Whether you’re heading back to your hometown like a Hallmark movie or just feeling lonely in general, the holidays are a prime time for that creeping feeling that you ought to text your ex and see what they’re up to. It’s easy enough to get lost in nostalgia about good holiday seasons past and wish you had that old partner to cuddle up with, but come on. It’s not a great idea. Here’s how to stop yourself from reaching out.
Be reasonable, and ignore some of the Christmas lyrics
The mind is a very tricky thing. As humans, we have a tendency to romanticize the good parts of the past and gloss over the bad parts. You know that old idea that women’s brains repress the pain of childbirth and highlight the euphoria of holding the newborn baby to make sure they keep having kids and, you know, populating the planet? Thinking about your ex can be like that. It’s comforting to remember the tender moments exchanging presents or visiting each other’s families, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t think about the fights or hurt feelings that happened in that period, too.
Two popular Christmas songs give us examples of the wrong and right ways to look at old relationships at this time of year. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is a mega hit that was first recorded by Darlene Love and later covered by Mariah Carey, U2, Cher, and more. Sadly, it’s our example of the wrong way to think of an old relationship around the holidays: “They’re singing ‘Deck the Halls,’ but it’s not like Christmas at all ‘cause I remember when you were here and all the fun we had last year.”
Thinking of “all the fun” of last year is not super helpful here. If the relationship had been fun and healthy all year ‘round, you wouldn’t be romanticizing a few weeks from last December, would you?
Let’s turn instead to a song that shows the right way to think about an ex over the holidays. That’s right, it’s “Last Christmas” by Wham! The song opens with, “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart but the very next day, you gave it away. This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special.”
See how much more realistic that is? Just because it’s the season of love and light doesn’t mean you need to forgive an old fling’s past transgressions. You have the right to hold onto them and keep the memory of what went wrong as a reminder that you deserve something better–even if you spend this holiday season alone and only get to be coupled-up next time around. (Spending this season solo isn’t all that bad. You’re saving money on presents. Spend it on yourself!)
Ask yourself some of these questions
Mariah Carey and George Michael are great, but their songs don’t hold all the answers here. It’s time to consult an expert.
Kate MacLean, dating expert with Plenty of Fish, suggested that to avoid hooking up with an ex over the holidays you should ask yourself a few questions. First, think about how many times you’ve already broken up with this person, then write down the reasons you broke up in the past.
“Having these reminders written out clearly can shift your POV,” she said. “If the initial break-up was the result of values and goals not aligning, it’s going to be very hard to make your relationship work again. Though people can change, foundational values and goals are often set in stone. These can continue to make or break the relationship, no matter how much time may have passed.”
So, sure, you can link up for a few weeks to go look at some light displays or ring in the new year, but the reality of your relationship is that it didn’t work before, and likely won’t work after the artificial tree is back in storage, either. Do you really want to go through another split with the same person? What a terrible way to kick off a new year.
Next, ask, “How long ago did we break up?” MacLean pointed out that “loneliness creeps in fast and people often fall back to texting an ex because it’s comforting, especially during high-pressure moments like the holidays or because of big life changes like the pandemic.”
A recent POF survey of 2,000 singles found that 55% said they’d consider getting back together with an ex post-pandemic. Ask yourself why, exactly, you’re considering this. If there’s upheaval in another part of your life and you’re looking for something reliable from the past, consider addressing your present issues instead of using another human being like a security blanket.
Stay busy with the important stuff
There is no shortage of stuff to do right now. You have end-of-year goals to meet at work, decorations to put up, gifts to exchange with friends, parties to attend, cards to write, distant relatives to call…the list goes on and on.
Focus on all the other things you have going on at the moment. Take some time to really dress up for your company party or elaborately wrap a present for a friend. Volunteer with an organisation that helps disadvantaged people this time of year or offer to help your parents with some annoying chores around the house. It feels good to be kind–and it feels good to stay strong and independent in the face of a little loneliness.
You can even stay busy by going on some new dates! Re-download the old slate of apps or be open to advances at a holiday party. Don’t let your wistfulness for a bygone era or your desire for a quick and reliable hookup stop you from meeting someone cool. Leave the past in the past. There’s a new year approaching.