It’s that time of the year again when people start thinking, or worrying, about holiday shopping and family dinners. Whether they’re in a relationship or flying solo, there is just something about the holidays that makes people more aware of their relationship status.
Maybe it’s because the marketing during the holidays seems to be geared towards couples: from jewellery to clothing and, crazily enough, electronics. Nothing says “I love you” like an iPad, right?
The holiday season also seems to be the one time of the year that all the family members you haven’t seen since last Christmas ask you about your love life. Traditions, like kissing under the mistletoe or at midnight on New Year’s Eve, can also be a source of pressure and anxiety for single people during the holidays.
Why is society so infatuated with the “relationship status?” In our digital age, Facebook’s relationship status has become a popular way for people to flaunt their relationships. People use Facebook to validate their connections and gain approval from peers. Statuses do not define people and certainly do not dictate whether they are happier than others.
But there are negative connotations associated with being single, especially around the holidays. If you say you are partnerless, a common reaction is for people to think that you should be coupled right away so that you can be disassociated from your supposedly undesirable status.
Being in a relationship can contribute to your well-being, but only if it is a healthy one. Some get into relationships that don’t make them happy just so that they don’t have to be single.
“The worst thing a person could possibly do is to get in a relationship that’s not right for them,” says Dr. William Bukowski, a professor at Concordia’s faculty of psychology. “It’s not going to be satisfying, it’s going to be a drain on their resources, it’s going to preclude opportunities to meet someone else who is better for them, so it’s unfortunate that this partnered status has become an index of someone’s well-being.”
This is especially true during the holidays, when stores use romance as a marketing strategy. For those who are with someone, the pressure lies in finding the perfect gift. For those who aren’t, it may be having to contend with that dreaded moment when your aunt asks you about your love life as she passes the gravy boat.
Our natural tendency is to want to be part of a group or partnership and this may be a force that pushes people to want a relationship. The holidays reinforce this way of thinking because it’s the time of the year that makes you feel lonely if you don’t have someone to spend it with.
“People like to belong to something rather than not belong to something,” says Bukowski. “Human beings like to be partnered and be part of a group, so for most people the condition of being alone is aversive.”
A person’s relationship status has become an indicator of their worth. The general assumption is that if someone wants to be with you, you must be a desirable person. If you are single, it must mean there is something undesirable about you.
“It becomes a score card by which we evaluate people’s goodness,” Bukowski believes. “It’s unfortunate.”
Stop keeping track of the score, and whether you’re single or in a relationship this holiday season, take the time to be with the people you care about, and enjoy the time off school. You deserve it.