by Sara K.

heal a marriage
The holidays are stressful enough. Add into the mix trying to heal a marriage after an affair and it may become a seemingly overwhelming situation.

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a whole lot of a family togetherness and celebration. In a normal situation, this can be stressful enough – visiting family, too much preparation, sometimes packing and unpacking as well as the cost of it all. Add into the mix grieving for the loss of your marriage or trying to heal a marriage after an affair and it may become a seemingly overwhelming situation.

When I was in therapy, my therapist shared with me the airplane scenario. When you are on a plane and there is severe turbulence the flight attendant will announce to put your mask on yourself first and then the person next to you. If you do not put your own oxygen mask on first – you can be no good to anyone. Remembering that self-care is really the most important thing, especially during the tougher holiday season, can really help you cope.

How do we deal with New Normal during the holidays?

Set Realistic Goals– If you choose to celebrate at home or with friends and extended family this year, prioritize the necessary parts of your holiday. Do not try to make this year a Thanksgiving or Christmas to remember. Tone down the ‘stuff’ and just focus on the giving and most of all the receiving of love.

If you and your spouse are still together, remember taking on too much holiday work may stress you out and stir up old resentments. “Why isn’t he in this kitchen helping? Why isn’t he shopping for all the gifts?” Talk with your spouse and come up with a plan of action to avoid stressful situations and repeats of old patterns. Ask for help if you need it and make sure he’s aware of how he can be a giving and participating partner.

Custom-Made Holidays – Just remembering how your husband always hung the star or decorated the tree could be enough to get the tears flowing. Take the time to accept those memories as a loss and then create new ones. Perhaps this year you give the star to your son or your sister and you carve the turkey. Begin new traditions with your family.  Even if you are still together and coping, change-up the old family customs. Don’t do things as you have always done them. Just like the marriage has changed its dynamic, holiday traditions need to start fresh as well. New memories will lead to a new place for your relationship.

Time Outs – If things become too overwhelming, too nostalgic and emotional, take a breather. My friend Ellen, newly divorced after her husband’s affair, announced to her family that she was going to skip Thanksgiving dinner this year and flew off for a spa vacation in Miami. She said it was the best holiday she had ever spent – alone.
 
Give of Yourself – If it’s just too difficult to celebrate with others this year, it’s a great opportunity to visit those less fortunate to put things in perspective. Volunteer at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, bring gifts to a children’s hospital or women’s shelter. Focusing on others who have it worse off than you do helps in healing and appreciation that you’re still here, on your own two feet – coping.

Thankfulness – If you and are spouse are still together and lucky enough to be creating New Normal, this is a wonderful opportunity to be thankful for the not-so-small gift of giving yourselves another shot at happiness. Make a list together or apart of all you have to be grateful for and then share what you’ve both created and are working towards together.

There are no words available, no magic formula that makes holidays easier and everything feel more manageable. Often, anticipation of the holiday season will be worse than the actual days themselves. What you can do is just follow your feelings and let time in healing do its thing. Talk with your loved ones and share that this may be a harder year for you. Put the mask on yourself before anyone else.

Thanksgiving here in the US is the official start of the holiday season.  The holiday season can be especially tough if you are suffering from the pain and triggers of infidelity while trying to heal a marriage.

To hopefully help you to manage the holidays a little better, click the link below to download a guide written by Dr. Robert Huizenga, author of Break Free From the Affair.

Click the following link to download the report:

14 Tips to Emotionally Survive the Holidays in the Midst of Marital Conflict

 

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    3 replies to "Handling New Normal During the Holiday Season"

    • Battleborn

      Sara K, great advice. This year instead of cooking for a large crowd, I announced we were going out for dinner. So the large crowd had a choice come with us or go somewhere else. Yeah, they are all coming with us… too cool!

      Happy Thnksgiving to all.

    • Natalia

      This year was great. My twins came home from college and the house was noisy again! It’s the third thanksgiving since Dday and I’m happy to realize that I have no memory of the first thanksgiving after Dday. Yay! I’m moving on. 🙂

