I’m single. Never married. As such, I’m a self-proclaimed expert at being a single woman — though no one’s ever given me any awards for this.
Christmas is around the corner, and as any of us singleness ninjas will tell you, knowing how to navigate the Christmas season as a single is a must. By “Christmas season,” I really mean Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day — because if you’re single, these three holidays combined are a trifecta of potential holiday horribleness.
Admittedly, there’s a bit to overcome. Every store shelf, selfie, and social media post seems to not-so-subtly say: Lisa, Christmas is for happy couples and families in matching pajamas — not for you. You don’t have a husband. You don’t have kids. You don’t have anyone to match PJs with. Um, you don’t even have cute Christmas PJs. But it doesn’t matter because you’ll just sit at home alone, eating takeout and watching Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas. So don’t bother.
OK, a simple ad or Insta post can’t say all that, but sometimes it sure feels like it.
It’s easy for a single girl to feel left behind at Christmas. Mass marketing aside, it hurts to be reminded that I don’t have a plus-one for holiday parties. No one’s buying me a ring or planning a killer marriage proposal on a snowy hillside. I’m no one’s gift-buying priority; in fact, I’m no one’s priority at all. And when Christmas is over, I’ll be staring down a new year with just as few relationship prospects as the one before.
If you’re feeling everything I’m saying, hang on. Because here’s the truth: Christmas doesn’t define you. Your social calendar doesn’t define you. Your relationship status doesn’t define you. God defines you.
That’s a whole other post. But in the meantime, with a little preparation, prayer, and perspective, you can ditch the pity party and tub of peppermint stick ice cream (well, maybe keep the ice cream) and rock the holidays like the confident, carefree girl God made you to be. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Chart your game plan. Christmas is easier to handle when you tell it who’s boss. Don’t let it hit you like the flu; instead, decide now what you want your holiday to look like. Will you visit family? Host others in your home? Are you going to attend that work party, small group party, neighborhood open house?
Take out a calendar and map out the next few weeks. Don’t overcommit and run yourself ragged, but don’t shrink back, either. Decide who and what is important to you, and let the rest go. Balance fun stuff with restful stuff, party plans with times for renewal and reflection. If it’s critical that you’re not alone on Christmas, make sure you aren’t. Even if you can’t get to family this year, find a friend and share the day together. Make new memories. Maybe even be a friend to someone who needs one. I’m looking forward to spending time with my 96-year-old neighbor who is grieving the recent loss of her only brother. He was her hero, and she especially needs a friend right now.
Prepare your conversation comebacks. You know it’s gonna happen. You’re at the office party and your irritating coworker asks in front of everyone: “Hey, where’s your date?” Or you’re with extended family, your cousin is showing off her new engagement ring, and your in-everyone’s-business aunt looks at you and pipes in with: “Aww, when will it be your turn?” Awkward questions are inevitable, but awkward responses aren’t. Be ready. Your strategy can be to use humor, change the subject, address the question head-on, walk away, or a combination of the above. Once, when asked why I didn’t have a boyfriend, I quipped: “Oh, I do, I just haven’t met him yet.” Another time, a married friend asked, “How’s your love life?” I felt like responding with, “Not great. How’s yours?” (Don’t worry; I didn’t.)
Realize that some people are just awkward, clueless, or self-absorbed. Most mean well. Smile and move on. Change the subject. Get another cup of eggnog. You’ll be OK. If a question-asker genuinely cares about you and your future, ask them to pray for you. Prayer is something we all, married or single, need in any season. Give as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable sharing and thank them for their kindness.
Put your singleness in perspective. I’m not sure when we started believing that singleness is a second-class status. It’s not — at least if Jesus and Paul (two world-class single dudes) had anything to say about it. Being single is hard, but so is being married. When you get married, you’ll trade some hard things for some new hard things. You’ll also trade great things for new great things.
Why are you single? Is it because you have a horrible personality? Give off a desperate vibe? Own 12 cats? Are in a 500-mile radius of only three single men? Maybe. But it could also be because God has decided it’s just not your time. He may be saving you from something terrible and saving you for something amazing. He’s not limited in his resources. He’s not withholding a husband from you in order to give one to someone else. When God wants you married, he’ll get you married. In the meantime, lean into him, love and serve others, and be willing to grow. Admit your desire to be married. Be open to dates with quality guys, even the ones that aren’t your “type.” And if you still can’t seem to get out of the comparison trap, get off social media for the holidays (hey, there’s a gift you can give yourself).
Plan something fun in the new year. A great way to get through a hard season is to have something to look forward to. What’s something you can put on that list? In January, a friend and I are going on a cruise. We’ve had it planned for six months. It’s our way to ditch winter and say, “Hello, 2022! What do you have for us?” You don’t have to plan something big. Do a weekend getaway or even a day-long personal retreat. Put dinner with a friend on the calendar. Book a mani-pedi. Host a game night with your favorite people. Anticipation is sometimes even better than the event itself. Let yourself look ahead at good things to come.
Celebrate Jesus. It’s his birthday, after all. Why are we making it about us? We’ve hijacked it for our own selfish purposes — and doing that always leaves us disappointed. The cool thing is, even though everything in creation is about God and his glory, God still gives us a gift in the midst of it all. He gives us the exact thing we need to save us from our sin and even our very selves — God gives us his Son. Jesus’ death on the cross plus his perfect record in life is a two-part gift that sets us right with God, gives us eternal life with him, and secures us a place in his forever family. God really is the best gift-giver.
I’m not going to give you some lame kind of “Jesus is your boyfriend” pseudo-encouragement. No diamond rings from Jesus this year. No snowball fights followed by hot chocolate. But you’d better believe Jesus wants to spend time with you. You too, married ladies. Because even if your husband is the bees’ knees, he can’t fix your heart. He can’t fill the empty places. He can’t redeem your past. He can’t take away your fears. For that, you need Jesus. Our universal need of a Savior levels the playing field, married or single. Start with the book of John and remind yourself who Jesus is. (Add Luke 2 if you need to keep it really Christmas-y.) Then read Romans 1-8 for a practical picture of what Jesus accomplished on your behalf and who you are now as a result. It’s big stuff. Take your time. You may cry. Finish with singing my favorite Christmas carol: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing!” If you sing all three verses, it’s a tidy but glorious telling of the gospel. I’ll leave you with verse three:
Hail! the heav’n born Prince of Peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
Merry Christmas, everyone. But a special shout to the single girls.
Lisa Anderson is the director of young adults at Focus on the Family where she manages Boundless and hosts “The Boundless Show,” a popular weekly podcast and radio show. She’s the author of The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage With Purpose.