It’s the time of year when plans are made, Hallmark movies are watched, cocoa is poured around a roaring fire, and so on. We just had our first snows on the Colorado Front Range, and that really signals the magical time of year.
That also means it’s time to talk about relationships. This time of year is saturated with couples’ content and expectations. Yet it doesn’t have to be, as many newer traditions prove.
According to the US Census Bureau, 46% of adults in the United States are single. That’s almost every other adult. Yet we’re still coming into a season where grandma is disappointed over turkey if we’re not dating. We also deal with situations like dad wondering when he’ll get grandsons to chase around the Christmas tree.
Apart from the broader assessment that all those single people spend money differently than families, stress more about the cost of living, and a million other small differences, it has social impacts too.
Our society is generally configured to default to couples and families, not people who are single. The holiday season is one of the times of the year when that is most apparent. Anyone who’s gone with a friend for dinner and has been asked how long they’ve been together knows the feeling.
In a way, the whole season highlights the social norm of thinking people are whole when they’re in a couple or love someone. Never mind the myriad of ways to love, the holidays tend to bring out the (usually straight) couple think.
The whole season is set up with “romantic” activities. Ice skating can’t just be to try it out or mess around. The roaring fires are tied to snuggling up in blankets. Family meals mean introducing new partners to the family. While we may go against those grains, it’s still all there.
Speaking of family, if we all take action, we can shift the message around talking about partners and babies over the holidays like that’s all singles (especially women) should be focusing on. Even a simple “I’m not discussing this” helps shift the focus and the norms with it.
Ultimately, the holidays don’t have to be about all the relationships and romantic jazz that they currently are. Making these shifts helps us all, and from discomfort can grow acceptance that there is more than one path in life.