So long, ghosting, this season it's all about the ghost of Christmas past. A new dating trend has been identified and there's a good chance you'll be affected over the coming days. "Marleying" is when a lonesome, lascivious former flame randomly gets in touch for a catch-up (or more) during the festive period.
The phrase, coined by dating site Eharmony, gets its name from Jacob Marley, Scrooge's ghostly business partner who appears out of nowhere on Christmas Eve after being dead for years in the classic Dickens novella, A Christmas Carol.
According to Eharmony's research, more than a tenth of British singles will be "Marleyed" this Christmas, with London (12%) and Wales (11%) being the prime locations where keen exes rear their heads. Londoners are the most likely to hear from past partners at the last minute – with 4% having received a surprise message or call on Christmas Eve itself.
What are these people's motives for getting in touch – and potentially turning our lives upside down – just in time for Christmas? Well, they might be feeling all nostalgic, being back in their hometown and running into old flames, or they might be feeling lonely. OR – they're just bored and looking for trouble and/or a quick lay.
While Marleying is far from a new phenomenon, Eharmony has helpfully given a name to something many of us have been experiencing for years. Karolina Erikssen*, 25, who works in the capital but goes back home for Christmas every year, is such a consistent victim of Marleying that she can even predict the day her schoolfriend, with whom she hooked up at various parties as a teenager, will casually "reach out".
"I can guarantee a text will arrive on the day before Christmas Eve – the prime time for a drink at 'Spoons in town – asking if I'm home and fancy catching up," she told Refinery29. "We both live in London so I'm pretty sure it's not friendly natter he's after. It's always a 'no' from me unless it's a group hangout, as I have a boyfriend and I know from experience that I revert back to 17-year-old me when I'm around him: weak at the knees."
Depending on how you left things with your ex – and how long ago your relationship ended – you may want to swerve them completely; indeed, that may be for the best. "I have an ex who must've secretly chipped and pinned me because every time I land back home in Ireland I get a message from him," Olivia Collins*, a 33-year-old who works in London, told Refinery29.
Her strategy for giving him the cold shoulder? Just being straight up about not wanting to see him. It may sound daunting, but no one should have to waste their time fending off fuckboys; especially not at Christmas.
"The messages usually start casual: 'Drink?' and that kind of thing, then by the new year they are lengthy, badly punctuated rants about how I'm elusive and rude. One of those things is probably true, but I've explained to him that if I only have five days off I'm going to prioritise the people I love, like my biological family. We didn't even date for that long."
But if you are tempted to meet up with your ex for some fireside canoodling, be as sensible as possible about it. Rachael Lloyd from Eharmony recommends ensuring you're "both on the same page to avoid confusion or hurt". Relationships often end for valid reasons, like a lack of compatibility or common values, so be rational and don't let the mulled wine get to your head.
"If this sounds familiar, rather than revisiting a relationship where the same issues could arise all over again, we would suggest spending time with family and friends and enjoying a well-earned break. Going backwards only decreases the odds of finding a new, long-lasting relationship.” We'll raise a glass of eggnog to that.
*Names have been changed
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