16th Dec 2019

Your first holiday season post-marriage is both a challenge and an opportunity. While no doubt one of the most difficult and conflicted times of your life, this is your year to reconnect with the best parts of the season and to set an example for your children for the future. What are holidays going to be like with you from now on? Follow the principles below and avoid a visit from the ghost of Christmas future.

Be Flexible

Divorce is a legal and technical process; you put a lot of emotion into those details. But you probably want to approach the holidays with the reverse attitude. It’s the people who make the holiday, not the date or location. Your children will adopt your healthy attitude toward their new arrangements. After all, you certainly don’t want to set a precedent for complaining and downing the other spouse around the holidays.

Be flexible with your spouse and children about how you will celebrate and the timing. Some of the sadness will come from traditions or events that should be “yours,” but those things will never be the same—they were enmeshed with dysfunction of everyday life. You don’t have to do better, but it does have to be different this year. You are setting the stage for a new normal and a better life. Holidays can remain special, no matter what. 

Plan Ahead

If you have kids, try to communicate with your spouse as much as possible the timing of activities and meals. Actually, the sooner you can think about next year’s arrangements, the better. Maybe this year won’t seem equitable or you have a better solution. Broach the topic and get specific. 

For that matter, you will need to do more planning more with extended family or close friends to spend more time with them around the holidays. Let them know you’re coming for a visit or that you expect them to be at your house. And help more—making a contribution will actually take the pressure off of trying to “feel” a certain way. Planning in general will help you avoid getting surprised or offended. Just make this year as easy on yourself as possible; plan something comfortable and well-suited for your individual needs.

Don’t Be Alone

You can’t hide from the holidays. Okay, maybe you can turn off your light on Halloween and save candy, but after that you will be barraged by the spirit. And nothing makes you guilty and sentimental like not being part of the holiday holly jolly. It may take effort to reach out and spend time with people who haven’t expected you during these times. Here are some ways to stay connected:

  • Dinner at Waffle House with an old friend or relative can bring the holiday spirit as much as a glamorous soiree.
  • Drop in on people with simple gifts and have a five-minute chat.
  • Invite a group of friends for a special treat you ordered or made, even something novel.
  • Give back to the community by working at a soup kitchen or wrapping gifts for the needy.
  • Check in on elderly relatives or neighbors the length of a cup of tea.
  • Create and embrace new traditions.

New traditions help us look forward rather than backward. Some families go to the movies every year. Some people have a cured Spanish jamon that sits on their table all season, ready for snacking by curious neighbors. Do you like caroling? Special outfits? You could call your nephew and sing a certain song in a funny voice. Have you ever had homemade eggnog? Just pick something that you don’t usually have or do and try it on as a Christmas tradition. If it fits, you, your kids, family, and friends will think of it again next year. Some of your old traditions may need a comeback. Lean heavily on your faith and community—social cohesion is the whole point of tradition.

Accept Your Feelings (Cultivate the Good Ones)

You may live in the darkest despair of your own life, but in the history of humanity . . . believe it or not, you are doing pretty well. Neanderthals didn’t live long enough to get divorces. Some people never love enough to marry at all. You are going to feel the highs and lows your first year on the other side of marriage; it’s a striking difference in a season that thrives on sameness. Everyone else can seem to have the perfect holiday season. They don’t, and neither did you. Globalize your perspective. The holidays are not for comparing what you have to what you lost. You are going to have to make a special effort this year to point out your blessings over and over: your kids, your loved ones, your neighborhood, and your unique life experience.

For additional assistance regarding your divorce, please reach out to our team of knowledgeable, compassionate family law experts by contacting Semmes Law Firm today.

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