5 Reasons Why You Might Feel Shit About Your Relationship Status This Christmas

Relationships are a bit like exercise - if you’re not getting out of breath and if it isn’t a little painful, is it really that good a workout?

Reasons You're Probably Doing It Right If You Feel Shit About Your Relationship Status This Christmas

by Felicity Morse |
Published on

It doesn’t matter how much therapy I have or how much personal development I do, as soon as I walk through my parents’ front door, I’m eight-years-old again and feel like Kevin McAllister from Home Alone.

The thing is, I am young when it comes to learning how to be with people without performing in some way. Christmas is this extended holiday period where the focus is almost entirely on socialising. Which is great, except none of us are ever taught how to really relate to one another or say what we’re really feeling.

Most of the time I can dodge this inconvenient truth, but Christmas, with the high-pressure scramble at work, multiple attendance-mandatory events, huge amounts of food and alcohol, sees me spiral. And that’s before we’ve talked about being thrown together indoors for a week with loved ones and, along with them, decades-unresolved issues.

On top of this, there’s this hideous pressure to make all your relationships warm and fuzzy. I often think of Christmas as this a mass hypnosis event where we forget every lived experience of human relationships as messy, tumultuous and sometimes beautiful and instead drink the festive kool aid. No wonder we end up feeling like the relationships we have aren’t what they should be - that if you’re single, you’ve somehow failed. When even crisps and cleaning products become ‘mulled’ and glittery who wouldn’t be an isolation loving grinch?

1. You might feel crap about your relationships because we are force-fed a ludicrously romanticised version of life around Christmas.

At any other time of year, most of us are sensible enough to realise that romantic myths about relationships aren’t grounded in reality.

At Christmas however, it’s bloody easy to forget this. The romanticisation of human relationships becomes an entire industry, hijacking our work, home and love lives.

From November, we are hawked this fantasy that human connection is solely a source of pure warmth, fireside cuddles, unconditional love, generosity, magic and sparkly celebration. This is apparently available effortlessly to the ‘right’ people. This is also bullshit. Remember that.

2. You might feel shit about your relationships because we are not taught how to relate, and we have to muddle through and learn from experience

When I was growing up an awful lot of emphasis was placed on academia and finding a career. I didn’t realise learning to relate was even a thing I would need to consider.

I subconsciously absorbed all sorts of unhelpful bits and pieces about relationships. I believed that irritating people was always bad and having people like you was a sign of relationship success. So I did all I could to avoid the former and strived relentlessly to have as many people like me as possible.

Unfortunately, there is no way to live this, have close relationships and still be happy. It involves withholding the truth, abandoning your own needs and feeling obligated to please. Take that road and it ends in either isolation or resentment. I promise you on that one.

At Christmas, we quite often break from work and realise just how little we know in this area. Don’t beat yourself up about getting it wrong. This, albeit enforced, time together, is a great chance to focus on how you relate for a change. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and get a little messy with those you love. We learn by experience. If you do say or do the wrong thing and make a mess, just see it as an opportunity to get really good at cleaning things up. Having someone love you even when you’re messy also lets people show you how much they care for you.

3. You might feel rubbish about your relationships at Christmas because sometimes, well, relationships are meant to be a bit shit

Christmas has a tendency to propagate the myth that a good relationship is about being comfortable, ‘clicking’ with someone and never fighting. And if that isn’t effortlessly happening right now, there’s something fundamentally wrong with your life, or you, or whoever you are relating to. Yet in my experience, the most worthwhile relationships I’ve had have involved me being positively confronted in some way. I’m talking good challenged, rather than feeling drained and disconnected.

This good challenge has usually shown me something about myself and my own behaviour. It has taught me how to ask for what I want or express my feelings - because holding back has me feel resentful. It has challenged me to be with someone’s anxiety and be supportive without making it all my fault. It has shown me the places where I’m not considering the impact of my behaviour because I feel like I don’t matter. Sometimes I think of relationships a bit like exercise - if you’re not getting out of breath and if it isn’t a little painful, is it really that good a workout?

4. You might be feeling shit about not having a relationship instead of looking at the things you want to change about your life.

In the midst of this rampant idealisation of relationships, being single at Christmas can feel like you’ve failed as a human. As the couples around you ramp up their fireside performance of romance, even the most independent woman can go full Jane Austen, hoping for someone to rescue her from her tyrannical family and the perceived emptiness of uncoupled existence.

‘Feminism has failed me!’ I once wailed to a friend down the phone, with all the drama of Christ on the cross. Yup, there I was at Christmas, all alone, with only my university education, independent income, good job, and the freedom to date and have sex with whoever I wanted to keep me warm. Frankly I didn’t need to dump the responsibility for my happiness and fulfilment into something or someone else. It reminds me of that bit in the Sound of Music where Maria runs back to the Abbey to save her after it all goes a bit tits up with Captain Vonn Trapp and the Mother Abbess tells her “Maria, these walls were not meant to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.”

A boyfriend or girlfriend is not your abbey.

5. You might feel shit about your relationships at Christmas because you're secretly pulling a Kevin McAllister

There’s a reason Home Alone is such a Christmas hit with adults. I too go home and tantrum at the adult activities, the socialising, the helping around the house and wish for nothing more than a moment’s peace from whatever volley of well-meaning questions (How’s your job? Still no boyfriend?) is the current flavour du jour. No wonder Kevin wished his family would disappear.

The thing is, alone in my childhood bedroom, I really start to feel under siege. It’s not burglars I have to fight though but all the places I feel insecure about my life - the choices I’ve made, the times I fear I’ve let my family or friends down. Hell, Kevin had it easy battling Harry and Marv; my fears seem to wage a far more ferocious attack.

In the past, I haven’t recognised I’m actually being held hostage by my own fears; I’ve felt under home invasion by an elderly uncle or a neighbour from church, even though their burgling toolbox is as laughable as the conmen in Home Alone - they just had the gall to kindly show an interest in my life.

I’m mostly just unwilling to confront the places I'm uncomfortable or feel a little vulnerable, in case I see something something I don’t like. But that's the only way I can see them for what they really are -and a lot of the time it's not things that threaten my safety - they are just fears and probably won't happen.

It’s like in Home Alone, Kevin is afraid of the ‘creepy’ guy next door ‘Old Man Marley’, who he doesn’t realise is harmless until he meets him in church.

It’s got much better since I resolved to make friends with the fears that were just in my head and took action to see the rest of them off. And like Kevin, I was able to do both, on my own, despite feeling like a frightened little child.

Felicity Morse is a sex and relationships writer and life coach and can be contacted on felicityannmorse@gmail.com

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Follow Felicity on Twitter @FelicityMorse

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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