It's time to suck it up, for the kids!
It's the holidays and you think your marriage is over. (Unfortunate timing, right?)
This is supposed to be a time when families come together. When they feel especially loving and close. Except that's not what you're feeling. Being close to your spouse is definitely not what you want. You're done. You've tried and tried, but it hasn't worked. You're through and it's over.
But you can't just drop the bomb that you want a divorce - not now at least. You'd "ruin" the holidays for everyone if you did. You want your kids to experience the magic of the season - not the fear and uncertainty of their parents getting divorced.
So you've chosen to tough it out just a little longer - just until the holidays are over, then you can have the conversation that you're simultaneously dreading and yearning for.
Toughing it out will be tough! This is not an easy decision or an easy path to take. You're asking a lot of yourself and you'll probably find yourself in lots of uncomfortable situations as the season progresses. But you're also giving your children a wonderful gift - one last holiday season with their family intact.
So the real question for you is how do you make this year great for your kids and not destroy yourself in the process? Here are three tips to help you do just that:
- Focus on your kids. They're a big part of why you made the decision to tough it out a little longer. Experience the season through their eyes. Keep them in the front of your mind. By doing this, you'll be able to quickly self-correct and make sure you're giving it your all to make their holidays magical and memorable. And you know that when they're happy, you're happy too.
- Be present and avoid ruminating about the past, worrying about the future or suffering with guilt over what you know is coming. Taking each moment as it comes with a focus on your kids' experience will help keep you right here instead of taking side trips in your mind to the miserable mess your marriage has become or what is ahead of you, your spouse and your kids when you choose to fix the situation. You might just be surprised at how much fun you can still have when you are in the present.
- Know this is the last time you have to celebrate with your spouse and in-laws. For some this is the last time you will be with this side of your children's family and you'll want to soak up all of the beauty of the family time. For most though, it's the very last time you will need to suffer through the discomfort of not quite being part of the family. Knowing it's the last time can make getting through it easier because you can disconnect from the situation. So when your father-in-law tells that story-that-makes-you-cringe for the millionth time, you will know there won't be a million and first time you'll hear it.
This isn't an easy task you've set for yourself. In fact, getting through the holidays will probably be more exhausting this year than usual. That's because not being true to yourself is always exhausting. But, since you're willing to give your children this gift, you will have the willpower and make it through. (And as you focus on the tips, you'll find that you can even enjoy yourself too.)
However, part of you will want to continue to pull away from your spouse despite your best intentions. When the need to pull away becomes too great, it's OK to excuse yourself and spend some time alone. Allow your frustration or guilt or sadness to wash over you and then refocus on why you're doing this. Then, when you're ready to be truly present again, join back in the celebrations.
The holidays will eventually come to an end. And when they do, you can tell your spouse what you know is true - that your marriage is over (at least as it is currently).
You will be able to move forward with your life - just after you celebrate this last holiday season with your kids and their entire family. Even as you're toughing it out so you don't "ruin" everyone else's holidays, use the tips and find little joys you can celebrate so you don't "ruin" your holidays either.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach, helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you're ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.