Most adult-and-messy choices are a result of making decisions for a reason or a season that result in unintended lifetime consequences. This truth is even more evident during the holiday season, when we make exceptions for unhealthy relationship choices and poor treatment that we’d never tolerate during the rest of the year. The result: unhealthy, holiday foolery, the kind you need to fortify yourself against in order to enjoy the holidays without abandoning the healthy, self-loving decision-making agenda of honor, esteem and respect that are guidelines for living in the Grown Zone. Here are three acts of holiday foolery in particular that you need to fortify yourself against and avoid:

Getting into or staying in a relationship in order to avoid being single during the holidays. How many unhealthy relationships are motivated by a desperate need to be coupled up with somebody at the big family Thanksgiving gathering or as the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve? Probably just as many as the number that run their course by Valentine’s Day. (Ever notice how many couples break-up around this commercially driven, “romantic” holiday?) Then there are those who postpone breaking-off unhealthy relationships—even those with domestic violence—in order to “be nice” or avoid “causing trouble” or bringing everybody down during the holidays.

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Such acts of holiday foolery 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: Aren’t you married yet? Why haven’t you found someone? What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you get back with [your ex]?) Add to that movies, music and TV commercials that associate holidays (Christmas and New Year’s Day in particular) with finding and falling in love—including tear-jerking marriage proposals in front of entire families—and suddenly people with a permanent address in the friend zone (if that), or even attractive strangers, start looking like soul mate material. Even if you’re not that into each other, you find them acceptable as placeholders, especially after a few holiday toasts—anything to get your mother off your case, right?

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. If it’s not healthy, it’s not Grown, and it’s certainly not love—it’s foolery.

If you are in a genuine, healthy relationship of honor, esteem and respect, by all means, enjoy the holidays together with family. But if an unhealthy relationship is maintained or established as an act of manipulation or deception, nothing good can come of it.

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