Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
Dear Stacy: I am a 20-something woman living in D.C. with a great job, good friends and a nice place to live. I really love my life and wouldn’t change a thing about it. But as this month has approached, I have realized that I am really anxious about the holidays because I do not have anyone to bring as a date on New Year’s Eve. I made a resolution last year that I would be with a long-term boyfriend and that did not happen in 2013. Every time I think about the holidays, I see myself getting sad and worried and I know it’s all because of that idea of seeing myself at the party without a boyfriend. I know this sounds stupid, but it’s what is really happening and I don’t know what to do to make it better. – Alone for the Holiday
Dear Holiday, Ah, the dreaded New Year’s Resolution Regret. We’ve all been there, but many of us forget about last January’s failure, particularly as the next New Year approaches and we are suddenly convinced that this time will be different! I’m really sorry you are feeling this way and that our culture has conspired to create an event that seems to celebrate only the coupled, while also providing a handy shame-distribution exercise (aka the New Year’s resolution). The good news is that you already know that you have many positive things in your life. Rather than let our anxiety about what’s not happening ruin our holidays, we need to help our brains focus on the good and take gentle care of ourselves. The latter point is the most important – which leads me to my most specific, directive piece of advice: Don’t go to the party.
The excellent, thoughtful brain that has allowed you to accept all the wonderful assets you named (job/friends/housing), that brain is telling you, well in advance, that it’s a bad idea to attend a New Year’s party where you know you will feel bad about yourself. So don’t go. That very important reason you just thought of? The one that makes it impossible for you not to go to the party? It’s not real. You don’t have to go. Seriously.
This doesn’t mean you have to pretend it’s just a regular Tuesday and head to bed early. Just please find a different way of celebrating. It sounds like an invitation to a party has made you dread the holidays and left your self-esteem in shambles. That’s a lot of power you are giving up. Take it back. You can do this by choosing to travel on Dec. 31, or gathering your single friends together for a wine tasting, or visiting a nursing home that night – the possibilities are endless. But the concept is the same. Focusing on what you don’t have will not make you feel better. Taking good care of yourself (your heart/mind/spirit) is the best thing you can do to launch a new year in your incredible life.
Stacy Notaras Murphy www.stacymurphyLPC.com is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.