There are certain things I expect around the holidays. I expect to stress over how to afford all the gifts I want to buy while also paying my electric bill. I expect to drink too much wine on Thanksgiving and pass out before the post-dinner turkey sandwiches. And I expect to scroll through Instagram between now and New Year's and see about five million engagement announcements. It's engagement season, and rings are being handed out like it's Oprah's "Favorite Things" episode.
Meanwhile, I'm still single. Every time I see a new sparkler on yet another finger, it serves as a reminder that I am plodding through the holiday season solo. And while I am, for the most part, happy with that status, the onslaught of engagement selfies can, let's say, weaken my resolve.
So how are we, the very consciously uncoupled, meant to cope when everyone is hitting the milestones we'd like to be hitting? "If you're single, and you really want to be in a relationship, and it's just not happening, sometimes you're going to feel really bummed out — especially if you see all these people getting engaged," says Rachel Sussman, a relationship counselor and expert in NYC. "And it's okay to give yourself permission to feel bad." The important thing, though, is to limit the pity party to a specific time frame.
"Wallowing too much can really pull you down," she says. "This could make a situation worse, because it could hold you back from situations and experiences that will make you feel better — or could put you in a position to meet someone." It's not news that jealousy and self-pity have pretty much never made anything better. Being proactive can, though.
Which means it's time to reframe your thinking. "It's important to take stock of your life and see what you have," says Megan Stubbs, a certified sexologist. "Look at all of the amazing things you accomplished on your own in the past year — even the small things. Did you take up a positive new habit? Are you better about drinking water?" Celebrating the small accomplishments can help you realize how #blessed your life is sans partner. Sussman has a similar suggestion: Make a list of all you are grateful for, and reference it any time these things are hard to remember.
If lists are really your thing, it could be beneficial to make a list of the qualities you're looking for in a future partner, too — if that's something you want to prioritize in the new year. "It helps you to be mindful about who is around you, and may open your eyes to people who have been around you that you haven't considered," Stubbs says. And remember — just because other people are reaching certain milestones now doesn't mean you never will. "Life is a journey, and people's journeys are totally different from one another," Stubbs says. "Comparing your life to someone else's isn't proactive."
Most importantly? Stay hopeful. "If a relationship is something you really want in the future, you have to be hopeful that it's going to happen one day," Sussman says. So I've decided to add an expectation to my list this year: I expect to feel grateful for the year I've had and hopeful that love (and marriage) will enter my life when the time is right. And in the meantime, I'm issuing a blanket congrats to everyone. Even if you just made it to work today, you deserve it.