    • Mollymagee

      I can’t remember the first one after Dday three years ago. I think I sent my son w/my husband to my in-laws and they met our young adult daughter there. I stayed home alone and just relaxed and probably watched a lot of tv. I have no memory at all of what I did. And the saddest part- Thanksgiving is the anniversary of when my husband and I met thirty years ago. Now it still feels flat and ruined by his affair as a sweet memory. It’s not as painful as three years ago but things are not the same. For Christmas, that next post Dday holiday, I went w/our kids to visit extended family out of town and my husband was basically told… not to come along; there was no invite by me though he tried. Plus, I needed him to stay home and take care of our pets. My extended family was probably more miffed at him then my immediate family and they knew I needed the space from him and respected that. I shot guns at target practice that year w/my male cousins and thought of her and him. LOL. I had a good Christmas with my children and my extended cousins, etc but my heart was heavy too. I skipped celebrating Hanukkah with the in-laws; I could not sit around with my in-laws pretending nothing happened and putting on a “good face” or good “show”. I felt such shame and humiliation. It was also particularly tense because both my MIL and SIL, and my SIL in particular, were horrible to me when his affair came out four/five months earlier… their son/brother is my husband who cheated. The week I found out that he had full blown affair was also the week his sister married for the first time. Was she compassionate new bride marrying for first time at almost 60 when she learned what had happened? Did she reach out to me in sympathy? Hell No – went for the jugular and she dumped all her pent up rage and disrespect for me and said I basically deserved being cheated on due to my character flaws; she also said my husband basically had no other choice but to cheat given my issues. Nice, huh? Namaste indeed. I told my husband, the day I found out what she said about me, that my relationship with her was over as a SIL. I respect her as my kid’s aunt but that’s it… I can’t be around her. To this day, I do not trust myself to be around her and not wallop her one. So in order to preserve my own dignity and not act out toward her and to be a woman of grace and dignity – I don’t go to any in-law gatherings that include her – which are pretty much all of them. I can’t and wouldn’t ask my in-laws not invite their own daughter, so I take a pass. And if my husband doesn’t like this, well, these are some of the unforeseen, long term consequences of cheating and he has to find some peace with it. It’s certainly not my job to fix or make things nice for him. I am working in therapy and Al Anon to accept that some people are just toxic and it’s okay to be an adult woman and say “No thanks but thanks for thinking of me” to invites from his family. And here’s the grace of all of this: for years my MIL and SIL were active thorns in my marriage especially my MIL and now her daughter is, as she ages, a chip of the old block and gunning to replace her in her role as prima thorn. I respect my inlaws as my kid’s grands and aunt but they do NOT and have not respected me for decades. I also see and hear how they speak of their other son’s/brother’s ex wife and I know if me and my husband split, I’ll get the same treatment. They are pretty transparent. But I practice dettaching if not w/love then w/o conflict. I don’t engage. Their emails go to spam (blocked) and I turn down any invites to ‘hash over our issues’ that my MIL extends because no good will come of it. And let’s be honest – she doesn’t really want to hear how her son hurt me – so what’s the point? And it would require her willingness to hear that for us to do that mending so I take a pass – because she doesn’t want to think of him that way. I’ve learned that drama is not the state I want to live in w/them as I did for many years – some their bad; some mine. I take responsibility for where I behaved poorly in past as young mom, wife, DIL and SIL but that doesn’t mean I want to be around them a lot now. My best self does NOT come out around them and vise versa. Sometimes we have to accept that not all people are meant to be in our inner circle or even the circle after that – even if we did marry their child/sibling. It’s really okay to take a pass. And God parted the clouds on the day I found out how horrible they were to me on the very same week I was reeling from learning the depth and breadth of my husband’s affair; for years I had doubted and blamed myself and questioned if it was just ME that was the problem. That day, their cruelty confirmed it was definitely not. My main responsibility is to be in the best shape I can be for my remaining teen child at home and to keep my soul, spirit, health and mental health well. They are an afterthought now. I don’t wish the ill will or harm but I also don’t wish to be around them. This is what affairs can do to families and the cheating spouse has to just suck it up. And finally for the new year that year I traveled to see a dear old high school/college friend who was marking the one year of discovering her husband’s affair – yes… on new year’s eve -the same way I did: with a text from his nit wit affair partner. So I went to comfort and support her thru her one year d-day anniversary. You can’t make this stuff up. Peace to all going thru this… be as good to yourself as you can be even if that means staying in your pjs all day and pulling the covers up to your neck, sipping hot cocoa and crying your eyes out. Call good friends or relatives who can listen well and be compassionate. Pray, watch stupid fun tv shows (I recommend Divorce and Girls Guide to Divorce – even if you aren’t divorcing) and embrace nature – get out and walk in trees and parks and let nature heal your weary soul cause you’ve been through a major loss. I hope for all of us that we can build new meaningful traditions that give us the peace and rest and joy that we so richly deserve at the holidays and all year round. Peace…MM

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