The season of jollity and goodwill, a house full of friends and family and merriment. Great, if that’s what you want. But maybe you’d prefer to be on your own – eating whatever you fancy, watching TV or not, doing whatever you wish – and having a lovely time, in your own time. I don’t see anything sad or wrong in that. Of course, you may not want to be alone, yet find that you are – and that’s quite a different matter.
Assuming that you do want your own quiet Christmas though, how easy is it to say so? I reckon that many people just want a simple, quiet time on ‘The Day’, but they’re prevented from doing so because well-meaning friends or family members can’t bear the thought of them being on their own.
Inviting you to share in another’s Christmas festivities is a kind, generous act. You could say “Yes please!” and that would be fine. But what happens if you say “No thanks”? It’s great if the other person accepts this graciously, with no hard feelings, and no strings attached, and more to the point – believes that you mean what you say.
But so often, even those who are closest to you, don’t believe you. They keep trying – kindly coaxing and cajoling you, till you feel worn down by their insistence and agree to do what they ask. And I wonder, who really benefits here? They do, because they feel better, with no feelings of guilt that you are On Your Own. They’ve done the ‘right thing.’ It’s Christmas, and they want you to have a good time. So you all get together and everyone’s loving the fun – except you, because you wanted to be by yourself.
Deciding to spend Christmas alone
I coached a woman whose husband had been depressed for some time. She had been under intense emotional strain for months, as a result of his depressed behaviour. He was argumentative and angry, but also very negative and sad. One day, he had a massive heart attack and died. After his death, the emotional strain that she’d experienced for so long lifted, and though she grieved, she enjoyed her own company. Her daughter understood this, and respected her mother’s decision to spend Christmas alone. But her son and his wife insisted that she spend the day with them, and even stay the night. My client was mortified. She worried that they’d be offended if she didn’t go, worried that she mightn’t be able to cope, worried about what to wear, what to contribute – worried about everything. In the end she succumbed, and spent her Christmas pretending to have a lovely time – and longing to go home.
The next year was totally different. She had a wonderful Christmas, quiet and reflective, which is just what she wanted, although the external emotional pressures were the same:
“Oh you must come to us! You can’t be on your own. The children will miss you…”
But that year, she had prepared her responses and rehearsed them. Armed with several politely assertive phrases she was able to fend off all requests with panache. Everyone was satisfied, and no-one felt hurt, rebuffed or disrespected. Most important of all, she got exactly what she wanted – a lovely Christmas all by herself.
If you want to spend Christmas on your own – go for it. Stick to your guns, but prepare your answers to kindly meaning requests well. Practice and rehearse these, so that you can trot them out easily when needed. I often go through phrases with clients on the telephone as a sort of role play, or skills practice. It’s amazing the difference this can make! http://www.mypartnerisdepressed.com/one-to-one-support
Taking the time now will give you the best chance of having the Christmas that you really want.
And if you are the friend or relative who offers the invite – thank you. It’s so good to know that you care enough to do so. But just be aware that if your offer is declined, that person might really mean it. They may honestly want to be on their own this Christmas.
Photo credit: Simon Howden