Monday, November 14, 2016

Reimagining: The Holidays

You can color in your holidays however you choose. 
D-Day blows up our world as we know it. Even if others don't see the damage, we do and it impacts every part of our lives, from whether we continue to display wedding photos on a bedside table to whether we start driving a different route to work to whether we put our house up for sale. Changes big and small become our new normal.
And though change can be tough, especially change that we didn't invite into our lives, it can also create renewal. It can spur growth. It can remind us to look around with fresh eyes and examine our lives, to do some metaphorical decluttering.
It's with that intention that I'll be writing some blog posts under the headline: Reimagining...
There's much we can reimagine following a partner's betrayal. Within the darkness, we can shine a light selectively on those parts of our lives that we want to change, whether wholesale reinventions or smaller tweaks that lead us back to our authentic selves.
Let's start with a time of year that's often the source of stress at the best of times, but that also tends to be rooted in deep traditions: The Holidays.

My D-Day was December 10, 1996 so you can probably imagine that Christmas. Merry, it was not. My parents, who were incredibly supportive of me in my agony, nonetheless bore the brunt of my pain. I screamed at my mother for her alcoholism in my childhood, casting my current pain as an extension of the pain I'd felt much of my life and for which I blamed others without self-control. Like her.
My kids, unaware of what was really going on, were on the receiving end of some of my wrath too. Early Boxing Day morning, as I tried to sleep, my year-old son began a fight with his little sister. I stomped downstairs, told him to stop and when did it again, I picked up a discarded box and bonked him on the head with it. He wailed with outrage more than any pain. And to this day, despite sincere apologies by me for losing my temper and "using my hands instead of my words", he reminds me of the "child abuse" he suffered early that morning.
I don't remember much else of that Christmas season beyond misery and anger and a profound disappointment that one of my favorite times of years was "ruined".
I hear that word a lot on this site, especially about the holidays. Birthdays are "ruined", Thanksgiving "ruined", Christmas or Hanukkah "ruined".
And yes, in the short term, there's so much pain and so much disappointment that a holiday pressuring us to put on a happy face and "celebrate" is inevitably going to feel "ruined."
But what if we gave ourselves permission to do things differently? What if, under the circumstances, we gave up this idea that things always had to look a certain way, or include a certain tradition, or involve certain people? Does that seem frightening? At a time when so much feels uncertain, we might want to cling even more tightly to rituals we can trust. But if those rituals are creating more pain, maybe it's time to reinvent them. To remind ourselves that human survival does not depend on whether the turkey includes homemade stuffing, or if our passive-aggressive mother-in-law is at the table, or if we celebrate on a certain calendar day or the day after.
You are in crisis mode. And when you're in crisis mode, old norms don't hold. When you're in crisis mode, you get to make the rules. You get to decide just how much you can handle and how your energy is best expended. Maybe, just maybe, it's more important for you to build in time for a long hike in the woods on Thanksgiving than it is to host your annual gathering of extended family. Maybe, if a separation is part of your post-D-Day world, you can sit down with your kids and redesign this year's holiday, holding on to what brings joy and tossing out what doesn't. If you're going to be alone, maybe this year's holiday includes a volunteer stint at a soup kitchen (don't underestimate the power of realizing that there are many kinds of pain and many opportunities to experience compassion) or maybe what the doctor ordered is a day of watching movies and crying into a bowl of Doritos.
Let me tell you, as someone who reinvented my own holidays in the years since D-Day, the sky is not going to fall. Trust me on this. The laws of nature will hold. One day will follow another. Nothing is worth hurting yourself further when you've already been so hurt.
But there are some rules I'll ask you to adhere to:
Be honest. Start with yourself and figure out what you honestly want given your situation. This isn't about wishful thinking and falling into an abyss of how you shouldn't even have to be dealing with this. You're right. You shouldn't. But you are dealing with it and you can deal with it from a place of honesty with yourself.
Then extend that honesty to everyone around you who will be affected by any changes. Be prepared for backlash because people are freaking crazy about tradition. Be prepared for tears. Be prepared for blame. Be prepared for passive-aggression, for all the countermoves we talk about on this site. Because you're likely doing something you don't often do, which is put yourself first. It's high time people discovered that you are entitled to your feelings too. And if it matters so much to them that the Thanksgiving dinner include your secret gravy, then tell them you'll happily pass that tradition along and that you'll be delighted to savor their version.
If all this seems daunting, then tweak it in ways that serve you. Carve out some alone time with a friend who knows what you're going through. Take that walk with the dog and let everyone else clean up. Or do whatever you can to create a tiny space of peace for you. Changes, big and small.
Check your motives. Don't wreak havoc as a way of expressing your pain. Don't throw out things that genuinely matter to you just to make someone else hurt.
Check your expectations. This year will be different. There's no way around that. Expecting it to feel like "good" years is destined to leave you deflated and disheartened.
Watch for moments of grace: Make it your task to mentally catalogue at least five moments of grace. Maybe it's someone squeezing your hand because they know how hard this is for you. Maybe it's your child or grandchild climbing into your lap and giving you a hug. Maybe it's an overcooked turkey that everyone eats anyway because what's on the plate doesn't matter so much after all and you all realize, more than ever, that hearts are fragile and we need to be gentle with each other. Maybe it's gratitude that you're not in jail for killing your husband. If you're watching for moments of grace, it will be easier to overlook the moments of disappointment, which will be there too.
At the risk of being a silver-linings thinker (though I'm guilty as charged!), the incredible pain of betrayal can also be an opening into another life, one in which we learn to be gentle with ourselves, to hold our hearts in high regard and to create space in our lives only for those who show us they deserve to be there, by treating us with honesty and dignity and respect.
And we can start reimagining that future today.


