Most of us tend to give our partners the benefit of the doubt as far as fidelity goes. But the truth is, signs of cheating do exist. In fact, according to a 2016 survey, one in four married and cohabiting young adults admitted to cheating, while only half confess.
The following indicators aren’t meant to be alarmist—almost all of them can have alternate explanations—but if your gut is really trying to tell you something, they could prove useful.
Your relationship started as an affair
For some people, there is some truth to the saying “once a cheater, always a cheater.” John, 44, says he should’ve seen it coming when he got into a relationship with a married woman. “We were good in bed together, but she enjoyed being good in bed with others, too, apparently.”
They regularly accuse youof cheating
Beyond being classic projection, this tactic serves two purposes, says Healing Infidelity Coach Caroline Madden, LMFT. It puts you on the defensive so you don’t have the chance to consider the opposite possibility, and it makes them look so anti-cheating that they couldn’t possibly do it to you. It could also be a genuine reaction to them realizing that since they got away with cheating, you probably could too.
They’re taking out a lot of cash
Cheaters often use cash when they take their secret partners out so that their S.O.’s can’t track where they’ve been, says Rhonda Milrad, founder and chief relationship advisor of Relationup. But if you share a financial account, what you can track is a spike in ATM withdrawals.
They’ve suddenly got new sex moves
Of course, it’s possible they’ve just been doing their research—in which case, great if you’re into it—but other signs of cheating combined with a very noticeable change in sex routine could mean they’re picking up those new techniques from someone else and discovering new things they like, says Milrad.
They’re suddenly hyper-critical of you
Cheaters will sometimes try to justify their actions by making their relationship out to be so bad that they had no choice, explains Madden. She typically sees this happen in situations where the cheater feels they’re in love with their cheating partner, since they have a sense that their affair is happier than their relationship.
Your typical relationship issues seem to disappear
Madden’s clients are often surprised to find their partners are cheating because they thought everything was going well around the time the infidelity started. But sometimes, the reason things are looking up is that the needs that weren’t met in the relationship are being met elsewhere.
They’re paying more attention to their looks
If your S.O. is once again hitting the gym, buying new underwear, or taking a newfound interest in shopping, they could be in an early stage with someone else, says Madden.
They forget what stories they’ve told you
If your partner frequently starts stories with, “Did I tell you this already?” it could mean they’re having trouble keeping track of multiple confidants, says psychologist Colleen Long, PsyD.
They’re confiding in you less
Becoming less inclined to discuss problems with you could be a sign that your partner’s been venting to someone else, says Long. Even if they’re not sleeping with anyone else, this could point toward emotional cheating.
They keep strict tabs on your schedule
Lauren, 33, says her ex started to ask when she was coming home from work more often when he was cheating. Now, she sees he was trying to figure out when he and his cheating partner would have the place to themselves.
They have random new interests
“My ex had been content to listen to about eight songs, total, during our entire time together,” Julie remembers. “A bunch of new CDs without any writing to identify their contents—and a sudden interest in a whole host of new music—was due to the influence of this new partner.” Attachment to a particular place can especially be a giveaway: Julie’s ex insisted on joining a gym because of a climbing wall when he didn’t even climb. It turned out his secret girlfriend was a member.
Cheating was accepted in their family
Looking back, John thinks his ex’s parents should’ve been a clue. “She came from a family where her mother and father both cheated on each other and she told me that,” he says. “But her parents were still married. So they set an example for their daughter to follow.”
They get irate when you try to confront them
Someone who hasn’t cheated will likely have a good explanation for their suspicious behavior and do what it takes for you to feel confident. A cheater, however, may get defensive because you’ve blown their cover, says Milrad. “It is very common for cheaters to deflect responsibility and get irritated by your questions. They often try and shut you down and even criticize you for being too controlling or suspicious.”
The end of the year is here, and you want to do something fun to celebrate, but none of your friends is available. What are you going to do?
Don’t start stressing just yet. Bringing in the new year on your own doesn’t have to be a depressing alternative. There are tons of things that you can do solo that will still leave a smile on your face.
The list below highlights just some of the options available to you if your friends can’t make it out with you. Figure out which one matches your personality and give it a try. You can even roll a few of the suggestions together to bring some variety to your night. Before you know it, the clock will be hitting midnight, and you won’t want to stop what you’re doing.
11 Ideas for Celebrating New Year’s Eve on Your Own
Go Out on the Town Anyway
Have a Movie/Television Series Marathon
Redecorate Your Living Space
Write Letters to Your Friends and Family
Set Goals for the Upcoming Year
Travel to a Special Destination
Play Your Favorite Video Games
Start Reading a Good Book
Work on an Arts and Crafts Project
Host a Hangout With Other Friends
Give Thanks and Go to Bed Early
1. Go Out on the Town Anyway
So you’re home alone on New Year’s Eve. Who says you can’t get dressed up and go out anyway? Bars, clubs, and other venues will still be packed with people ready to party the night away.
