Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's the Most Difficult Time of the Year

Ah the holidays.
What can I say about the...holidays. I live suspended somewhere between the fantasy of what I think they SHOULD look like. And my reality of what they've – with few exceptions – always been.
If something lousy was going to happen to me (and it usually did), it happened around the holidays, ensuring that my Christmas stockings were largely filled with bitterness, resentment and tears.
And somehow anything bad is magnified by the holidays. Because we expect everything to be wonderful, when it's not.... Like, for example, you just found out your husband has been shtoinking his assistant for...well...far too long to insist that it was a "mistake" seems sooo much worse.
And yet, this year, after a lifetime of disappointing holidays, still has me thinking it's going to be wonderful.
And the strange thing is, after my D-Day on December 10, 2006 which had me driving around the OW's neighborhood on Christmas morning – sobbing, incoherent, suicidal – the holidays have actually become better than they ever were.
Crazy, huh?
The thing about hitting bottom is that you've got nowhere to go but up.
So after that Black Christmas of 2006 (which was my last Christmas before my mom died, and I spent it barely functional), I let go of any expectations of ever having a greeting card Christmas. Ever. Indeed, I was ready to declare a moratorium on Christmas altogether.
My childhood holidays were notable for the drunken fights between various relatives, including my parents. My young adult holidays were notable for the dismissive way my boyfriend's family treated me. And my married holidays were notable for my husband's distinct lack of enthusiasm and my in-law's distinct rudeness.
So when D-Day came and went, I simply waved the white flag. I gave up. I decided, without telling a soul, that I would go through the motions for my children. But, as far as I was concerned, the holidays were just more days to mark off the calendar.
And that's when my own Christmas miracle occurred.
Christmas 2007 was...nice. I made sure that we marked D-Day by being together (I knew I'd be a mess if we were apart and my imagination was free to create an entire demon fantasy world) and going...Christmas shopping. Something we'd never done together. And since we were both surprised and grateful that we were still together after all the past year had held, it was...nice. Maybe not greeting card material. But nice. Even with my mom gone. Even with my father grieving.
Christmas 2008 was...better. By this time I'd freed myself of any obligations that did not serve myself or my marriage well. If my husband wanted to spend time with his dysfunctional family, that was fine with me. But I had decided that it only led to resentment and bitterness. And I was done with holidays defined by those two nasty elves.
Christmas 2009 was...better still. By this time, we had developed some of our own traditions based on what worked for us as a family. Based on what we felt fed our family's value system and definition of a great holiday.
This year? Well. Remains to be seen. We have a beloved dog battling cancer and a house undergoing SERIOUS renovations. The place, frankly, is a mess. So my love of a beautifully decorated house has had to give way to an acceptance of a sorta-decorated house.
But I can look back to four years ago, when I thought I would never again experience joy. And certainly NEVER peace.
Yet here I am. Joyful. And filled with peace.
D-Day is now woven into the fabric of holiday memories. Most bad. But some, more recently, quite...nice.


  1. takilasunrise (formerly known as Anonymous II)December 8, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    This will be my first Christmas after D-Day #1, 5 months ago today. Though I'm at a better place than I was 4 months ago, this upcoming Christmas has been a trigger because of the big lie he told me (where he was going to be on Christmas but was really with "her"), then came home and pulled the big puppy dog eyes and said he should have been home with me on Christmas instead of with his brother. Knowing that, I'm going to make sure that I make Christmas a nice memory for my adult daughters and my grandson and not dwell on where he was a year ago! My wayward husband moved out (separated) 2 months ago and won't be a part of our holidays this year! His loss.........

  2. Good for you! Sounds as if you've created a good holiday for you and your family. And though his absence will be noted, certainly, I hope it's simply part of the background and not the focus. His loss, indeed.

  3. My husband and I are having problems with a christmas party invitation we received from the revolting mother in law.
    We told her that we would not be attending any christmas events and would just be spending time together as a family.
    She went ahead and planned a christmas lunch and invited us to it. After talking to her on the phone she is chucking what can only be described as a tantrum because we are not going to her lunch.
    My husband has put his mother ahead of his family so many times before. It will not be happening this christmas or for anything else for that matter.
    However we are still left with the prickly situation of her tantrum and now it's interfering with my husband and myself- just the very thing we have been trying to avoid.

  4. I've had a LOT of mother-in-law issues over the years. And when D-Day occurred, it finally gave me the freedom/permission to start putting myself first and stop trying to please -- and helping my husband please -- my mother-in-law.
    There were definitely some "countermoves" as my therapist calls them. Any time you shift dynamics in a relationship (ie you start instilling boundaries where formerly there were none), you're going to get countermoves. Barbara Coloroso, a parenting expert, writes beautifully about them. She's referring to kids' response to parent's boundaries but her theory works for everyone. You'll ALWAYS get one of three "cons": the first is "weeping, wailing, begging, bribing, gnashing of teeth"; the second is anger and aggression; and the third is sulking. When you know to expect them, I find it's easier to simply note to yourself that "okay, here we go with a Con 2" or whatever. It allows you to remove yourself from it, not take it personally (even when you're hearing the "you don't care about me" or "you're being so selfish" or whatever) and recognize it as simply a natural human reaction to you changing the rules of the game.
    Hang in there and do your very best NOT to get involved. It's really between your husband and his mother. Often a third person getting involved really just allows both of them to blame you, on some level. You can choose to not go and allow your husband to make his own choice. After awhile, I discovered, that my NOT being there forced my husband to truly deal with his family...and once he stopped defending them to me (because I no longer criticized, got angry, etc), he saw them for what they were. And we were suddenly back on the same team.

  5. Christmas 2011 was my d-day. Good to see the holiday season ma not be entirely lost. The holidays were always a special time for family but also a time of trying to please lots of people- parents and in-laws. This year ironically we had decided to try Christmas without visiting family. I probably would not have found out on Christmas if we were with our families. And since the other woman bought my Christmas presents this year, that woud have been another dark moment eventually. No one has noticed except cheating spouse that they went from under the tree to a box in the garage late on christmas night. Day by day. Hour by hour is maybe a better description here.

  6. Minute by minute, second by second... Whatever gets you to the next second, minute, day, week. Eventually you'll notice you're not crying as much, or numb as much. I distinctly recall the moment when I realized I wasn't thinking about "it" -- and by recognizing that moment, I was able to trust that there would be more of them.
    Betrayal does change who we are. Never again will I be that blindly trusting wife. But though I miss those Pollyanna days, I also really like who I've become. I'm far nicer to myself. I no longer try and please so many people (cause, frankly, look where it got me!!). I'm far more focussed on being the best "me"...which gives my kids (and anyone else who cares to notice) permission to be their best "me".
    Once you can see past the pain (and it does take awhile!!), you'll be amazed at the gifts that arise out of this. Not to sound trite or all new-age freaky on you, but if you're open to it, this is a chance to rewrite the rest of your life. Don't put up with dishonesty or inconsideration or any of the crap that men so often dish out when they're in an affair (and sometimes even when they're not). Insist that he get himself straightened out to find out why he would risk losing a family he obviously loves. Trust that you are worth fighting for – by him, but also by you.
    And trust that, someday, holidays will be magical again.



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