One of my clients recently asked me if it was weird for her to want to be friends with her ex-husband’s sister. I asked her for a few more details about the relationship to see if I could figure out why she was asking this question. She started squirming in her chair as she gave me the details. It turns out she was feeling weird about wanting to remain friends with her former sister-in-law because she thought she wasn’t supposed to.
The first special occasion I attended with my husband’s family was weird for me because his ex-wife was there and each of his siblings referred to her as their sister-in-law. I had all these thoughts about them sending me a message that I wasn’t welcome.
My client and I had both bought into the common belief that once you divorce, you’re expected to divorce the entire family and might even declare them enemies.
What I’ve come to realize and teach is that the common belief is WRONG. Each relationship you have is unique. Each relationship can grow, wither, and transform. Each relationship can do this independently of the others if you’re both willing to let it.
What all this means is that family occasions can still be special occasions with the entire family present. Sure, you might not choose to hang with your ex or their new partner, but there’s no reason why you can’t continue to enjoy having large birthday parties for your kids or huge Thanksgiving celebrations with the extended family.
What all this also means is that family occasions don’t have to be like they were before the divorce either. Maybe your former in-laws aren’t willing to continue to have you be a part of their lives right now and that’s OK.
Basically, it comes down to choices, how do you want to celebrate special occasions now that you’re divorced? You might want to continue celebrating as you have in the past or you might want to start new traditions. What I want you to know is that it’s all good. There aren’t any rules about how things have to be (unless of course rules were created as part of your divorce agreement).
Now I know I just told you there aren’t any rules, but let me give you a couple ideas to think about to help you keep or make your special occasions special after divorce.
When most people divorce, then tend to feel a bit lost or lonely. These feelings can often make it difficult to want to celebrate special occasions. I want to encourage you to be aware of this and celebrate any way. You deserve to have a good time. If you have kids, they deserve to have a good time. And the added bonus is that if you have something to look forward to, then you just might help yourself get through the lost and lonely feelings more quickly.
You might also want to consider celebrating occasions you didn’t celebrate before. Maybe you want to start making the anniversary of the first moon walk a special occasion and have a wine and cheese party to celebrate. Maybe you want to start celebrating obscure holidays like Ground Hog’s Day or National Pizza Day. Again, the idea is to add some fun and something to look forward to because it will help you work through the worst of your divorce more quickly.
Special occasions can still be special after divorce. They may or may not include your in-laws, but the most important things is that they include you – you feeling wonderful as you celebrate whatever occasion it is.
Your Special Occasions After Divorce Assignment:
Evaluate the special occasions you have in your calendar. Which make send to continue celebrating? Which need to be eliminated? What new occasions need to be added?
If you don’t have any special occasions in your calendar because your ex always took care of that for you, make a list of the special occasions you want to celebrate and get them in your calendar ASAP. Having special occasions to look forward to will help you continue to feel connected with others and combat the loneliness most people experience with divorce.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor 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. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
If you’re looking for more help on how to deal with your life now, read more articles about Life After Divorce.
Unlike Grandma’s recipe for fudge, dealing with divorce over the holidays isn’t usually a recipe for happiness. More often than not, it’s a recipe for days of pasted on smiles and long nights of extreme sadness. Luckily, it doesn’t HAVE to be that way.
One of the things I teach in my teleconferences and to my clients is that when you’re going through divorce you need to learn the difference between your emotional box and your business box.
You’re in your emotional box when you allow yourself to express and experience all the emotions associated with your divorce. Depending on where you are in your divorce journey, your emotional box could be filled with pain, hurt, shock, denial, fear, loneliness, guilt, rejection, grief and anger. None of these emotions are especially helpful for making the holidays merry and bright.
You’re in your business box when you allow yourself to focus only on the decisions and tasks that you must address. For example, it’s best to be in your business box when you’re selecting your divorce attorney and when you’re negotiating the terms of your divorce settlement.
Because these boxes have such distinct purposes, it’s very helpful to be able to choose which box you’re in to deal with different parts of your divorce.
To give you a little practice with this idea, I’m going to ask you to step into your business box as you read the rest of what I’ll be sharing with you about how to experience more happiness in your emotional box.
Have you ever heard someone say that instead of working things out a couple is taking the easy road by deciding to separate and divorce? I have and all I can say to those ignorant people is “Seriously? You have no idea what it takes to get divorced.”
Making the decision that a relationship in which you’ve invested YEARS of your life is better off ending than continuing is FAR from easy. In fact, it’s usually gut wrenching. Although there are the extremely rare people who enter into a marriage with the intent that it end with divorce, the rest of us jump into marriage with both feet, a sense of commitment and a willingness to make things work whatever that takes. And did I mention we usually spend YEARS trying to make things work before we ever think of separation or divorce. I certainly don’t see how any sane person can look at a couple who’s divorcing and say they’re taking the easy road.
Reaching the decision to separate and divorce is hard. It was one of the most difficult decisions I ever made not only in the moment the decision was made, but in the fall-out of that decision. EVERYTHING changed in that moment. Not all the changes were for the better – at least not in the short-term. I came face-to-face with some hard truths about me and how I was living my life. It wasn’t all pretty and took a whole lot of really hard work to get me straightened out. BUT I am a much healthier and happier person now.
The road I’ve taken since my separation and divorce hasn’t been easy, but it has felt much more alive and real than the road I was on in my first marriage.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are contemplating divorce. Should you stay, or should you go is a powerful question and I’m here to help you make a smart decision that will lead to your greatest happiness… whether you stay OR go. 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.