Sure, it’s always fun to have your closest friends around for nights like these, but the likelihood of running into someone you know is still pretty high. Even if you don’t, you may just start off the new year by meeting a new group of friends.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you head out:
Make sure you’ve arranged for a safe trip to and from the party. Free cabs and shuttle buses are usually readily available.
Have fun, but be cautious. Your friends are usually the people who watch out for you on nights like these. Make sure you are extra careful with strangers if you don’t have someone to watch your back.
Try sticking with familiar venues. This may increase the chance that you run into someone that you know during the night.
2. Have a Movie/Television Series Marathon
If you do decide to stay home, not much beats relaxing on the couch and watching television. New Year’s Eve can be the perfect time to catch up on television episodes you missed during the year or movies that you don’t mind watching over and over again.
As a matter of fact, between your personal DVD collection, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, it shouldn’t be difficult to create your own television marathon. You may get so involved watching a movie that you completely forget the ball dropped at midnight!
Before creating your own movie marathon, consider the following tips:
Come up with an entertaining theme.This can range from Star Wars night to a Lord of the Rings showcase. If you like horror movies, come up with a list of the scariest ones you haven’t seen yet. If TV shows are your thing, watch your favorite episodes from your favorite show (“The Walking Dead,” “The Wire,” etc.).
Come up with creative snack foods to eat during the marathon and in between shows. If you don’t feel like cooking, call ahead to your favorite restaurant and see if they offer any sort of party platter.
3. Redecorate Your Living Space
Have you been meaning to reorganize your house for the whole year? Maybe it just looks like a war zone inside. No matter the reason, New Year’s Eve presents the perfect time to get your home looking beautiful again.
Your renovation project can be as large or small as you want it to be. It can be as simple as sorting/recycling a stash of old magazines or hanging new photos throughout the house. You can even use the time to trim down on some of the old clothes hanging inside your closet. The list of DIY activities available to you is endless!
Should you choose to put your home first, here are a few ideas that may help you:
Focus on a specific room or area within your house. Trying to take on your whole living area at one time can be intimidating, and it may end up leaving you feeling defeated at the end of the night.
If your projects involve moving furniture, make sure you use furniture sliders. You can even make your own by cutting small squares made out of cardboard. Just slide them under the corners of your furniture, and you can move them around without needing another person’s help.
4. Write Letters to Your Friends and Family
The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect on what you have done and share your accomplishments with your friends. Rather than meeting up with them for drinks or sitting in front of Facebook all night, try breaking out a pen and paper and writing them an actual letter.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ideas:
Use the time to come up with an annual update. Let your friends know about everything that happened every month throughout the year and what you plan to do in the upcoming year as well. If you have a chance, include some photos of yourself that your friends can put up in their homes.
If a handwritten update seems daunting, send a short email instead.Everyone loves getting real snail mail that isn’t related to bills, but if you can’t handle writing your update, then at least take a few moments to email your closest friends and family. It can keep open the lines of communication and possibly help you start planning for next year’s New Year’s Eve activities!
5. Set Goals for the Upcoming Year
New Year’s is the time of making resolutions. While some people hate the thought of making them, others see the beginning of the year as the perfect time to start working on a new goal.
One of the things that people remember the most about resolutions is how often they fail. Many times, this is due to a lack of good planning. Why not use New Year’s Eve as a time to set up your goals and make plans to accomplish them?
A few things to remember about making goals for the new year:
Be realistic. It’s OK to think big, but think of all the little goals that lead up to the big one. Not only will you be more likely to accomplish the small goals, but you’ll also be motivated by your success.
Consider your support system. Don’t just focus on your goals. Think about the people that are going to help you get there. Everyone has days that they don’t feel motivated. Often, these lead to people giving up on their resolutions completely. Figure out who your personal cheerleaders are so they can give you that extra boost of energy on those days.
6. Travel to a Special Destination
Have you been waiting all year to take a vacation? Has Vegas been on your mind for a while? Disney World, maybe? Possibly even the Caribbean? Instead of waiting for friends or family, just go for it!
Pros: It may actually be easier on you financially to just pack up and go by yourself. Rather than having to book multiple airline tickets and larger hotel rooms, you can just set out on your own personal adventure.
Cons: The most difficult part about this option is waiting too late to schedule your trip. Most people don’t plan on being alone in advance. Luckily, there are a ton of travel sites out there, and even the major airlines offer package deals that may still be available at the last minute.
7. Play Your Favorite Video Games
Let’s face it: Playing video games is an acceptable way of life. Kids play them. Adults play them. Even some grandparents are out there playing them. Whether it’s on the Xbox, PlayStation, personal computer, or even the smartphone, people are out playing games somewhere.
At first glance, it may seem antisocial to stay in and play video games, but it doesn’t have to be. Many games offer multiplayer options in which you can connect with other players from around the world. Just be sure to take frequent game breaks, especially at midnight.
Even if you decide not to play with/against other players, there are quite a few games on the market that offer single-player campaigns that can keep you busy for the whole night.
8. Start Reading a Good Book
Not long ago, there was a statistic circulating that the percentage of college students that never read another book after graduating was 42%. While the number seems high, it isn’t totally shocking. It seems that lack of free time and the availability of information over the Internet have finally caused people to put down their books and forget to pick them up again.
