It's "holiday hunker down" time.
At least, that's how dating pro Whitney Casey refers to the onset of winter. As singles search for that special someone to share in the hectic holiday schedule, this season is prime time for people getting together, getting it on or getting engaged.
It's no coincidence match.com sees a 130 percent spike in new subscriptions from December through February. Or that 31 percent of proposals happen during that same period, according to wedding planning site theknot.com. Or that 15 percent of couples on thenest.com, a home and lifestyle site, say they have more sex during the holidays.
Still, the holidays can be stressful for singles who have to navigate crazy schedules, family pressure and a dating scene hindered by crappy weather.
"People go home and visit their families and they get a lot of pressure from families [saying], 'You're still single?' and 'You're not married?' The holidays are a time when you want to be with somebody," said Casey, a relationship expert for match.com and author of "The Man Plan."
The good news for singles: There are plenty of opportunities to meet people as invitations to holiday parties stack up and new members flood online dating sites. There are even people out there who put falling in love as a New Year's resolution.
"The winter is a great time to find somebody and potentially develop a relationship," said Bela Gandhi, founder and president of Smart Dating Academy in Chicago.
Sure, there may be fewer places to meet people during the deep freeze of winter, but others are in a better mindset in which they are serious about wanting to get into a relationship, she said.
"I feel like it'd be easier to find somebody to date [in the winter]. In the summer, you just want to have fun," said Kortney Edgecombe, 21, a hairstylist who lives in Lakeview. One's summer social calendar is full of activities so dating becomes less of a priority, she said. In the winter, it seems like there's only "couple" things to do, she said.
The downside of winter dating? It's a hectic time and there's a lot of pressure put on by social situations like gift-giving and holiday events, said Brian Rzepczynski, an Aurora-based psychotherapist who runs the relationship site the gaylovecoach.com.
"If you do end up finding a dating partner, then there's all that confusion of, 'What are we?'" he said. "It almost pressures people to define what their relationship is sometimes before they're ready to do that."
The holidays can also trigger breakups, said Adam Lyons, a dating expert and so-called pickup artist. "If somebody is having second thoughts about it, they're going to leave you before the holiday," Lyons said. That person may not see a future with them and therefore doesn't want to introduce them to their family, he said.
Consider this: Research of more than 10,000 Facebook statuses over a year showed one of the big breakup spikes was two weeks before Christmas, a New York Times story reported last year.
Despite the headaches and obstacles, evidence suggests there may be magic in the air this time of year.
"The holiday spirit is huge," said Kristin Koch, senior editor of theknot.com. "It's a very special time. You're with family and friends. We like to say love is in the air. There's still that magical quality and romantic feeling to the holidays and that's a huge part of what proposals are all about."
Matt Robinson, 26, thought the holidays would be a great time to propose to his girlfriend, Sarah, since winter is their favorite time of year. "A lot of it has to do with family. It's the one time we all get to see each other," he said.
After getting permission from her dad on the New Year's holiday, he popped the question on the bridge that connects Millennium Park to the Art Institute's Modern Wing. The Streeterville couple just celebrated their first wedding anniversary last month.
The holiday season gives the couple a solid three months to focus on each other, he said.
"Because of the weather, you sort of have an excuse to stay in and not travel very far," Sarah Robinson said. Comparatively, in the summer, there's so many activities, such as concerts and outdoor dining. "In the winter, there's not much of that going on; that lends itself to having more together time."
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