New Year's Eve, the glittery end to the holiday season, can be surprisingly tricky for couples to navigate. It’s not your typical date night: the pressure to meet a partner’s expectations for a special evening can turn what could be a fun occasion into a stress-inducing holiday. Navigating New Year’s can be particularly tough for casual couples, couples at a crossroad, or those who have more anxious attachment styles.
Why do couples care about New Year’s Eve?
The allure of New Year's Eve may come in its embedded cultural meaning. First, it signals a fresh start, and like any fresh start, New Year’s brings with it hope and possibilities. Couples can dream of and anticipate happy times together, a thought exercise that in-and-of-itself likely benefits couples’ feelings of relationship love and satisfaction.
Further, leading up to midnight, New Year’s Eve gives couples cultural cues to reflect on their relationship. Established couples can indulge in sentimentality, calling to mind challenges endured, kindnesses extended, and all that they value in their relationship. For happy couples, this process could be intrinsically rewarding; for distressed couples, reflection could trigger mixed emotions. Maybe patterns will change and things will be different in the new year, or maybe there’s emerging clarity that this relationship is no longer salvageable. In both cases, New Year’s Eve is no ordinary day — it’s a time to take stock and make plans.
Displaying “coupleness” on New Year’s
Evidence suggests that happy couples show off their “coupleness” intentionally, integrating their partner into their own self-presentation. This concept, relationship visibility, suggests that publicly presenting one’s relationship to the world — such as on a New Year’s Eve date — is particularly important for individuals who have anxious attachment styles (Emery, Muise, Dix, & Li, 2014).
Anxious individuals might be unusually intense about plans leading up to New Year’s, giving heightened negative meaning to falling short of expectations. The New Year’s date and midnight kiss is a chance for validation — needed by anxious individuals more than those who are secure in their relationships. On the flip side, individuals with an avoidant style may be particularly reluctant to showcase their relationship on a couple-significant holiday (Emery et al., 2014).
What if you’re single?
New Year’s Eve’s cultural emphasis on couplehood has diverse effects not only for those in relationships of varying duration and health, but also for single individuals. Arguably, New Year’s shines a spotlight on couples at the expense of single individuals. While some single individuals are content in their relationship status, others are single but not by choice, making New Year’s — and the kiss at midnight — an awkward evening to be endured or ignored.
New Year’s Eve competes favorably against Valentine’s Day as the holiday that most strongly emphasizes being in a relationship. To move smoothly through a potentially high-stakes relationship event, make sure you know your partner’s expectations and what the day means (or does not mean) for him or her. Whether it’s a night out with single friends, the two of you out on the town, or an early evening at home, New Year’s Eve is a chance to turn the page and get ready for whatever lies ahead.
Emery, L. F., Muise, A., Dix, E. L., & Le, B. (2014). Can you tell that I’m in a relationship? Attachment and relationship visibility on Facebook. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(11), 1466-1479.