By Susan Dunn, MA, Emotional Intelligence Coach
Did you know that more than 47% of US households are headed by unmarried individuals? The American Association for Single People projects this figure will continue to rise in the coming decade. Therefore, if you are single you are not alone. And . if you have single adults in your social circle, don't assume alone means "lonely."
As Thanksgiving approaches and we start making holiday plans, here are some things to keep in mind.
Perception: That it's terrible to be alone for the holidays.
Reality: This is mostly a projection of married people who fear the unknown or could not tolerate being alone before they were married. The reality is that single people who observe what goes on at holiday get-togethers between couples, 50% of whom are destined to be divorced at some point, think there are worse things than being single.
Perception: That single people are desperate to be invited over for Thanksgiving dinner.
Reality: Single people have myriad options and no one to consult. I can go on a cruise, stay home in my bathrobe and declare it a non-holiday, do meaningful volunteer work at the homeless shelter, invite friends over, or get a dinner reservation at a hotel. Or I can accept any one of the numerous invitations I get. Contrary to what you might think, we single people are popular at the holidays. Most of us have accomplished social skills and are welcome additions at holiday gatherings
Perception: Single people don't know what to do for holidays.
Reality: We're used to planning our social lives actively, good at generating options, used to making unilateral decisions, and accomplished "mixers." We're pros!
Perception: Anyone who's single is fair-game to perform certain social tasks during the holiday celebration.
Reality: We like to be cherished guests, just like everyone else. "Can you come for Thanksgiving dinner. I need some help with Aunt Edna?" is not an invitation. If your family doesn't get along and you're inviting the single person to "throw a steer in with the bulls," that's not nice either. It's your problem; solve it yourself.
Perception: Single people are available to do certain physical tasks.
Reality: This isn't an invitation either: "Can you come over early and help out in the kitchen. I've got my hands full." What about her husband? Her sisters? As best-friend, yes; as the only working-guest, absolutely not.
Perception: That the only "happy" way to spend the holidays is if you are a couple or part of a family.
Reality: If that were so, half the articles on the Internet this time of year wouldn't be about how to cope with family at the annual holiday get-togethers.
Perception: That single people are miserable during the holidays.
Reality: Yes, it can be difficult if it's their first Thanksgiving after a divorce or after a spouse has died, but the majority of single people are no more miserable than anyone else, and perhaps less so. Since being single (with grown children), I've had the same levels of pleasure, the same good and better holidays, but there's one thing for sure - I'm more rested, and that in itself goes a long way.
So if you're thinking about including a single person in your family gathering, make sure it's because you want them there, not to fulfill a function or because you think they'd be miserable if it weren't for your invitation. A guest is a guest, whether they're single or married, and good manners prevail.
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