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.

Using sex as a form of self-medication to cope with or avoid feelings of loneliness and depression. This act of foolery is frequently romanticized in songs such as the R&B hit “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith. It’s no secret that the holidays can be a source of emotional pain and longing for many people, especially for women who are far more likely to be seen by others as flawed, less attractive or unwanted as singles. Ladies, if you fit this description (even if you are the only one who knows it), penis-led predators (men who are driven to indulge their sexual urges without regard to standards of honor, esteem and respect for themselves or their intended prey) are looking for you. Especially during the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, through Valentine’s Day) and also at weddings and engagement parties, penis-led men pick-up the scent of sexual desperation and emotional neediness the way sharks track blood in the water.

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, in a futile effort to deal with the root problem, a lack of self-love. 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, criminal, self-destructive or unhealthy 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.

Accepting and/or exposing yourself to abuse, disrespect, neglect and other forms of mistreatment out of misplaced “holiday spirit” or “goodwill toward men” (and women). Normally, you consistently set and enforce standards and boundaries for your treatment in relationships. But too often, we allow the holiday season to make us fuquitable—vulnerable to manipulation and tolerant of disrespect and deception—as an act of holiday 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. We allow exes to circle back, allowing them back into our pants, our beds, our wallets, and our hearts. Mothers are particularly vulnerable, as they often allow the fathers of their children to use the holidays as a premise for reconciliation, sex, money or other benefits that would never be granted otherwise.

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.
  • It’s okay to believe in Christmas miracles. Just know that turning an unhealthy relationship into a healthy one is not among them.
  • 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.

The bottom line: Don’t be so eager for the possibility of love during the holiday season that you cast aside common sense and due process to have a relationship. The holidays are a horrible reason to commit to, stay in or resume unhealthy relationships. If you are not a healthy, happy, whole person without a relationship, the last thing you need is a relationship. No holiday tradition calls for you to trade your brains for a box of rocks. Love—and live—in the Grown Zone.


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