Sinead in the City is your insider's guide to millennial life in Auckland. If you're struggling to pay the bills or find love in the city of couples, you're not alone. Sinead is here to commiserate. Because whatever you're regretting, Sinead has probably done it twice.
"Hey, Merry Christmas! You look like you're doing really well. Are you around over the holidays?"
"Hey, Happy New Year! – fancy catching up in 2020? My mum says she misses you, btw."
"Let me say, without hope or agenda, just because it's Christmas and at Christmas you tell the truth, to me, you are perfect."
Okay yeah, that last one is from that scene in Love Actually where Kiera Knightley's husband's BEST FRIEND creeps up to their house and proclaims his unrequited love to her with giant cue cards – but you get the point.
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'Tis the season where, without fail, the Ghosts of Boyfriends Past will creep out of the woodwork and slide back down the chimney that is your Instagram DMs – all under the guise of festivity.
Ever wondered why every December like clockwork, men you haven't heard from in weeks, months or even years will suddenly reappear - wishing you a cheery and nonchalant Feliz Navidad?
It's called Marleying and I'm sorry to be all Grinch In The City about it but it's not as cute as it sounds.
"Marleying" is when former flames get in touch over the holiday season. The term is inspired by Jacob Marley, the ghost who comes back to visit Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
The term was coined by dating website Eharmony, who surveyed 4000 people and found that over ten per cent have been contacted by their exes over the festive season.
The researchers suggested the trend is driven by people heading back to their parents' houses or home towns over Christmas and feeling vulnerable over the festive season.
"People can tend to feel bit sad and lonely over the holidays and are thinking of people who they used to feel connected to," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein told online women's magazine, Bustle.
"They have more downtime and may be thinking about their past relationships. There is also a lot of pressure (especially with social media) to have fantastic, perfect holidays and relationships.
"Those of us who are single or not feeling so fantastic might start thinking about a time when they did feel better in their relationships and might be motivated to reach out to old flames."
I suspect this is the case, and have also deduced four hypotheses of my own:
1. The hometown horrors
At Christmas, many people are trapped in their childhood homes with their problematic family members – many of whom are smugly coupled up and hurtling questions at the singletons about "when they're going to settle down," "If they're seeing anyone nice," and "whatever happened to that hilarious and beautiful girl Sinead you were dating?"
2. The indigestion-induced self-pity and regret
During this gluttonous season people often gorge themselves to the absolute brim with Cadbury favourites and ham until they become a revolting human version of a stuffed chicken.
It's at this point they despondently reminisce about Christmases past when they had a partner who loved them – even when they ate so much they had to undo their jeans at the dinner table.
3. "New Year, new me"
As NYE approaches we are often wracked with despair about another bleak year being over. And we often find ourselves reflecting on the poor life choices we may have made over the last 12 months.
For many people, this often includes relationship regrets and feeling bad about how they may have treated someone.
In my experience, men are often petrified of their exes spreading negative Zomato-esque reviews about what it was like to date them, so will often reach out over the holidays to try make amends before the clock strikes 12.
In other words, they'll send you a cheery message in attempt to get you to turn that sad face Trademe feedback emoji into a smiley one - or at the very least, that straight mouthed, look of contempt one.
4. Reality is not so merry
The festive season is notoriously the most stressful time of year, so it's understandable that cracks often show in relationships at this time.
Case in point: The first Monday in January is often referred to in the legal industry as "Divorce Monday". That's because law firms typically see a surge in queries from spouses planning to break up after bickering relentlessly through the Christmas holidays.
Case in point: This year did Santa bring you an out-of-the-blue, festive WhatsApp message from a married man from your past? Because same.
It's probably because his long-suffering wife - who has been awake for 48 hours straight, single-handledly cooking a banquet for his entire family - has asked him to please pause the TV for one minute to wrap one single present. Ugh, what a NAG!
So this Christmas, before you reply to a sneaky Marley or have some festive Throwback Thursday casual sex with an ex – please think it through.
"Just because you are at home visiting your old haunts, it doesn't necessarily mean you should feel compelled to haunt a former partner," eHarmony's Rachael Lloyd told The Guardian.
"Often relationships end for valid reasons such as a lack of compatibility. If this sounds familiar, rather than revisiting a relationship where the same issues could arise all over again, we would suggest spending time with family and friends and enjoying a well-earned break. Going backwards only decreases the odds of finding a new, long-lasting relationship."
If in doubt, I personally recommend leaving their messages on "Seen", cracking open a bottle of Lindaur, blasting George Michael's Last Christmas on repeat, and buying yourself a 12-month Tinder Gold subscription.
You can absolutely justify this expense too: you would have spent that money on your boyfriend's Christmas present anyway, if you had one.