People are doing their last minute shopping (Doug included) before all the stores close down until Wednesday. All other commercial activity will soon stop except for a few restaurants and bars. People are getting together with family and celebrating. Many will be opening up their presents a little early. (I always loved doing that as a kid.) It’s a time for family and a time for joy.
But many people don’t feel like celebrating this year.
Some are not simply because they are not Christians, while others do not because of various other reasons. Some fully identify with Christmas and have joyfully celebrated it before, but for one reason or another, simply cannot celebrate it this year – at least not as they have done in the past.
A common reason for this is grief. And considering the subject that this blog deals with, we will assume that the grief is a result of infidelity. Some of you may be grieving as a result of a recent discovery after infidelity, while other’s grief may be a result of an older betrayal that occurred this time of year. Perhaps the infidelity did not occur at this time of year, but the pain is felt very acutely right now, simply because this is the very most nostalgic time of the year and the experience of having to endure the holiday with the pain and emotions of infidelity is unbearable.
“None of it seems right. I hear music, see happy faces, Christmas Trees, Hanukkah decorations and none of it is even registering. NONE OF IT. I usually love this time of year. Instead I am grieving.”
The holiday season is a difficult time for me because Doug and I were deeply immersed in the affair process at this time four years ago. The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s was the time when Doug finally admitted after months of denial that he was having an emotional affair. He told me that he didn’t have feelings for me and said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay in our marriage.
It was a time when I truly felt it was going to be our last holiday together as a family and was totally at a loss for what I was going to do in order to save our marriage. I felt I had lost all control of the situation.
Christmas had become a time of suffering from terrible triggers. Thankfully, that is now pretty much in the past.
I’m fairly confident that most all of us have a pretty good idea of how the rest of us are feeling and what we are going (or have gone) through. We are all at different points in the affair healing and recovery process, but one thing that is true for all of us is that we are all here for the same reason…for support and recovery.
In that spirit, we’ve assimilated some quotes and other tidbits of advice of our own and from readers and others who have experienced infidelity. We hope they will be helpful to you during the holiday season. Please feel free to add any of your own advice or successes in the comment section.
- I’m going to tell you something my sister told me: If this was your last Christmas to share with your children and family, how would you want to spend it? Life is so full of twists and turns and we just never know what will happen tomorrow. Enjoy what you can, as much as you can – today.
- I do see the value in letting the past go and enjoying the NOW. Think of your children. Focus on their faces, their smiles. I’ve been hugging my kids a lot lately. Feeling them close makes me feel alive. Think of how excited they’re about this time of the year and try to feel the joy for them if you can’t do it for yourself just yet. You might find that once you start practicing your smile, it comes back to you.
- Just try to be happy for your kids, and look where you are NOW, as opposed to last year!! You HAVE gotten better, even though it might not seem like it!
- Work really hard at enjoying your family at this time, and you will eventually reclaim it as a somewhat joyous time, for this too shall pass – eventually!
- I guess the best advice when handling holiday triggers is to really think about why they are so upsetting to you, what you have learned or can learn about them and then let them go and move on with your day.
- Stop putting pressure on yourself to be happy during the holidays. When you have legitimate reasons for being happy, acknowledge them.
- I realize that each trigger and thought is a time to reflect and try to see what can be learned from this. How can I turn this into a positive or learn more about myself.
- Triggers…one false move and you’re dead! I think about them quite often, and now I have the challenge of deciding how they are going to affect me. I acknowledge their existence, but they are not going to control me.
- Seek out people who make you feel better, and avoid people who do not.
- Our brains are wired to make connections, and that’s really what a trigger is…a connection to something horrifying. I was deleting some photos from my iPad today, and virtually every photo from the past year of my life is a trigger. Now it’s on to making some new memories, some healthy connections, a future and a hope…
- No matter what happens and what recovery road you find yourself on, marriage counseling is how I took care of me (in addition to going back to attending mass each Sunday, praying a lot and daily strength training.)
- I’m finally starting to work on me and let my CS figure his mess out on his own. The interesting thing is…..I can see him getting very nervous as he realizes I’m removing myself by saying “You’ll have to figure it out for yourself, I can’t do that for you,” and things like that. I’ve also told him I need to rely on myself now – which is so different because I always relied on him.
- I finally had a breakthrough when I accepted that, as you say, I can’t stop her from either continuing this affair any more than I could stop her from having another one 5, 10 or 20 years from now. She is the one who makes that choice. The important thing is that I feel – regardless of what she chooses – that I’m worth being married to, that I matter to myself. When I view it that way I am empowered and the triggers are meaningless (or at least greatly reduced).
- I’m going to do my damnedest to create new memories and reclaim them as my own again.
- When you gain the ability to not let them (triggers) impact you negatively other than for a brief time, you find yourself in a better place to put the pain of the EA or PA behind you and live a life that, while impacted of course by the infidelity, is still one that you can enjoy and flourish in.