  1. Thank you for this. I still need help with my wedding anniversary. Ugh. Even though things are going really, really well this particular date brings me to my knees. Enjoying the warm weather and water in Maui and sending love to you all. Peace

  2. I love the line, we get to make the rules. So much freedom if only we could dare to move towards it. (I still don't know what to do about our smiling wedding photo which I see every day.) Thanks for this post. I will start to reflect on what would help me this Christmas and it may well involve a mix of helping others as well as screaming silently into a pillow in my parents' house. Who knows!

  3. All so true and well said. For me what was hardest with holidays is it was the time when my husband and I still had our best times together and he was great. So once dday hit it all felt so fake. That was my big struggle. My husband's term is we need to have a corrective emotional experience. So he is big on talking in advance about what I want whether it is a holiday, trip etc. It does help he checks in with me. I think it cuts down on at least the strength of the trigger. We have chosen since dday to turn inward and focus more on us. We try to plan and do what we want as a couple and an immediate family. We both struggled this summer with some major dates and also summer is busy for us. In the winter it was almost like we hibernated together and it was so good for us. In the end I keep reminding myself watch his actions and listen to his words today. And focus on what we can have together vs what is lost. This is not always easy for me but it helps a lot. I cannot change or get back lost time but I can choose to not lose more time with him.

    1. Hopeful 30 you have just described pretty much what my husband and I do now. We are spending Thanksgiving in Maui. All of my adult children have excellent options to seeing me and I've told them all numerous times over the years that being raised as a military child taught me that every "special" day could be celebrated on any day that Dad was home. I ordered a turkey pie to cook that day. I agree that focusing on what we have instead of what I thought we had is the better plan. I just hit 17 months post DD. Sometimes I am still so raw and other times I am good to go. I posted a response to your last post on the election. I so wish there was a way to connect directly but there is fear about that along with excitement. Thankful for everyone here. Peace

    2. Beach Girl, Glad to hear from you. I know I always relate to your posts. Enjoy where you are. Our fall has been amazing here in the states so no complaining. Having a pretty awesome fall making lots of new memories!

