowed me to flourish creatively by launching my email newsletter, The Shoulds. It also enabled me to fall back in love with romance and live a smaller, but richer, more grounded life among close friends, together with a new expat circle.
I suspect this decision to prioritize travel might seem odd to some of my older relatives over the festive season – I’m fully anticipating the ‘When are you going to settle down?’ questions over turkey and all the trimmings.
I’m a lot closer to knowing what I want now
Yet the question will rankle less this year as I’ve had the time to reflect on it inwardly. I don’t know exactly what I want, but I think I’m a lot closer to knowing than in my previous relationships. While that answer may not satisfy my relatives, it does satisfy me.
I know all too well the potential hurdles of being single at family Christmas gatherings, starting with the inquiries into my love life before I’ve taken off my coat and the shock of realizing that even my 16-year-old cousin is in a committed relationship.
However, now that I’m old enough to have experienced both sides, I know this period would be much worse spent in a relationship where we were ill at ease with each other and bickering behind closed doors. The holidays can be a wonderful time to spend with a partner but, equally, it’s a time that might be ruined for you (and your family) if you share it with the wrong person, just because you fear what the alternative might bring.
The festive season is not the time to focus on romantic love
Besides, despite what the films tell us, Christmas is not really a natural time to focus on romantic love. It’s a time for being together with family or friends, diving into group feasts, idling over board games and collapsing in a food coma on the sofa.
So, what I’ll be doing this Christmas is owning my choices, enjoying some quiet end-of-year time and reconnecting with the loved ones I’ve missed when I’ve been out of the country.
Even if there are some tricky moments and tactless comments, it’s only one day out of 365 that I’ve otherwise spent very much on my own terms.
Will I feel the same way next year? Who knows. But as this year draws to a close, I’m celebrating having had the 2022 that I chose – merry and bright.
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Images: Courtesy of Francesca Specter; Flash Pack.