Bah humbug. The holidays are here. Because my marriage is over I have nothing to look forward to and it makes me feel so sad and depressed. I wish the holidays would just be over with!
Many women find the first holiday season after a divorce or a holiday break-up to be a sad and depressing time of the year. It doesn’t need to be.
Did you know that more people visit divorce attorneys in January than any other month? The reason why is because couples want to “spare” the pain of a break-up so they stick out the holidays together. What they are actually doing is prolonging their own pain – ESPECIALLY if they are acting like a loving happy couple.
Consider Kristen’s story:
In the first week of December 2013, Ted announced that he was no longer happy and would be moving out after the holidays. At this time Kristen and Ted had been married for the last 18 years. Ted’s reasoning was that he did not want to ruin the holidays for Kristen. Her view was, “If you want to break-up, then let’s do it. I do not want to pretend during the holidays.”
Kristen was not attached to the home. She told Ted, that the only reason she was there and even resided in that state was because of the “we” factor. She wanted her own apartment so that she could be free to determine what her future would be and not be tied down to a mortgage payment.
You might be able to relate to Kristen’s story. When we first spoke, she was angry and felt as if she had been lied to for years. She was on a roller-coaster of emotions and had seen two counselors. Kristen was having trouble dealing and desperately wanted to maintain her strength and confidence.
Kristen’s top five challenges:
1) Typical daily routines were a challenge as she wondered how to act and what she was supposed to think. Up until this point in time, she had a different vision for her future.
2) Ted wanted to remain friends, and she did not want to be friends and wondered how on earth she could ever be nice to him.
3) Ted wanted the divorce, therefore she decided that she wanted him to file. She did not want to make it easy on him, and on the flip side, she was concerned about his current and future happiness.
4) Ted wanted to exchange gifts. She didn’t know what to think of this and was very concerned about what type of gift he would get her.
5) They were attending an annual holiday party with close friends of theirs. She knew that they would have to keep their separation and divorce hush-hush for the night.
Kristen determined that her separation and divorce over the holidays would NOT affect her holiday spirit. She was not connected to the holidays because of Ted, the decorations, or even to the music. Her connection to the holidays lies in nostalgic childhood reminiscences of singing carols, good food, and most of all spending time with her family and friends. Nothing could ruin these memories for her and she chose to continue to love the season and celebrate as usual.
Kristen decided to hire me to guide her through the divorce. This is how she chose to deal with above challenges:
1) She didn’t have to decide what to do tomorrow – or even an hour from now if she chose not to. During a time of grief and crisis, sometimes it’s best to take moment by moment and just be with it.
2) Kristen decided that she did not want to be friends with him. She learned how to be cordial to him during conversations about their property and income settlement.
3) Following my advice, Kristen spoke to an attorney and a certified divorce financial analyst. Together they determined what she was legally entitled to. And to her surprise, Ted did file and do all the necessary paperwork.
4) Kristen and Ted still lived together on Christmas day. They also did exchange gifts. She purchased him a book on How to be happy in a year.
5) Kristen and I spoke a lot about the party. We came up with simple statements that she could answer, for any question asked. I also showed Kristen a simple breathing exercise. I told her to just breathe and be in the present moment by focusing on your five senses. She stated these things were a life saver during the party. She found it amusing how happy everyone seemed, and that no one even appeared to notice the tension between her and Ted.
Ted was insistent on putting up a tree and having their typical morning breakfast. He told Kristen, “I know this is what you want, regardless of what you say.” Kristen went with it just to not create waves. However, she thought, “He’s not listening to me and is not accepting me for who I am.” She believed that Ted was trying to be self-centered and calloused.
Two Years Later…
Kristen revealed to me that she is telling the above story with pride these days! Kristen is proud of the way she handled herself and her divorce. Looking back, she knows that moving into her apartment was the best thing for her. This gave her time to discover how she could be by herself without him. It gave her time to self-reflect and determine where she wanted to live and work. It gave her time to create her own new beginning as an independent, strong, empowered woman.
Today, Kristen can see, that in Ted’s mind, he believes he is a nice person who takes actions that will provide evidence that he is nice and thoughtful. She has some understanding and empathy towards him. Ted needed the tree, breakfast and gift exchange because he needed to be surrounded by familiar things. Still yet, Kristen still does not want to be friends with him. She wishes him no harm. Actually, she wishes him good-will in his life journey.
You get to DECIDE how you will ACT before, during and after your divorce or break-up. Focus on the positive things that you can do – regardless how small. Ask yourself what is different that’s actually enjoyable? What’s the same that’s enjoyable? Choose how you want to celebrate. If you want some guidance, Let’s Chat!