Even the most calm, level-headed folks seem to go nuts – make that chestnuts – around the holidays. The Scroogiest amongst us escape the hullabaloo entirely. The rest of us stay and face the festivities, whether we like it or not.
Suddenly you find yourself in mid-December, either happily dreaming of those dancing sugar plums or threatening to snap at the sound of one more Salvation Army bell. Either way, dating during the season adds a layer of stress that could make even the most merry elf break bad and go Grinch.
The lead-up to the holidays is notoriously tough on relationships. If you’re taken, you’re plagued with fears about gift selection and family suppers. If you’re single, the barrage of sappy TV commercials and couples canoodling by the fire can be an unpleasant reminder that you’re in table-for-one territory.
Whatever your relationship status, a refresher in seasonal survival never hurts. Follow these quick tips for dating during the holidays if you want to make it to January with your sanity intact.
#1 Don’t Go Blindly Into Gift-Giving
Singles have nothing to worry about here and, provided their hearts aren’t two sizes too small, established couples already know they’ll be giving each other gifts. It’s the inbetweeners who suffer most when it comes to present performance anxiety. To gift or not to gift? That is the question.
The good news is, you don’t have to fly blindly into wrapping paper and ribbons. If you’re unsure if a relationship is serious enough to warrant presents, or if you’re uncertain about how much to spend, talk about it instead of tiptoeing around the issue. Worst comes to worst, remember this uncomfortable truth: consumerism has become such a part of the holidays that it’s hard not to have presents on the brain when the season rolls around. You’re probably safer giving a gift than not giving one.
The next step is calibrating the size of your offering accurately. Something too small and impersonal looks thoughtless (or, worse, re-gifted from your office Secret Santa). Something too big could scare a new date away. The perfect gift is semi-personal and affordable. Try doubling what you spent on your last date. If you’re the tacos-and-beer-special types, a low-key or homemade gift is fair game. If you’re more into Michelin stars and champagne at swish rooftop bars, a pricier pressie is appropriate.
#2 Think Carefully About Family Time
After “Have you been naughty or nice?”, it’s one of the season’s biggest questions: should you bring a significant other to a family celebration? There’s no easy answer, so here are a few things to consider.
If the relationship is so new that they’ve only seen you on good behaviour, it may not be time to introduce them to the ‘rents. We don’t all embody our better selves around family, and if a partner doesn’t already know what your not-better self looks like, the holidays aren’t an ideal time to make the introduction.
How calm is your partner under pressure? Meeting relatives is nerve-racking on any day of the year. Throw a holiday, which already comes with stresses of its own, into the mix and you’re seriously upping the ante.
If you feel confident about those two conditions, take a chance on extending or accepting the invitation to a family holiday. Your next step is making the right impression. Dress smart. Bring a small gift for the host if you’re a guest. Speak well of your date. Ask interested questions of others instead of talking about yourself. Divide your time fairly between family and partner.
#3 Make The Most Of Seasonal Dates
The holidays are overflowing with ace date ideas you’d be a fool to miss. Dinner and a movie (or the couple version: Netflix and passing out on the couch) is available all year round. Instead, come November and December, try ice skating, baking seasonally appropriate treats, volunteering together, catching a holiday performance like The Nutcracker, or touring your city’s best lights and decorations. Extra romance is in the air during this time of year; you just have to take advantage of it. Best of all, these ideas are winners whether it’s date 3 or 300.
#4 (Jingle Bell) Rock The Party Circuit
There are two things to keep in mind about office holiday parties. First, don’t jump to conclusions if a date hasn’t invited you to be their plus one. Some companies don’t allow guests. Second, if you’re the one extending an invitation, only do so if you can pay sufficient attention to your date. Don’t invite them to hang out with a bunch of strangers and then leave them stranded in a corner. If you’re headed to a shindig hosted by friends and guests are welcome, consider it a perfect opportunity to integrate your date into your social circle.
Singletons, the holiday party can work wonders for you too. Say yes to as many invitations as your social calendar and stamina can handle. The holidays offer a wealth of opportunities to meet someone new, and many of those someones feel especially open to the idea of connecting during this warm-and-fuzzy time of year. Must be something in the eggnog.
#5 Monitor Your Social Media Habits
Single guys, resist the temptation to take a digital trip down memory lane. With the season’s tender feelings in full swing, you may find yourself lured to an ex’s profiles. Cyber snooping is never the right move, especially if you’re torturing yourself with loved-up snaps of your ex and their new bae. Step away from the screen, let go of the Ghost of Relationships Past, and get back to enjoying the now.
Men in relationships should also be wary of lax holiday social media habits. If you’re celebrating with a partner’s family, do not risk posting anything unflattering about the event. After the countless celebrity scandals we’ve witnessed, you should be savvy enough to know that anything on the internet is at risk of exposure. And while you’re at it, even if you and your boo are happier than twin tornadoes in a trailer park, refrain from overdoing it with the mushy posts. No, it’s not just women who do it, and yes, everyone hates it.
#6 Embrace Online Dating If You’re Single
The holiday months are peak season for online dating. Dating services across the board see a jump in usage and new signups in December and January. Match.com can even pinpoint the exact day it sees the most activity: January 3. Now would be a good time to download Bumble and start figuring it out before peak season really gets rolling.
#7 Try A Shameless Last Resort
If all else fails, there’s always mistletoe. Go get ’em, tiger.