If you're to believe the lyrics to a popular holiday song, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." But a lot of people aren't buying that, particularly singles.

Their carefree relationship status often makes them the envy of friends and family during the year, but singles can find themselves uncomfortably untethered in December. Add to that the fact that looking for love at this time of year is fraught with its own set of problems and the uncoupled seem doubly doomed.

"Christmas is presented as being fun, joyful and uplifting," says Neil Rosenthal, a relationship columnist and licensed therapist with offices in Westminster and Boulder. "But it also can be expensive, stressful and depressing, especially if you're alone and lonely."

Tawni Blake runs Flirt Denver, a professional matchmaking service which includes dating coaching, image consulting, and singles parties and even a
Tawni Blake runs Flirt Denver, a professional matchmaking service which includes dating coaching, image consulting, and singles parties and even a "rent a date" service. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

Beth L. Hooper, a matchmaker and dating coach in Denver, agrees. "Any other time of the year, singles can be OK with going to a barbecue or a birthday party by themselves or in the company of a friend. They just don't want to be 'that person' during the holidays."

But there are ways to mingle amid the mistletoe as a single person, have fun at holiday events and maybe even get to know someone who will turn into a significant other in 2014. Here are some holiday dating myths and realities we learned when interviewing Rosenthal, Hooper and two other matchmaking and relationship pros, Tawni Blake of FlirtDenver.com, and Richard "RJ" Jaramillo of San Diego, founder of SingleDad.com.

Myth: The holidays are a terrible time to try to find a partner or start a relationship.

Reality: Yes, it's challenging, but if approached in a smart, realistic way, it can be a good time to meet someone.

This time of year has more opportunities for meeting people than just about any other, so take advantage of all those open houses, singalongs and even shopping and errands as a way to meet someone new, says Blake, who regularly throws singles parties at clubs and restaurants.

Beth L. Hooper is a dating coach and matchmaker in Denver.
Beth L. Hooper is a dating coach and matchmaker in Denver. (Photo by Marea Evans, provided by Beth Hooper)

"Please get off the phone and make eye contact," says Blake, who thinks people spend too much time staring at screens and have forgotten the power of human interaction. "Give someone a compliment, ask a question, find some common ground, invite them in."

Hooper agrees that it's OK to strike up a conversation just about anywhere. "Be on the lookout at all times. Six-thirty in the evening at Whole Foods at the prepared- foods counter is great," she says. "Or, smile at the guy or gal next to you in line at the post office when you're mailing a package or buying stamps. Even if it doesn't lead to conversation or a date, you'll have made their day."

Richard Jaramillo, founder of SingleDad.com.
Richard Jaramillo, founder of SingleDad.com. (Courtesy of "RJ" Jaramillo)

Myth: If the person you're dating invites you to a party where you'll meet her boss or an event where you'll be introduced to her family, things are getting serious.

Reality: Don't jump to conclusions. "Taking someone home, or inviting someone to your company party does imply a certain level of seriousness, and if you're ready for that, OK," Jaramillo says. "But you don't want to mislead someone when all you are really looking for is someone to accompany you to a couples event so that you can avoid the awkwardness of showing up alone."

He advises those looking for someone to be "just" a party date to make their intentions clear early on. "Be tactful and sensitive with what you say. Let them know you're just friends, two people who enjoy each other's company, and that it might be fun to go to this event together. If something eventually develops, great. But you don't want to lead anyone on, or (unintentionally) commit too soon."

Myth: If you've been dating someone and things stall in December, it's over.

Reality: Not necessarily. People are pulled in so many different directions during the holidays, they can't spend as much time developing a new relationship. "Everyone has a more crazy, hectic life during the season," Rosenthal says. "They're less available even though they may be alone and looking, so give your relationship longer to develop and don't get discouraged."

Myth: If a relationship is just starting, you shouldn't run out and buy him or her a gift.

Reality: "It's not how much you spend, but the thought that goes into it, especially for a new relationship," Hooper says. " If you have a good spark going, go for something small or personal like cooking a special dinner, a gift certificate for something fun the two of you can do together, or IOUs for taking their dog to the groomer.

To avoid "gift inequality," a frank and honest discussion in advance is best, she says. "If you're not sure, ask. Tell him, 'I don't want either one of us to feel awkward, so ...' Honesty is always the best policy."

If the relationship is just a month or two old, Jaramillo suggests something that is more than a mere token but less than what you might get if the relationship is established. A watch, he says, is a safe choice. Not a luxury brand, but a sports watch with a note that says "I'd like to spend more time with you."

Myth: If you're shy or just not into the party scene, it's best to stay home.

Reality: It's a good time to come out of your shell and try to be a little less introverted. It might also be time to get some help.

Tawni Blake, who conducts "flirt workshops" as well as counsels people on how to dress and converse, says the best way to overcome shyness is to practice with strangers. "Talk about anything that does not seem like flirting to make it easier," she says. "Ask for assistance — help, directions. Make eye contact, smile."

She also offers a "rent a date service" for those who want to practice their dating skills, or who want a date for an event but are shy about asking someone out.

Myth: Being single is a no-win during the holidays, so you might as well drag yourself through the paces.

Reality: It is what you make of it. Avoid things that depress you and concentrate on what will be enjoyable and even pampering.

"Eliminate some of the craziness from your holiday season — all the shopping, parties, cooking and decorating," Rosenthal says. "Ask yourself, 'How might I invite deeper connections or more meaningful relationships with people in my life.' "

Skip parties where everyone is coupled up and go to those where you'll find more variety, like a neighborhood gathering or one targeted to singles.

"Don't be discouraged if you don't connect with anyone in a meaningful way during the holidays," Rosenthal says. "The connecting process is fraught with disappointment and rejection when someone doesn't feel the same way about you, but don't quit. The only way to hit a home run is if you're in the game."

And if you'd rather sit this one out, buy a plane ticket. Heading to Mexico with a group of single friends might be fun, Hooper says. The added bonus is that since so many singles have the same idea, the chances of meeting someone increases.

Suzanne S. Brown: 303-954-1697, sbrown@denverpost.com or twitter.com/suzannebro; Joanne Davidson: 303-809-1314, jdavidson@denverpost.com or twitter.com/joannedavidson