Dear Thomas,
I am a single, 34-year-old woman, and I am dreading the holidays. I recently got up the nerve to start trying to meet someone online, but I am feeling all of this pressure as December approaches, and I'm wondering if I should put dating on hold until after the New Year. I consider myself to be a Christian, though I don't go to church all that often. Meeting someone now means getting to know them during this religious time of year, which feels heavier somehow than meeting them at a time when you can choose whether or not to disclose your religiosity to a new date. Maybe I'm just suffering from holiday blues, because really what I am worried about is that I've started this new approach to dating, but if it doesn't work, it will really hit me hard when I'm sitting home alone on New Year's Eve. Can you help me turn around my attitude?
--Hold the Holidays

Dear Hold,
Many people feel the winter holidays, all of which are related to the solstice and the short days and dark nights, as emotionally intense. The spiritual meaning of the holidays is positive and joyful, but the mood of nature is melancholic. It's only natural to feel up and down, and maybe even confused, at this time of year.

You're worried about the focus of the holidays on religion interfering with a new relationship. You might have to talk about your spiritual views, and apparently you have some reticence about doing that. You sound anxious and fearful, and so I suggest that you decide not to be victim of the holidays. Enjoy the darkness and adapt to it. Be a little darker yourself. There's no need to appear cheerful when you're feeling down, no need to try to please when you are in search of a meaningful relationship.

Secondly, don't be a victim of dating. You can decide how much of yourself you want to reveal. You seem worried that you'll be forced to disclose things you want to keep to yourself. But you can decide what to say. Let the new date know as much about you as you want him to know. No more, no less.

On the other hand, a discussion about belief can be engaging and get a relationship on solid ground. If you're afraid to talk about your spirituality, you might ask yourself just what stops you. What are you afraid of? It would be good to confront this monster now, or it will be a problem in any relationship.

It might also help to talk with friends about the holidays, instead of placing all the weight on your new date. Clearly, you have to sort out your feelings and ideas about your religious background and your current spiritual views. You sense that the combination of a new person in your life and your confusion about spiritual matters are too much to deal with, especially during the holidays. So spread it all out. Get some practice and some clarification with your friends.

Your plan to postpone dating until after the holidays is rooted in fear and worry, never a good basis for any decision. I think you could shift from being a victim of the holidays to being the master of your life. All it takes is some strength and determination to deal with this holiday dragon.

You don't want to be alone during the holidays. That much is clear. So take a deep breath, flex your muscles, and knock off these fears. They're not so serious; they're just annoying. To win this battle will help you during holiday seasons for the rest of your life, and the non-holidays times as well. Have courage: date, talk, and be proud.
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