The holiday season is hyped up to be the “most wonderful time of the year” (thank you, carolers), but — call me a grinch if you must — I’d be more likely to classify it as the most stressful time of the year. As if the pressure to be merry and jolly isn’t already on full blast, the holidays conveniently fall smack in the middle of cuffing season. Needless to say, being single right now can seem like a struggle, but it’s actually one of the best times to start seeing someone new.
Whether your goal is to get eggnog drunk with new faces or fall into a situationship that will warm you up until it stops snowing (you know, like in April), now’s your chance to make it happen. Put on your ugly sweater and let us stuff your stocking with these expert holiday dating tips.
1. Set aside time to date with intention.
The end of the year is typically packed with events, travels, and responsibilities that cause our schedules to go haywire for a solid two months. That doesn’t mean you should place your dating life on the back burner, though. “It’s helpful to determine how much time you’d like to allocate to dating during the holidays before the season begins,” says therapist and clinical psychologist candidate Lauren Cook, MMFT. Rather than marking every Thursday as a date night, you may want to set aside an hour or two each day to browse potential matches and send and respond to messages. Maintain a mentality of flexibility, and try not to get frustrated when people are too busy to meet up ASAP, Cook adds. If you don’t optimize your time to meet new people, you — wait for it — won’t meet new people.
2. Don’t get ahead of yourself.
You probably won’t eat Thanksgiving dinner with someone you just started messaging, and that’s totally fine. According to breakup and dating coach Cherlyn Chong, you don’t have to feel pressured to meet someone’s family or friends just because it’s the holidays — or before you’re ready at any time of the year. “It’s okay to take things slow,” she says, also noting the importance of communicating the timeline you feel comfortable with. Confident about where you stand with a new partner? By all means, accept their party invitations (if you want to). Unsure about your relationship status? If you feel ready, consider initiating the DTR talk before agreeing to be the plus-one to their office holiday party.
3. Dress for the occasion.
When you look good, you feel good, and certain colors can play a role in how others perceive you. Whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or taking new photos for your Tinder profile, consider what image you are putting out there. “[The color] red has long been associated with power, passion, and desire,” says Chong. “Gold alludes charm, elegance, and confidence.” Still, it’s worth planning your outfits in advance to 1. reduce stress and 2. avoid a misguided attempt to look festive that ends in you resembling a recent escapee of Santa’s Workshop. Scott Valdez, founder of an online matchmaking company, recommends keeping a bag with a fresh change of clothes and grooming products in your car or at the office so you’re ready to roll when someone suggests meeting for happy hour. Schedules are tough around the holidays — seize the opportunity to connect IRL when it arises.
4. Update your profile.
The end of the year is a great opportunity for self-reflection…and refreshing your dating profiles. “[This] should be mandatory and will save your future dates from that awkward ‘oh yeah, I cut my hair and tweaked the color last summer’ explanation after you have to tap them on the shoulder to identify yourself,” says relationship advisor and connection coach Heather Dugan. Take a hard look at your bio and photos to decide what you need to rework or let go coming into the new year. “If you were initially looking for a hookup, you may have taken a more cavalier approach to writing your profile. If you’re ready for a long-term relationship, revamp your profile with that in mind,” says Valdez. He recommends asking yourself the following questions: Is everything in my profile showing me in the best light possible? Have I ever received actionable feedback on my profile from someone I trust? If you have doubts about how you present yourself online, seek out an honest opinion from an unbiased third party, like say, that cousin you only see once a year. They’re more likely than your BFF to tell you the hard truth.
5. Write the holiday narrative that works for you.
Shelling out hundreds of bucks on gifts and getting asked “are you seeing anyone?” by distant relatives approximately 846 times when you clearly didn’t bring a plus-one doesn’t exactly help to spark joy. Reconsidering your expectations can. “You might not be totally happy being single during the holidays, but you can still enjoy the spirit, celebrate, and have fun,” says David Strah, LMFT. Accepting things as they are and reminding yourself what you do have in your life (a recreational basketball team you love, a great apartment, etc.) can help lift your spirits before you make an action plan. Are you looking for something casual or do you want to meet someone to kiss when the ball drops next NYE? Keep hope that you’ll find whatever (or whoever) is on your list to grab dinner, party, or ring in the new year with.