Let’s face it, the holidays are stressful even when you love them. They are worse when you are in a failing marriage or relationship. There are children to consider, two sets of families and/or extended families and sometimes travel involved. How can a person keep it together? Here are my top ten hints to help you through (please note these are not intended for those in domestic violence and abusive relationships):
1. Take care of your self first. Take walks, meditate, listen to music you enjoy (the car works for this), go for drives…alone. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel special. There is NOTHING that can’t wait 30 minutes. Do NOT do more than you feel you reasonably can.
2. Make a list of your “Must do’s”. These are the things that have to be done, not the ones you want to do to keep up appearances. A Must Do is grocery shopping, paying bills, doctor appointments, taking the kids to school, going to work and so on. Find ways to delegate some of these things to others if necessary.
3. Make a list of the “I want to’s”. These are the things you want to do to make the holidays look like the holidays even if you may not feel it on the inside. Prioritize the list and put the things at the bottom that no one but you will notice. Only do the things you have the energy to do. Simplify your life.
4. Be polite to your spouse. You may not be getting along but you can always take the time to be considerate. Even if you don’t want to do it, your spouse is still a human being worthy of the same consideration you are
5. Focus on your children, make the holiday as special for them as you can. They will know something is not right with the relationship intuitively so keep their world as complete as possible with the minimum of disruption.
6. Start a new tradition…one that you can continue after you separate (if you end up doing that)
7. Be honest with yourself about your limitations. Be honest with your spouse if the situation warrants it. If you do not want to travel to see your spouse’s family, don’t go or find a way to minimize the amount of time you all spend together.
8. Begin to make a personal plan for what you will do once the holidays are over. Will you ask to go to counseling with your spouse, will you end counseling, will you see an attorney, will you move out? Really think about what you want and how to implement it. This is just thoughts at this point.
9. Think about a support system for yourself. Talk to friends, get a therapist if you need to. Get a hobby, find a church or support group. Find someone or something you can turn to when you are overwhelmed in the relationship.
10. If you just can’t take it anymore, see an attorney just to get information about what you need to do to protect your rights and develop a course of action for the coming year. Knowledge is power and information does help to reduce the stress of wondering.
I know how hard it is to manage a difficult relationship and the holidays at the same time so do the best you can and know that this will pass. Your job is to make it through this year and develop a plan for yourself so that next year can be better.