With that being said, a quiet New Year’s Eve at home is the perfect time to dive into that book you’ve been meaning to read all year:
Get comfortable. Find yourself a cozy corner of the house, break out a warm blanket, and maybe even throw on some subtle background music.
By the time New Year’s Day comes around, you may be ready to make reading a permanent part of your life again!
9. Work on an Arts and Crafts Project
For those people with a creative side who don’t like being idle, an arts and crafts project might be the best way to spend the evening.
Start out by looking around your home and finding a spot that could use some extra character. Then set out to find a project that will turn heads the next time you have company. It could be a new charcoal drawing, a refinished piece of old furniture, or newly painted pieces of pottery. No matter what you decide, take the time to put your own flair into it.
If you need ideas, here are a few ways to get inspired:
Try checking out a few craft books from your local library.
Browse through Pinterest to see what other people have made.
Take a walk through a craft store such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby.
It won’t take long for you to find something to do, and you can show it off for years to come.
10. Host a Hangout With Other Friends
So you decided to stay in for the night, but it’s a definite possibility that some of your friends made the same choice. If so, break out your laptop, tablets, or other devices and have a New Year’s Eve Google Plus Hangout party.
Google Hangouts allows you to connect with your friends and family through video calls over the Internet (similar to Skype). You could get your whole crew together and celebrate without even being in the same house.
While it may not be the same as going out to your local bar or club, you could make it as crazy as you want it to be—the sky is the limit! Fun ideas include the following:
Share stories about the past year.
Play drinking games.
Listen to music.
Watch the same movie.
11. Give Thanks and Go to Bed Early
The easiest option on the list may actually be the most appealing one. After a year full of running around, maybe you just want to wind down and get a full night’s rest.
Make the most of your restful evening with these tips:
Relax. Prior to calling it a night, you could enjoy a glass of wine, a nice relaxing bath, and some soothing music. Find your favorite ways to pamper yourself before climbing into bed.
Reflect. Before you fall asleep, take a moment to reflect on the past year, and then get ready to tackle a new one the next morning.
However you choose to spend your New Year’s Eve, don’t let being alone prevent you from enjoying it.
Originally Posted on 14 December 2017, Re-posted 25 December 2022.
Christmas is a time of comfort, joy, and a shitload of cultural expectations about family and togetherness.
This year, I’ll be spending my third Christmas in a row alone; I also spent Thanksgiving in 2015 and 2016 alone. Being by yourself on a special day is actually not the worst thing in the world, but the idea that a person who celebrates Christmas might spend December 25 alone or apart from loved ones is often treated as a problem to be solved. Being alone on Christmas, we’re told, is an aberration. It’s not just sad; it’s tragic. And, look: I, too, cry every time Kevin McCallister’s mom shows up the end of Home Alone, you guys. But the reality is, lots of people spend Christmas alone or apart from family every year, for all sorts of reasons, and it’s…fine. And even if it kinda sucks, there are a bunch of ways you can make it suck a tiny bit less, or at least make it a better choice than the alternatives (like spending $1,000 on a 20-hour flight around the world, for example).
So if you’re thinking about or planning on spending Christmas alone or alone-ish — perhaps you’ll be with your partner or a friend but aren’t traveling home to see your family of origin — and have some questions/concerns, I’m here to talk you through it!
1. “Hi, yes, I have a question. I might end up being alone on Christmas but I don’t really feel like deciding or planning what I want to do that day. Can I just, like, wing it?”
You absolutely cannot wing it. The most important advice I can give you for a solo Christmas is to have a plan. I mean, at the very least, you have to accept that a lot of businesses are closed on Christmas, and you need to know if you’re going into work or if you should buy some groceries or whatever. So you really can’t wait until Christmas Eve to think about it. And having a more detailed plan is even better.
2. “OK, fine. Where do I start?”
Take a little time to think about your relationship to Christmas and how you feel about spending it alone. Maybe you don’t normally mind being alone, but you love Christmas and are worried it’s going to be pretty rough. Maybe you don’t think it’s a huge deal to be alone on Christmas, but you still want to make it a nice day. Maybe you don’t really want to be around acquaintances, but you wouldn’t mind being in the presence of strangers. Maybe you don’t even observe Christmas but are reading this anyway because you feel like the tips could still apply to you! (They might!!!) It’s very helpful to think on this for a bit before you start mapping out your day.
Broadly speaking, here are some directions you could go in:
• You could do a bunch of Christmas stuff and/or honor your Christmas traditions solo in an effort to feel joy and cheer.
• You could aim to make it a more-special-than-average-day, but opt out of doing things that are particularly Christmas-ish (and thus might make you feel kinda bummed out).
• You could do your best to pretend Christmas isn’t happening and make it feel like a truly boring day.
• If this is a rough time of year for you or you’re alone for reasons that are difficult, you could totally lean into how shitty you feel and wallow all day.
• You could choose to stay home, or you could try to get out of the house and do something that’ll cheer you up and/or distract you. (Or you could do a little of Column A and a little of Column B.)
