Work has long been my defense against love. In high school, I skipped social activities, sports, family Christmas Eve celebrations, and even my junior prom in favor of running the school newspaper, writing for the town paper, waiting tables, car-hopping at Sonic, lifeguarding, and cleaning churches…whatever I could do to stay busy.

Like Bill Murray’s character in Scrooged, work was easier than the hard, frightening labor of building relationships and opening myself up to the pain of rejection. My mother taught me that. The woman who was to nurture me instead physically and verbally abused me; I had a mother, but no Mommy. As a result, I did not trust people. It was easier, safer, to bury myself in work, achievements, tasks, and busyness. But I did not need busyness; I needed love.

For most of us, our holiday expectations are tinged with a rosy glow. It’s the time of year for love, connection, and bonding—a perception reinforced with cozy ads and heartwarming movies with happy endings. But life is not a Hallmark movie, and sometimes the holidays hurt. We’re lonely, grieving, depressed, estranged from family, or stuck with dysfunctional relatives.

Our defense tells us to stay busy (and stay alone) when we really need to shore ourselves up in love. In an age of unprecedented social connectivity, we have more tools to distance, disconnect, and isolate ourselves from intimate relationships, particularly those that take place face-to-face. At the banquet, we're starving.

In a recent study, Vancouver residents listed social isolation as their most pressing concern. In Britain, the Campaign to End Loneliness, a registered charity, aims to alleviate the loneliness that plagues 700,000 ...

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