It's Okay To Pause Your Dating Life During The Holidays

Photographed by Michael Beckert.
The holidays and cuffing season slam right into one another, meaning a lot of people's dating lives kick into high gear this time of year. Between the parties, the cozy nights at home, and the fact that your heat is so damn finicky that you just need a warm body to keep you toasty, you may find yourself swiping around on dating apps more than usual.
But all that obsessive dating could lead to some pretty serious burnout. "The feelings of loneliness and sadness that get brought up for a lot of people around this time of year can make you search for things that make you feel good in the moment," says Rachel Sussman, LCSW, a New York-based relationship therapist. "But that's never the right path forward." In fact, leaping from one good moment to another (or attempting to) can leave you feeling even worse. "It's like a sugar rush," Sussman says. "You feel good in the moment, but then you just crash."
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This feeling isn't abnormal, though. Those parties and cozy nights at home that lead you to the dating apps can make you feel bad about your single status when you didn't even consider it before. "The thought is that everyone is supposed to be coupled up around the holidays," says Brandy Engler, PsyD, a clinical psychologist. "Suddenly there's this extra meaning because it's the holidays, but in reality, December 25 is no different than any other day of the year."
So if you feel yourself spinning out because of all the dates you're stacking your free time with, it's a good idea to take a second to breathe. "As far as relationships go, nothing good comes from desperation," Sussman says. "Your greatest likelihood of finding the healthiest relationship is when you're feeling the best about yourself." It's fine to step away from dating to work on yourself and figure out why you're feeling the way you're feeling, she says.
According to Dr. Engler, those frantic feelings can actually tell you something important about your head space. "So many people want to run away from the anxiety," she says. "But, in fact, it's important to lean into it and meditate on it to understand why you're feeling the way you do." Once you identify what's making you sad (like the fact that you have to attend two holiday parties in a row in which you'll be the only single person), figure out ways to make yourself feel better. "If a trigger is showing up places alone, bring a friend, or choose to opt out of that specific party," Dr. Engler says.
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The most important thing to remember, however, is that you might need to take time for yourself. "It may be hard to feel the loneliness," Sussman says. "But if you feel like you need to take a pause from dating in order to work on your self-esteem, that's fine." She, however, believes the best way to get through this time of year is moderation. "Don't fill up every free night in the calendar with dates, but don't shut yourself down from the possibility of meeting someone, either," she says. Who knows? You might meet someone by the eggnog table at that holiday party, after all. Or you might just get to enjoy a festive holiday beverage, and that's a pretty good outcome, too.
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