3. “Does it really matter what I do all day?”
Eh, yes and no. Here’s the thing about spending Christmas alone: because it’s a day that has been imbued with a lot of meaning and mythology, you will basically remember what you did on a solo Christmas for at least the next 3-5 years and potentially forever. So whatever you decide to do, you should do something that feels, if not special, then at least intentional.
But your plan can be pretty loosely defined, and you can (and should!) build in some alternative programming in case you want to change course the day of, or get hit with some serious unexpected sad feelings (more on those later).
4. “OK, I think I want to stay home. What should I do with myself all day?”
Here are a bunch of ideas:
Do things that feel distinctly Christmas-ish. If not being able to participate in your favorite Christmas traditions is going to make you feel particularly sad or lonely, well…just do the traditions alone! There are no Christmas police who are going to bust down your door, SWAT-style, if they find out you’re eating a Christmas ham without a half-dozen relatives present. So fuck it! Anyway, going this route might include activities like decorating your home, turning on your Christmas tree, opening any gifts that friends/family have sent you (I definitely recommend waiting until Christmas to open gifts!), eating foods you associate with Christmas, listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies, and/or FaceTiming with friends and family who are celebrating.
Do a puzzle. Maybe a Christmas one! Maybe a regular one! Maybe both, if they are on the smaller side! Puzzles are both relaxing and stimulating, and are a great way to pass time and forget about the outside world. (Read more on the magic of puzzles here.)
Work on your hobbies. It’s a great day to catch up on whatever hobby you can lose yourself in, and that brings you joy and fulfillment! If you don’t already have a hobby, you can get some ideas here and here.
Eat yummy food. Even if you aren’t eating a traditional Christmas meal, eating something delicious and a little special can be very uplifting. And cooking or baking is an activity in itself! (It’s also totally reasonable to order in, or to go to a restaurant.) My go-to for holidays alone is lasagna soup or the beef stew from The Joy of Cooking, both of which are a bit more involved/time-consuming than your average weeknight recipe. Other good things to consume throughout the day: fresh croissants or other baked goods (pick them up from a bakery on Christmas Eve), crusty bread topped with whipped feta and delicious roasted veggies, homemade pizza (or a good frozen one), tater tots, avocado toast, and delicious hot chocolate/coffee/tea. I also strongly endorse baking these chocolate chip cookies.
Oh and if you have nice dishes, definitely use them!
Clean the crap out of your apartment. Not only is cleaning super therapeutic, but being super productive on a day when everyone else is literally doing nothing can give you an extra lil’ mood boost.
Binge-watch a show, movie series, or podcast, or read/listen to a book. Such as…
• Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts
• Planet Earth
• The Royal House of Windsor
• The six-part podcast Dirty John
• Jane the Virgin. I highly recommend Jane if you just kind of want to zone out/be cheered up.
• Station Eleven. This is a great book to read if you’re feeling pretty bummed and don’t want to pretend otherwise. I read it in December 2015, right before I spent my first Christmas alone, and it was exactly what I needed. It captures the feelings of loneliness and light despair without being heavy-handed, and while still being hopeful and lovely.
• Holidays on Ice (audiobook). IMHO, everyone should listen to this on Christmas or Christmas Eve, regardless of whether they are alone or not.
Go for a stroll or a ride. Getting some fresh air and winter sky may make you feel better (and it will likely not make you feel worse). So if you can easily and safely get out for a walk or a stroll or a ride, do it! If you can’t, consider whether there’s another way you can move your body and/or be outside for a bit. There’s something about the hushed cold and lack of people and cars out on Christmas Day that just feels right. I recommend taking your walk in the late afternoon, right as Christmas Day is turning to Christmas Night; it’ll break things up a bit, and help you power through the night shift.
Take a bath. I am not a fan of baths, but I understand that this opinion is not the norm. Anyway, if you go this route, it would be a good time to treat yourself to some Kneipp bath oil or the like.
Indulge in some skincare. I didn’t, like, get the sheet mask craze for a while, but now I’m totally on board. It really does feel nice and pampering! Maybe also have a go-round with Dr. G’s brightening peel. You could also do a full body exfoliation and then drench yourself in coconut oil. The goal is to just feel soft and dewy as h*ck.
Light some candles. Whether you are sad or happy, candles just feel right for this occasion. (So do Christmas lights, so if you’re on the fence about whether or not to put up a tree, definitely put up the tree!) As Lindsay Ostrom writes in this really great guide to being sad at the holidays: “I fully embrace the cheesiness — there is something just so magical about a flame. Since it gets dark so early now, every night I come home from work and I light a candle. It feels special and sacred and spiritual, and I don’t need to explain anything to anyone. As it burns gently through the night, I am always thinking of Afton and the hope I have that the light of his tiny soul is still alive, glowing bright, safe and warm and held. And that from this broken and harsh earthly realm, mine is, too. Keep that candle lit.”
