The holidays are here, beginning with Thanksgiving and extending past New Year’s Day with Kwanzaa and other cultural traditions of the season. This is obviously cause for celebration, and with good reason: parties, family, gifts, food and children—what’s not to like?
However, too often, the holidays serve as occasions for unhealthy relationship choices. The result: disrespect, stress, drama, and even deadly intimate partner violence. Here are three choices in particular that you need to fortify yourself against and avoid:
Getting into or staying in a relationship to avoid being single during the holidays
How many relationships are motivated by a desperate need to be coupled up with somebody at the big family Thanksgiving gathering? Then there are those who postpone breaking-off unhealthy relationships—even those with domestic violence—in order to “be nice” or avoid “causing trouble” during the holidays.
Such acts are the result of messages from your parents, your friends, your church, popular culture, or echoing in your own head, that say you are “less than” as a single person and “more than” as part of a couple. You know the annoying—and frankly, stupid—questions: You haven’t found anyone? You’re still not married?
Here’s the problem: Feeling compelled to have a relationship to impress family and friends, or to feel valued and lovable, is a classic sign of an unhealthy lack of self-love. You are using another person to establish false self-esteem and to fill a self-love void—one that no one but you can fill. This is not healthy for you, and it’s not fair to the person who is being used by you—and it’s even less healthy for you if they are using you, too.
Using sex to cope with or avoid feelings of loneliness and depression
It’s no secret that the holidays can be a source of emotional pain and longing for many people. You may say: If sex, even meaningless sex, makes you feel better and gets you through a depressing holiday season, what’s the problem? True, consensual sex is a popular, socially acceptable way to self-medicate, to distract from or numb you to the loneliness and depression that can feel intensified during the holiday season.
However, when the sexual encounter ends and the orgasms subside, the pain, loneliness and anxiety return—usually with the side-effect of self-loathing—requiring more and more “love” to cope. Without an intervention, that leads to an unhealthy dependency, whether on a particular person, or sex itself. And as we say in our book Loving In the Grown Zone, once a relationship or behavior becomes compulsive, obsessive or addictive, you’ll do anything, including engaging in immoral and/or self-destructive acts to maintain it—to get your fix by any means necessary. Using sex as a non-prescription drug to deal with holiday blues does not solve problems; it creates them.
Exposing yourself to mistreatment as a demonstration of “holiday spirit”
Too often, we allow the holiday season to make us vulnerable to manipulation and tolerant of disrespect—as an act of good cheer, or at least in an attempt not to destroy it. The result: We grant amnesty to our abusers, failing to enforce self-loving standards of treatment by others. For example, we allow exes to circle back, granting unmerited access to our homes, our beds, our wallets, and our hearts. Before you give in to such emotional blackmail, keep these Grown Zone principles in mind:
- Protecting your money, body, home and heart is your responsibility. The holiday spirit and goodwill toward men does not justify neglecting that responsibility.
- Repeatedly breaking up and making up does not mean you belong together. It’s graphic proof that the relationship is unhealthy. Resist attempts to convince you otherwise, especially during the holidays, when you may be more emotionally vulnerable.
- The holidays do not transform vipers into cuddly rabbits. Do not be fooled by saintly behavior during the holidays, especially in front of family or your kids, into believing that a person’s lifestyle, beliefs, habits and behaviors have changed.
Don’t be so eager for the possibility of love during the holiday season that you cast aside common sense and due process. The holidays are a horrible reason to commit to, stay in or resume unhealthy relationships. Claim the gratitude, joy and peace that are the true reasons for the season, regardless of your relationship status.
Contributors: Alfred Edmond, Jr. and Zara D. Green
Photo: Mary B Photography
Zara D. Green and Alfred Edmond Jr. are the Co-Creators of Grown Zone Relationship Education at GrownZone.com, and the co-authors of Loving In The Grown Zone: A Non-Nonsense Guide to Making Healthy Relationship Decisions in the Quest for Loving Romantic Relationships of Honor, Esteem and Respect (Balboa Press). Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.