- I like the idea of the snowball effect of recovery. The positives slowly add up over time. With time, the truth of the EA (from the past) makes less and less of an impact on your life in the present.
- Recognize your God-given abilities. You each have the ability to overcome this situation that you feel was thrust upon you. It’s a lot like golf. You cannot change the last shot you took. This one right here before you right now is the only one that matters. This one…is your opportunity to excel.
- Read Eckhart Tolle’s book “The Power of Now”. It focuses on the recognition that you can’t live in the past (unchangeable) or the future (just pinning your hopes on some day, while you miss out on all that today has to offer), but you can live for the NOW!
- Healing can’t take place till we confront the problem. This is not the life we chose, but it’s what we’ve been dealt…we all have something to share.
- I consciously try to avoid thinking about the EA and what went on. But you know, I still wish I didn’t have to do that. Every time I start to think about the mess, I get up and make myself do something to get my mind off of it. I do agree that you can’t keep obsessing over it – the whole thing will drive you insane.
- The other night I began to think of how I could use these triggers in a positive way instead. What can I learn from them? I have learned that I can’t control anyone but myself and I should have used all my energy on improving myself rather than trying to make my husband stop his affair.
- Only I can determine my own happiness and the path I want to take, but I cannot keep my CS faithful and on the right track. All of those things have to come from within him.
- I guess the triggers are there to remind us of how far we have come or to help us get back on track. There are times when I revert back to that insecure, weak person and I feel and act the exact same way I did just after D-day. There are also times when I am so proud of how much I have grown and everything I have learned about myself on this journey.
- It gets better. Whether you decide to separate, divorce or reconcile, time (that slow-moving healer) will be your friend. Take care of yourself. Don’t worry about making the perfect holidays. Just love the ones who love you and don’t worry about the rest.
- Do something completely novel for Christmas. We are not going to be anywhere we had Christmas before. Not with any of the same people – just our immediate family. That may not be possible for you and lots of other people, but try some changes, something new.
- Be prepared for dealing with triggers. Make a plan together for how to handle them. My husband and I have talked a bit about what I need if I trigger and about ways to build in some down time.
- Exercise in some way. Physical activity is one of the best ways to make yourself feel better.
- Enjoy all that life has to offer during the holidays. Make time to enjoy your hobbies and interests.
- Holidays reinstate order. They arrive no matter what has happened. They intrude with a reminder of past, an invitation to look beyond pain in the present, and the promise of a future.
- The good news is that the holiday blues are usually temporary.
- Be realistic. Don’t expect the holiday season to solve all problems. The forced cheerfulness of the holiday season cannot erase sadness or loneliness.
- Stay connected. You may want to withdraw and stay by yourself. Make an effort to spend time with friends. Write or call those you care about and recall good times you’ve shared in the past.
- Time spent by yourself can also be rewarding.
- Give yourself permission not to feel cheerful. Accept how you are feeling. Tell others/your spouse how you are feeling and what you need.
- Give yourself special care. Schedule times to relax and pamper yourself.
- Do some things differently this year. Trying to recreate the past may remind you all the more of your pain. This year, try celebrating the holidays in a totally different way. Nothing is the same as it used to be anyway. Go to a restaurant. Visit relatives or friends. Travel somewhere you’ve never gone before. If you decide to put up a tree, put it in a different location and make or buy different decorations for it.
- Just do it. We all know that we ought to think positively, eat right, exercise more and get enough rest – but grief by its very nature robs us of the energy we need to do all those good and healthy things. Accept that in spite of what we know, it’s often very hard to do what’s good for us – then do it anyway. Don’t wait until you feel like doing it.
- Keep in mind the feelings of your children and other family members. Try to make the holiday season as joyous as possible for them.
- Pay attention to yourself. Notice what you’re feeling and what it is you need. Feelings demand expression, and when we acknowledge them and let them out, they go away. Feelings that are “stuffed” don’t go anywhere; they just fester and get worse.
- If you need help from others, don’t expect them to read your mind. It’s okay to ask for what you need. Besides, doing a favor for you during the holidays may make them feel better, too. Be patient and gentle with yourself, and with others as well.
- Expect to feel some pain. Plan on feeling sad at certain moments throughout the holidays, and let the feelings come. Experience the pain and tears, deal with them, then let them go. Have faith that you’ll get through this and that you will survive.
- Seek support from others. Grieving is hard work, and it shouldn’t be done alone. You need to share your experience with someone who understands and accepts the pain of your loss.
- Give something of yourself to others. As alone as you may feel in your grief, one of the most healing things you can do for yourself is to be with other people, especially during the holidays. Caring for and giving to others will nourish and sustain you, and help you to feel better about yourself. Do whatever you can, and let it be enough.
To all of you who do not feel like celebrating this Christmas, please accept this Christmas wish that your pain or depression or anger or upset or whatever will pass quickly. You are not alone in your feelings after infidelity; keep that in mind. Remember that even though you may not think it’s possible right now, it will get better.
May you have a warm, happy and meaningful holiday. Merry Christmas!
Linda & Doug