Wear pajamas all day. But not, like, the outfit you slept in. No — get up, wash your face, brush your teeth, take a shower (or at least put on clean underwear), and then put on fresh clean jammies. If you think wearing Christmas jammies all day sounds fun, do that! I’m a big fan of the old-school flannel pajama shirt and pants. But really, you should just wear whatever pajamas or soft clothes you feel really safe and comfortable in. The only requirements are that they are clean, and that they are an intentional choice.
Oh and regardless of what your in-home plans are, you should make a little time to clean/tidy your house a few days before Christmas so it feels as cozy and bright and homey as possible. Trust me on this one.
5. “Wow, OK, that was a lot! And what if I want to get outside the house?”
Go for it! I’ve found that public spaces have a kind of mystical, almost spooky quality on Christmas Day — everyone sort of knows that being in public instead of at home is unusual, and that we all have our own reasons for being there. In my experience, this shared reality is quite comforting.
If you want to explore the world outside your home on Christmas, here are some options:
Sign up to work. If you’re in a profession where they need people to work on Christmas, it’s totally worth doing. Not only does this give you a very clearly-defined activity, you can often make bank while doing so. (You also may be doing your coworkers a favor, which is nice!) And depending on your line of work, you may be able to get a bunch of work done that you’ve been meaning to get to, or just do admin stuff like cleaning out your inbox and desk.
Go to the movies. Hell, go to three movies! And if there’s a nicer-than-average theater in your area, go to that one, even if it’s a bit of a drive. Buy your tickets in advance as a way of committing to your plans (and ensuring you can see exactly what you want to see). And definitely treat yourself to popcorn and snacks. Like…you’re doing the thing, so do the damn thing.
Go skiing. A very good tip from my Jewish coworker!
Volunteer. Doing kind things for others is a well-established way to connect with other people and boost your own mood.
Get out of your house…but go to another mostly-private space. There are a lot of advantages to spending your solo Christmas in a nice-ish hotel or AirBnB (even just one in your own town!). If you are drawn to things like fresh towels and sheets that you didn’t have to wash yourself, a room with a nice view, and only interacting with strangers, then it might be worth it.
Go to a tourist attraction, museum, or historical site. The first time my then-boyfriend and I didn’t “go home” and see our families of origin for Christmas, we did a nice breakfast and opened gifts on Christmas morning, and then went to Houston’s Museum of Natural Science in the afternoon. It ended up being a perfect activity. Turns out, when you’re feeling a bit sorry for yourself, doing things like looking at the bones of humans who lived thousands of years ago and considering the vastness of time and space (WE ARE BUT SPECKS! A MERE DAY MEANS NOTHING!!!) can really put shit in perspective.
6. “Speaking of feeling sorry for yourself, you said something earlier about wallowing. Is that still on the table?”
Yes! The other big option here is to just lean in to how terrible you feel. But! You still have to have a plan! And even if you don’t plan to wallow, you should read this part anyway — because sad feelings might sneak up on you, and you should know that it’s OK to scrap the lasagna soup and puzzles and just let your feelings wash over you.
I’m actually just going to quote the wonderful Captain Awkward here, because she is the one who first introduced me to this option, and she explains it best:
“We can make light of being alone this time of year, but if you’re alone not by choice, it frankly sucks, and I’m not going to even try to cheer you up or mention that movie where Jimmy Stewart is a depressed guy who learns to appreciate life in the end. Instead, I am going to give you my friend Mikey’s ritual for fully embracing a day of sadness:
What you’ll need to do:
• Pull all your shades and curtains so no daylight gets in.
• Listen to sad music. Mozart’s Requiem, Jeff Buckley’s Grace album, whatever makes you cry.
• Read old letters, emails, and diary entries from happier (or even sadder times).
• Read a poem.
• Take a nap. Take several.
• If you have a pet, hug the crap out of it.
• If you miss someone, write them a very long letter (that you might not necessarily send).
• Cry if you need to. Let it all out.
• DON’T try to talk yourself out of feeling sad and lonely, or beat yourself up about how you feel.
• DO call someone if you feel like you might really be in trouble or start having thoughts of hurting yourself.
• When you wake up on December 26, open up all the shades and let the light in. Eat something that’s good for you. Give yourself credit for surviving a hard thing.
• DO run this by an actual mental health professional if that’s a concern for you, since neither Mikey nor I are that.
If you are bummed out about something, tell somebody about it. Your friends are only a text or tweet away, and you won’t ‘ruin’ their day if you reach out for a second.
• Watch your intake of substances. It may be really tempting to escape into an altered state, but without a designated driver, administrator of water/ibuprofen, or spotter, please go slow, OK?
• Remember that it’s just one day, it comes every year, you’ve gotten through it this long, and you’ll get through it again.
Mikey swears that by taking a day or two indulge sadness to the point where it almost becomes ridiculous, it’s easier to shake it off and keep going.”
7. “I feel OK about spending Christmas alone, but I’m anxious about telling other people about my plans; I don’t want to be judged or have to defend my choice. What should I say?”
