If your marriage struggles with the pain of addiction or betrayal, the upcoming holiday season probably seems unappealing. What felt fun, anticipatory, and fabulous BEFORE now looms dreary, anxiety-riddled, and as I’d-rather-not.
How can you celebrate your current life?
Why would you? It’s a trainwreck loaded with lies, broken promises, daggers to the heart, and incriminations. You believed you had a good marriage, possibly even great. Now you feel like you’ve been played for a fool. You struggle to look anyone in the eye, fearing they’ll discover the imposter you are.
Thankful? Grateful? Jolly? Merry?
More like discouraged, angry, confused, and devastated.
You feel rocked to the core by what you’ve discovered.
I remember that first holiday season, only four months after my husband’s revelation. Add my depression and PTSD diagnosis right around the start of the holiday season, and life felt abnormally difficult and colorless. I remember looking at the New Year with jaded thoughts. All I knew at the time was that I’d rather go live on the moon than participate in a bunch of holiday festivities.
Since moon living wasn’t an option, there had to be another way.
To survive the holidays, you must decide to do what is necessary to function while in pain.
Let’s look at 2 of the 9 ways to survive the holidays when your marriage feels strained. I’ll share more soon.
1. Reduce your to-do list.
One way to get well during the holiday season is to stop the list madness. It would be best if you had time to process the crisis to give yourself space to heal. Depending on where you are in the healing journey, you might need to cut back to bare bones—only doing the necessities.
Here’s a question about all the festive options: Does this [fill in the blank] bring me joy? If it does, then enjoy. If not, skip it this year. You may feel like participating next year.
Skip the holiday parties if you can’t handle them. You don’t need to explain why you aren’t attending. Just send your regrets. Something simple like, “Thank you for the invitation, but I cannot attend this year.” The host or hostess doesn’t need a reason. And you aren’t being rude by not supplying one.
Figure out what means the most to you during every holiday, then do it wholeheartedly and joyfully. This simple act might lift your spirits. Often doing something for someone else pulls us out of our intense introspection. We change our focus to someone else, which provides a healthy perspective shift.
I discovered how rejuvenating it became to do less and process more during THAT Christmas. Consider this your permission to do the same. It is acceptable to take care of you when the crisis looms.
2. Lower your expectations.
This year will be different from years past because of the strain in your relationship. Please stop trying to make it perfect to keep up appearances.
You and your husband might feel the strain of your current struggles. Rather than put on a good front, be honest with each other. If possible, talk about what feels off, what you might do to help ease the tension, and your expectations.
I decorate my house the same way every year during the holidays. But that first year, when Dave and I were in full-on marriage-in-crisis mode, putting a pretty holiday decoration on the table, a few candles, and eventually, the tree was all I could handle. Guess what? No one died from the missing doo-dahs, nor did I miss them. Sitting in the room with just the tree lit somehow calmed my spirits.
For the gifts under the tree, take care of the children first. Even then, please keep it simple or do what brings joy. Maybe it isn’t what you’ve done in the past, and it’s okay. Find a meaningful item that conveys how much you love them, and leave it at that. When it comes to your husband, if it’s possible, find one gift that you know will bless, encourage, or show gratitude.
Which of these survival tactics will you apply this holiday season?
Here’s a quick way to figure out what brings you joy and what doesn’t.
Write down everything you feel you need to do during the holidays. This list includes parties, presents, baking, cooking, gift-wrapping, and letters or card.
With a different color pen or pencil, circle the ones that excite you—plan to do those items.
Cross out everything else. If you feel guilty about crossing out something like wrapping gifts, what is a creative way to get this done that doesn’t cause more stress? Yes, gift cards work. ?
We’ll dive into a few more survival tactics in the next blog. You can survive the holidays even when your marriage hurts. Need to talk? I promise to listen and help you navigate through the fog.