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A Real-Life Guide To Dating During The Holidays, ‘Cause This Isn’t A Hallmark Movie


It’s that time of year again when it seemingly sucks to be single. Just watch the latest Hallmark Christmas movie — or any holiday movie really — which does all but push us to retreat to a small mountain town and abandon any sense of independence for a shot at cozying up by the fire or engaging in a playful snowball fight with the handsome Christmas tree farmer so we can feel less alone.

Not surprisingly, there are reasons why dating trends such as cuffing, winter coating, and snow globing (yes, these are actual terms) are popular during the holiday season. Single people want to connect! We want to have fun! We want to feel wanted! We want to drink hot cocoa with someone who makes us feel warm and tingly inside!

“It’s the season of heightened emotions,” Laurel House, an eHarmony relationship expert, tells Scary Mommy. “If you’re single or in a not-so-great relationship, those emotions can include loneliness, insecurity, stress, overwhelm, and pressure. Piggyback those feelings onto the ‘happy’ coupled faces of ‘fun’ holiday activities all over social media… and it’s easy to feel triggered with the need to compete to ‘be happy too.'”

Still, House says it’s great to holi-date, as long as you do so strategically, intentionally, and with clarity. Here’s how to do that.

1. Don’t rush it.

“Rushing in is a common holiday dating mistake,” House says. “You so badly want the feeling of love and connection that you rush it with someone you don’t know well enough to move forward with.”

We’ve all been there. Our feelings (or hormones) get the best of us, and we’re pushing for a relationship that’s barely taken off. However, House says that acceleration can sabotage a budding romance from the pressure.

On the other hand, she points out that “you may be fully engaged in the relationship and all of the memory-making holiday festivities, that you forget that you don’t really know this person and realize that you moved forward too quickly with someone who actually isn’t a match for you.”

2. Do communicate what you are looking for.

Ice skating hand-in-hand, kissing underneath the mistletoe. It’s easy to get swept away with the romance of the season, but House warns to be careful not to overly romanticize the holiday couple activities and instead “remain clear on your partner’s needs, not in-the-moment wants.”

“It’s OK if you just want a fun-for-now dating partner, but don’t assume that your other half wants something casual and short-term too without having a clear conversation about it first,” she says.

On the opposite side, House says to be careful not to assume that just because you are looking at this as the beginning of a forever fairytale that they are ready for this holiday romance to be your first of many together, too.

“Have honest and open conversations about what your dating purposes and needs are to make sure that your expectations align from the beginning,” she explains.

3. Don’t fish for exes.

There’s a reason why you can expect that annual text from your ex during this time of year. According to House, the holidays are one of the most popular times of the year for exes (or you) to reach out over email, text, Facebook, or phone to see if you’re single and/or interested in getting together.

While it’s pretty easy to slip back into old patterns (and bad habits) House cautions to remember why you ended your relationship in the first place. “Then decide if your ex is a healthy choice to be in your life again and now,” she says.

“Just because someone is part of your past doesn’t mean they need to be part of your future.” That being said, she cites eHarmony’s Dating Diaries report that found that rekindled relationships are much more likely to have improved (43%) than worsened (20%). “So be open to the possibility that true and essential change was made and that now might finally be the right time to be together again.”

4. Do be aware someone might be cuffing you.

‘Tis the cuffing season! Cuffing, a dating term that’s been around for almost a decade, means hooking up or exclusively dating someone during the holidays and colder winter months to stave off loneliness. Even if you’ve had intentional conversations with your new love and stated what you need or are looking for, there’s always the chance that you’re being cuffed during this time.

Some common signs to look out for, according to House, are:

  • Weekend parties are pretty much booked out with them.
  • They love to take you to all of the fun holiday group festivities but then seem to forget to spend time with you during the majority of the party.
  • And if it’s not party time, they have no time for you. If it’s not a party, vacation, or event you are attending together, you’re out of sight and out of mind.
  • You are not in their day-to-day life–the errands, chores, relaxing, downs, and even workouts. You are not part of their real life. You are just part of their party life.
  • There always has to be a plan and activity to warrant spending time together.
  • It’s only their things that they seem to have time for. When it comes to holiday parties and activities with your family and friends, they are busy.
  • They forget to buy you a gift or say that gifts are overrated. Or they give you a thoughtless gift that they also bought for five others who were acquaintances or people they don’t know too well.
  • Whenever you bring up life after the holidays, they brush it off and don’t really want to talk about it right now. They might make you feel needy and obsessive for bringing something so serious up so early on in the dating relationship.

5. Do be clear about your expectations about how much time you want to spend together.

The holiday season is naturally busy. So, it makes sense to want to spend a lot of time with your new person, given the heightened emotions around this time of year. Sharing meaningful time together can further deepen the emotional ties that are being created, says House.

However, she warns that the key to refraining from burnout — and spending maybe too much time together — is to be clear and communicative from the beginning when it comes to what you are looking for and what you need.

“If your life and schedule are dramatically different during the holiday season, talk about that too,” House explains. “The first few dates establish the expectations for the rest of the relationship. If you are constantly going out to dinners and weekend parties and evening shopping… but during all other months of the year, you’re more of a homebody, let them know that. People who exhibit dramatic lifestyle shifts from the first month of dating to what comes next can be mistaken for someone who did a bait-n-switch, creating inaccurate expectations that can become confusing when the true you is finally introduced.”

House suggests that during your phone date before your first date, or on your first in-person date, talk about your dating expectations and the realities of your regular schedule and lifestyle, versus the life you will be engaged in over the next few weeks. “Talk about each other’s friends, family, and work activities. Discuss if bringing a date is appropriate or not, and chat about what your individual levels of comfort are with interacting with that close circle so early on.”

6. Don’t date if you don’t want to.

Here’s the thing: You don’t have to give into the Hallmark Christmas narrative if you don’t want to. As House puts it, “You can also be single and awesome during the holidays! Don’t feel the need to date because you ‘think you should.’ It’s not only OK, but it can be great to go to these types of parties alone. For once, you aren’t burdened by taking care of someone else’s feelings. Secondly, you can freely have any conversations you want, and maybe you will even meet someone interesting.”

What’s truly important, says House, is that you allow yourself to enjoy the holiday cheer regardless of your relationship status.

“Know that even many people who appear to be happily coupled aren’t [always]. It’s an act,” she says. “And for those who are happy, let them be reminders for you that someone great is truly out there for you. Connect with traditions and other people. Giving of yourself by volunteering is one of the most gratifying ways to receive happiness. Start new holiday traditions for yourself. And one day, maybe someone lucky will get to share them with you.”



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