It really depends on what you’re comfortable with. My goal has always been to a) make it clear that I have plans (because I do!), and b) tell the truth, but obscure the fact that I’ll be alone. I do this mainly because I don’t want to be pressured to join their holiday celebration (which is a truly kind thing to offer, but I’m good!) or have to endure hearing “But you can’t be ALONE on CHRISTMAS!” (Yes, I can! And I WILL!!!) So my preferred reply is something to the effect of, “Oh, nothing exciting — just staying around here, keeping things chill. How about you?” You could also share a little bit about your plans: “Working all day and then making lasagna soup later!” And a more forthcoming version might be something like, “I’m taking some me time! I’ll probably make some food, see a movie, do a face mask, start a puzzle — you know, fun solo stuff! I’ve been dying for a quiet night to myself for ages.”
Ideally, if you use one of these scripts, they won’t press you further or turn it into a huge thing. But if they do, keep your tone breezy, be vague and boring, and change the subject/turn things back to their plans.
“Can I just not tell anyone I’m going to be alone?”
You don’t have to tell everyone you’re going to be alone, but I’mma need you to tell someone. Look: I’m a big fan of safety, you guys!! (See also: Captain Awkward’s note about being careful with substances.) And in general, telling trusted friend about your whereabouts is just good practice. So choose the kindest and most decent person in your life and tell them how you are feeling about everything and let them know how they can best support you. If you want them to give you some space and not fuss or fret over you all day, tell them that! (But also please agree to text them/reply to texts a couple times during the day to show signs of life. Again, safety!!!)
“Yeah, I have more of a comment than a question. Christmas is about FAMILY and JESUS and it looks like liberal BuzzFeed is participating in the WAR ON CHRISTMAS and WHY would anyone turn their back on their FAMILY on CHRISTMAS, YOU SHOULD COME SPEND CHRISTMAS WITH MY FAMILY, REALLY, I INSIST —”
Hi. We don’t live in Hallmark movies; we live in the real world, where Christmas means different things to different people, and folks have shitty families, logistical and financial realities, personal preferences, and plenty of other reasons for deciding to spend Christmas alone, none of which are your business or your problem to solve. (Also, I’d think that as a follower of Christ, you would know that with God, we are never really alone.)
Anyway, if a friend or coworker tells you that they are spending Christmas alone, it’s perfectly nice to invite them to your Christmas celebration…but if they turn you down, or tell you they are looking forward to their solo plans, the best thing you can do is give them your number and say “in case you change your mind” and then let it fucking go. Unless they are planning to roast and eat a human baby on December 25 (holy infant, so tender and mild), other people’s holiday plans shouldn’t give you that many feelings.
Just…be cool, guys.
“Mmmkay, anything else I need to know?”
Yes, and this is a big one: maaaaaayyyybe don’t check Instagram or Facebook for ~24-48 hours.
Even when I’m going through some real shit, I have an extremely high tolerance for other people’s joy and happiness on social media…but I’ve found that Christmas is the one day when it’s really, really hard. Annoyingly, these apps’ algorithms make it nearly impossible to avoid this content entirely, but I think that consuming it a few days after Christmas is still better than doing it on December 25, especially if this is your first time spending Christmas alone. In years/holidays past, when I didn’t heed this advice, I was ready to throw my phone/myself in a volcano by like…11 am. You know yourself better than I do, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.
“Are you sure being alone on Christmas isn’t the saddest thing ever?”
No, I’m not sure. Look, if you’re going to be alone on Christmas for shitty reasons (a breakup, a death, a ~complicated~ family situation), it might feel sad. I’m not going to pretend that my first Christmas alone didn’t hurt, but it was in the midst of a really tumultuous time in my life, so everything hurt. But that Christmas wasn’t sad because I was alone; it was sad because things were sad, and being around other people wouldn’t have fixed it. But acknowledging that I was suffering, and then choosing where exactly I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing when I experienced the Christmas version of that suffering reminded me that I had some agency and ultimately helped. (And will help me again this year.) We can’t always make things not bad. But we can sometimes make them a little less bad.
“Got it. Anything else I need to do to prepare myself for the big day?”
Nope! But before you go, here’s a little list with of all the things to buy/prepare/have in advance:
Unlike other types of physical abuse, sleep deprivation doesn’t leave a mark.
Alice’s former husband often woke her up by slamming his hand down on the bed. He would keep her awake “until the wee hours of the morning,” she recalled. Sometimes, it didn’t matter who went to bed first; he would still find reasons to wake her in the middle of the night. “It could be because I was snoring. It could be because he [had woken up] and I was asleep and if he couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t sleep. [Or] he’d had a dream and I’d done something in his dream and therefore he was really upset with me.”
Nights were terrifying, she said, though she often felt it was safer to go to sleep after her husband. “It became a really big deal for me,” she said. “If I was to fall asleep before he did, that’s usually when something would get out of hand.”
It’s been 10 years since Alice left her husband, but she remembers those experiences like they happened yesterday. To process her experience and help others understand the complexity of domestic violence, Alice (whose last name we’ve withheld to protect her children’s privacy) started a personal blog. One of her most viewed posts was the one published in 2012 detailing how her partner intentionally deprived her of sleep.
