DO use this time of year to go on more interesting dates. “Christmas means there’s plenty of novel activities on offer,” says Michelle Elman, an accredited life coach and boundaries expert. “Try an ice skating date, a stroll through the Christmas markets, or even brave the crowds at a Winter Wonderland. It will give you things to comment on and chat about when there are the expected first date silences.”
DON’T take your date to the office Christmas party. Even if you are desperate to be together or to show your new partner off, relationship expert Kate Daly advises against taking them to the work do.
“Nothing is more depressing and boring for your date than making small talk with your work colleagues,” adds Daly, who also co-founded Amicable. “A work setting is a closed group and hard for even long-established partners to break into. You also run the risk of leaving your date pinned against a wall by Julie from accounts as you embarrass yourself with Mo from marketing duetting ‘Promiscuous Girl’. It’s not likely to show you in your best light, and is unlikely to lead to your date wanting more.”
Do ditch dating apps and say yes to invitations. “If you’re single, holiday parties are a great way to meet new people so ditch the dating apps, throw on your best outfit, and have fun,” says Limor Gottlieb, founder of coaching website Love Evolved. “If you’re in a new relationship, you can see your new partner in a social context and figure out whether you’re truly compatible. And if you’re with a long-term partner, going to parties can provide an opportunity to dress up and see your partner in a new light.”
DO talk about gift expectations. “If you are in the early stages of dating, it can be awkward if one person gets a present and the other thinks you are too early for that stage, so feel free to bring it up by pre-warning the other of your expectations. It can be something as simple as, ‘I saw something I knew you’d like so I’ve got it for you for Christmas’,” advises Elman.
Plus, splurging on an overly expensive gift can look showy.
DON’T settle to avoid being alone at Christmas. “Being single at Christmas can be a difficult time,” explains Elman. “You’re often surrounded by couples and people may nag you about your love life at obligatory family events. If you’re feeling lonely, it can be tempting to call up an ex or someone you dated briefly for some company, but being alone is better than a bad relationship – or someone who isn’t worth your time.
“Instead try to find ways to enjoy being single and do things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. Perhaps you can go on a trip you’ve always wanted to book, buy a gift for yourself, or treat yourself to a spa day.”
DO take a break if you need to. “This time of year is already overscheduled and trying to wrap up work before the end of the year can be stressful,” adds Elman. “If you have to remove one thing off your plate and you choose dating, then do so guilt free. Dating apps will still be here in January, and you can go into it with a fresh head.”
DON’T bring new dates to family events too early. Introducing new partners to family is a big error, according to Gottlieb.
“You may be excited about your date and impatient to introduce them to your family, but introducing a date to family early on in the relationship can put a lot of pressure on your partner and yourself, and can disrupt the natural pace of a relationship,” she adds. “Family events at Christmas can be tense enough, so don’t ruin a good thing before it’s even started. Make sure your relationship is solid and your partner has the same vision for a shared future together before you invite them take part in family holiday dinner.”
Do enjoy the festivities. If a date doesn’t go well, try not to let it impact your Christmas spirit. “The holiday season is a great opportunity to connect with loved ones,” says Gottlieb. “Whether you’re single or in a relationship, make a point of being present and putting your dating worries to one side. Family are more important, as is enjoying yourself this time of year.”
DON’T answer invasive questions about your love life if you don’t want to. “It’s the time of the year for that question we all hate – ‘why are you still single?’” says Elman. “But you don’t have to answer the question. Feel free to say, ‘I don’t want to talk about my love life’ or admit you’re perfectly content with your life as it is, then change the conversation. Your love life, your business.”
DO set goals. “Take some downtime over the holidays to reflect on the past year and create new goals for 2023,” adds Gottlieb. “This way you can get a clear idea on what you would like in a partner, and say goodbye to those who aren’t compatible or are wasting your time. If you’re in a relationship, you can deepen your intimacy by talking about your shared goals and vision for the future. It’s a great time to reconnect with our partners and ourselves.”
‘Our first date was six days long over Christmas with my family’
While experts advise against taking dates to family events too early, Jemma Mead from Plymouth proves she’s the exception to the rule.
“My husband and I met 12 years ago over Tumblr,” says Jemma.
“For our first date he travelled from Plymouth to Liverpool to see me the week before Christmas, and we planned on him staying in a hotel for three nights so we could spend the days together. But then it snowed! His coach home was cancelled, and as he was a student, he couldn’t afford an extra night in the hotel, so he stayed with my family for three days. We thought it might be a disaster – it was so close to Christmas and all of my family were there, but he went down a storm. It was a baptism of fire, but it made me realise he was a keeper and now we’re married.”
‘My date turned up with my Christmas present – and I didn’t have one for him!’
Rosie Gizauskas, 35, from London, hit a snag when her date bought her a gift and she didn’t have one in return.
“Ben and I had been dating for a month or so when we went for a Christmas date at a wine bar,” recalls Rosie.
“There had been a spark between us at first, but the more I dated him the less sure I was. I wanted to give it a bit more of a chance before I made any decisions, but sitting over a mulled wine only confirmed to me that my feelings for him had faded into nothingness. When he went to the toilet, I debated how I would break it to him. However, the plan went out the window when Ben came back and pulled out my Christmas present.
“I felt like the worst person in the world as I unwrapped a pair of stunning silver earrings. I didn’t break up with Ben that evening, but I’m fairly sure he realised things were fizzling out when I didn’t give him a present in return and we went our separate ways the very next day.”