You know you’re splitting up. Your kids might already know you’re going to separate. The rest of your family is suspicious. But you haven’t broken the “we’re getting a divorce” news to anyone yet. Maybe you’re waiting for your eldest to graduate from high school. Or you’re waiting for the youngest to finish his sports season. Perhaps you just can’t afford to leave yet. Whatever situation you find yourself in, if you are spending the holidays with your still significant other, albeit reluctantly, begrudgingly, and awkwardly, you have to be prepared to navigate this toxic environment for the sake of your own sanity.
O Come Let Us See a Therapist
Sometimes you need a helping hand to make it through the holidays, no matter how intact your marriage is. But when your union is disintegrating before your eyes, and you can’t or aren’t ready to confide in anyone close to you yet, find at least one person who you can talk to about the stress in your life. Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help – a therapist or member of the clergy will listen and arm you with useful coping strategies that you can use now and throughout your divorce proceedings.
Joy to the Solo Shopping Trip…
… or the all-girls night out, or the guys-only poker game, or the sister-sister sleepover. Instead of hunkering down for the duration of the last week of the year, plan it out. Get busy. Keep yourself occupied with friends or with things you want to do for yourself to help disperse some of the tension, especially if you have to put on a unified front at the typical family gatherings that you just can’t RSVP “no” to.
Have a Silent Night Every Night
Agree to a cease-fire with your spouse for the holiday, especially if you have children who are quite attuned to the strain that’s permeating your household. Whether you quietly argue behind closed doors or you openly and loudly fight in front of your kids, give them a season of peace and cool it with the divorce talk for a few days. Allow them to enjoy Christmas without worrying about the two of you and the topic of your latest argument. You might find that you and your spouse do have the ability to be civil to each other, and that could really benefit you both as you head toward mediation and divorce.
Don’t Expect a Miracle on Your Street
If you’re holding out hope that Christmas and New Year’s are going to magically heal the tears in your marriage, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Set reasonable expectations for the holiday ahead, especially if you and your spouse both have time off of work and are really spending more time together than usual. Err on the side of being nice, respond pleasantly, try to have a thick skin, and don’t give in to any baiting or arguments the other may start. If divorce is inevitable, then accept that and try to help yourself relax and appreciate the time off, the moments with your family, and the new things ahead for your future. It won’t be easy – in fact, managing to behave this way at the cusp of a divorce is a miracle unto itself – but you’ll be rewarded with less stress and a happier holiday. And your kids won’t remember that “last Christmas as a family” as the worst one you’ve ever had.