Victims of domestic violence often have trouble sleeping. But when a person intentionally weaponizes sleep deprivation-including not allowing their partner to go to bed, interrupting their sleep or punishing them for sleeping-experts say it becomes a form of physical abuse and torture, one that often goes unnoticed to the outside world. “I don’t know that anybody really would have told me it was abuse [back then],” Alice said. “I had a very good therapist at that time who pointed out that that wasn’t okay, but we didn’t spend a lot of time on it either.”
Everyone needs sleep; it is a basic biological function that is critical for our health. And it’s only now that we’re realizing how powerful, and devastating, sleep deprivation can be.
A 2007 exploratory study in the journal Violence Against Women offered a glimpse into how sleep loss leaves survivors feeling vulnerable to violence. Researchers interviewed 17 women whose sleep was disturbed by an abusive partner; all reported adjusting their sleeping patterns to minimize the daily threat of violence they faced. Some said they were afraid to sleep “too deeply” and others said they avoided sleep altogether when their partner was home.
“You would pretend to be asleep, then you would have to pretend to wake up. Either way it would be better to be awake, trying to figure out what he wanted or what he was going to do next,” one woman said.
As the study’s authors write, these narratives “bring into sharp relief the connection between sleep deprivation and the establishment of a regime of power and control by one person over another-the hallmark of domestic violence.”
In a follow-up study, researchers determined: “Sleep deprivation was clearly a direct strategy of abuse used by perpetrators. It also indirectly undermined the mental and physical resilience of women.”
Unlike other types of physical abuse, sleep deprivation doesn’t leave a mark. “Unfortunately, I think the only thing that society recognizes as abuse is a black eye,” said Heather Frederick, a spokesperson for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “A lot of people who are experiencing sleep deprivation as a part of abuse understand this isn’t healthy, it’s not sustainable…but they may not make the connection that it’s about their partner trying to control them or trying to strong-arm them or have power over them.”
“Sleep deprivation was clearly a direct strategy of abuse used by perpetrators.”
At her organization, Frederick said sleep deprivation is classified as a form of physical abuse, though it easily falls under emotional abuse as well. Similar to stopping someone from taking medication they need, interrupting someone’s sleep has a significant impact on their bodies and minds.
Victims of sleep deprivation often experience drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, and eventually disorientation, hallucinations, and paranoia. Chronic sleep loss can lead to serious health problems, including risk of high blood pressure, depression, and heart attack.
According to data gathered by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, four in 10 women and four in 10 men have experienced at least one form of coercive control (which includes any behavior a person uses to dominate their significant other) in their lifetime. One example where sleep is a vehicle for manipulation, Frederick said, occurs in the context of a long-distance relationship: A partner may require the other person to videochat with them to prove that they’re home alone or ask them to leave their phone on their pillow all night to listen to them sleep.
In Alice’s case, her partner even justified the sleep deprivation with one of the messages in the sermon given during their wedding, which had to do with married couples never letting the sun go down on their anger. “He used that against me for a long time,” she said, referring to her former husband. If she begged for sleep, he accused her of loving sleep more than she loved him.
In these scenarios, abusers usually aren’t trying to reach any kind of compromise, Frederick explained. “Their goal is to wear their victim out so that they cave in and give in to whatever it is the abusive partner is wanting to happen or whatever they’re looking for.”
As recently as 2014, the United Nations’ committee against torture called on the United States to end its practice of using sleep deprivation on detainees, calling it “a form of ill-treatment.”
In 2016, Tania Tetlow, then a law professor at Tulane University and now president of Loyola University New Orleans, made a compelling argument for states to pass laws “banning torture by private actors” as well, primarily as a better way to address domestic violence. She included sleep deprivation among the techniques that should be outlawed.
Imposing sleep deprivation on someone isn’t a crime in and of itself, Tetlow said in an interview, but that’s why the analogy of torture and domestic violence works. Domestic violence generally is a pattern crime, similar to stalking. “Any one act in isolation will not seem that egregious. It is the context of the pattern of behaviors and the intent of those behaviors and their cumulative impact that really makes it terrible.”
Tetlow acknowledged that sleep deprivation is one of those abusive tactics that may not seem like that big of a deal on its own. But it is an effective way to render somebody unable to function and make good judgments. “The biggest risk of lethality with domestic violence is not measured by the level of violence; it’s about the level of control,” she said. “That is a bigger indicator of the chance that someone will murder their victim.”
As an example, Tetlow pointed to one 2010 case in Louisiana: Jennifer Muse, 31, was shot and killed by her 78-year-old husband. Two days earlier, he’d been acquitted of domestic violence battery, a charge stemming from a fight in the middle of the night when she was upset that he woke her. According to Muse’s testimony, he did so often.
Repositioning domestic violence in the law as torture-a legal argument that’s yet to gain any traction-would send both abusers and the people they hurt a powerful message, Tetlow said: “Describing domestic violence as torture focuses the criminal justice system and the public on the defendant’s clear premeditation and culpability. We see batterers as merely angry, whereas we acknowledge torturers as cruel.”
For Alice, the survivor who left her partner over a decade ago, the long-term pain caused by the abuse continues to disrupt her life. She still has trouble going to bed at times. “I do feel like I’ve come a long way. I’m in a much different spot than I was then, but I still have my triggers. I still have things that can upset me quite a bit.”
Two people were reportedly killed after Russian missiles landed in an eastern Polish village.
Poland is a member of NATO, which operates under the principle of collective defense.
It’s not clear how Poland or NATO will respond.
Two people were killed after Russian missiles landed in an eastern Polish village on Tuesday, a US intelligence official told the Associated Press. The incident seemingly marks the first time that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has spilled across Ukraine’s borders and into the territory of a NATO member.
The missiles landed in the village of Przewodów, which is located in eastern Poland a short distance from Ukraine’s western border, and reportedly came amid a barrage of over 90 Russian missiles that targeted Ukraine’s infrastructure.
A Polish government official said the country’s prime minister called an emergency defense committee meeting. Russia denied reports that its weapons landed in Poland, with its state-run TASSnews agency calling reports they had “a deliberate provocation.”
A spokesperson for Poland’s Foreign Ministry confirmed in a statement that a “Russian-made missile fell” into the region and that an ambassador for the Russian Federation has been asked to provide an immediate explanation.
The damage shifts attention onto the NATO alliance, which has repeatedly warned it will defend the territory of its allies from Russia. Poland is a member of the NATO, which operates under the principle of collective defense — enshrined in Article 5 of the alliance’s founding treaty. Under this agreement, an attack against one NATO country is considered an attack against the entire military alliance. But Article 5 has only been invoked once in NATO’s history, following the terror attacks against the US on September 11, 2001.
Article 5 states that NATO members will assist the attacked party or parties by “taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”
It’s unclear what caused the Russian projectiles to land in Poland, which could have a major bearing on how the alliance reacts.
The US and its Western allies have warned Russia repeatedly that an attack on NATO territory would trigger a strong response.
“We have a sacred obligation under Article 5 to defend each and every inch of NATO territory with the full force of our collective power,” President Joe Biden said in March.
Adrienne Watson, the White House National Security Council spokesperson, said Tuesday afternoon that “we’ve seen these reports out of Poland and are working with the Polish government to gather more information. We cannot confirm the reports or any of the details at this time. We will determine what happened and what the appropriate next steps would be.”
Echoing these comments, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said during a press briefingthat the US is “aware of the press reports alleging that two Russian missiles have struck a location inside Poland near the Ukraine border. I can tell you that we don’t have any information at this time to corroborate those reports and are looking into this further.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters he did not think the apparent strike was intentional.
“I have to believe that it was a mistake by Russia,” he said, per The Washington Post’s Liz Goodwin. “And I think if it is, Russia should come out very quickly and say that.”
Poland’s foreign affairs ministry and NATO did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider. The Russian government also did not respond to an inquiry.
The incident immediately triggered remarks from top officials in neighboring countries.
“My condolences to our Polish brothers in arms. Criminal Russian regime fired missiles which target not only Ukrainian civilians but also landed on NATO territory in Poland. Latvia fully stands with Polish friends and condemns this crime,” Latvia’s defense minister said on Twitter.
A spokesperson for the Hungarian government said that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would also convene a meeting of the country’s defense council in response to “the missile hitting territory of Poland.”
The incident comes as Russia fired a barrage of missiles across Ukraine on Tuesday, leaving half the population of Kyiv without power.
Pentagon looking into Poland missile strike reports.
The Department of Defense Press Secretary, Brig Gen Patrick S Ryder, has said:
“We are aware of the press reporting on this. We have no information at this time to corroborate those reports but again, are taking them seriously and looking into them. And so I will make sure that we provide you with any updates as soon as we have them.”
He continues: “We’re looking into these reports – don’t have any information to corroborate them at this time. So I don’t want to speculate or get into hypotheticals. When it comes to our security commitments and Article 5, we’ve been crystal-clear that we will defend every inch of Nato territory.”
Update 19:59 GTM:
Lithuania PM” “Concerning news. Every inch of NATO territory needs to be defended.”
Update 20:07 GMT:
Russia denies any involvement in ‘missile strike on Poland’.
Russia hasdeniedstatements from Polish media outlets and officials that Russian missiles fell on the Polish village of Przewodó near the Ukrainian border.
The Russian ministry of defence posted on its Telegram, calling the reports “a deliberate provocation in order to escalate the situation.”
Update 20:20 GMT:
NATO Statement: “We are looking into these reports and coordinating with our ally Poland.”
Update 21:21 GMT:
Poland ‘raises military readiness’…
Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller has confirmed that there was an explosion that killed two Polish citizens, Reuters news agency reports
Poland is raising the readiness of its military units, he says, and “verifying if we need to activate Nato Article Four.”
That article says: “The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”
Update 21:33 GMT:
NATO Secretary General’s Tweet: “Spoke with President Duda about the explosion in Poland. I offered my condolences for the loss of life. NATO is monitoring the situation and Allies are closely consulting. Important that all facts are established.”
Update 21:40 GMT:
US President Biden has been briefed and is speaking to Polish President Andrze Duda, officials say.