  4. I love these suggestions. I have struggled this year with celebrations and traditions too, but I have honestly loved being able to let go of stuff that was more work for me that didn't give me joy (I now realize I was the one doing all the work for everyone else's joy). This year I'm basically skipping all the holidays, and that makes me feel better for now. For example, my kid had a championship sports game on halloween night, so no happy families with cute kids were at my door. No one was home! I am working to figure out how to skip all the other holidays too. (trip for thanksgiving? cruise for Christmas?) Eventually I will rebuild them into something I can enjoy. Sorry to the other people in my life, but nothing looks the same to me anymore, and that includes holidays. That does not have to be a bad thing! I know they (my family) will all be confused about the changes because they don't know about the infidelity at all, but they will have to accept that I'm taking care of myself and letting go of lots of things.

  5. Hello. Haven't posted in ages. We have indeed re-invented. We are going to New Orleans for Thanksgiving holiday. Leaving Thursday morning. New days, new rituals. I've hosted and cooked many holiday meals and loved each and everyone of them. I hold no resentment for doing them. But time to change things up.

  6. Love this idea of reimagining. It is so freeing, knowing that we can change what we want and keep what we want and it is all OK. My kids and I have discussed Christmas, made no decisions about what, quite, we want to do with the day and extended family. We did realize that most of our Christmas traditions were really between me and them. They know I've been Santa all these years. They know I am the driving force behind the new jammies, mince tarts and trifle, how the stockings are done, all the decorating. All of it. Even 90% of the dinner. So ths year we are toalking about how we want to decorate together, what we will cook. Other fun activities. A local vintage theater (with a balcony still!) always shows Its a Wonderful Life. We might go see that and have hot cocoa. It is such a great scene. Just lots of options to find and make little moments of joy. And the three of us will decide what works for us Christmas day. It will be weird at some points, maybe a little bittersweet in moments, but also full of love.
    This will be my first Thanksgiving without my kids, but we will be OK. And My girl and I will still have our black friday traditions, just scaled back a bit - I'm on a budget now :) . That following week might be tough for me. I know that's when his affair went fully physical last year. So I will find some social outlets and friends to lean on. And you know what? I will live. New years too. Maybe the toughest. My actual dday was Jan 1. Hard to believe it has not even been a year yet. But I plan on hanging out with my son and being available to rescue my daughter from whatever party she lands at. I may visit with neighbors. I may paint. I may read. Who knows? I'll do what is right for me. And start Jan1 with a good long run outside.
    And when these days come I have permission to completely change my mind about any plans.

  7. Our traditional holiday plans have been different from the beginning of the college years and now with the grandsons having to share time with their dads family tradition has been cast aside! So we just do each as they come and I don't dwell on what was! Hopeful 30, my h and I have been replacing the memories as your h suggested with happy new memories! Slowly but surely it gets better!

  8. I'm working hard on reimagining this time of year. It's been tough for me since long before my husband's affair. My mom passed away the day before Thanksgiving 2003. She loved this time of year and Thanksgiving and Christmas were always a big deal. The first few years after she passed away, I did my best to ignore Thanksgiving. I spent the first anniversary of her death in a bar in Key West. But once we had a family, I wanted to give my kids the same kinds of memories I had growing up. This time of year also has some unpleasant memories of the time just before things started to unravel, but I try to focus on where we are now vs. where we were two years ago. So this year, I'll involve my daughter, who loves to help in the kitchen, with all the Thanksgiving preparations. My son may even want to pitch in. Make some memories with them. I coincidentally scheduled family photos for the day which is the actual anniversary of my mom's death. It should be a fun photo session as the photographer has an old pickup truck she's using for the day. Things were such a mess last year I completely overlooked our annual family photos. We're in a far better place now and I want to bring back that annual tradition.
    The anniversary of D-Day 1 will roll around mid-December. Now nearly two years out, I don't know how I'll feel when it gets here. But I got through it last year and I'' hopeful that this year will be even better. As everyone says, time has a way of easing some of the pain.
    I was triggered the other day by a memory on Facebook and I shared it with my husband. It was something involving the kids and me that he didn't even remember as he was very deep into his addiction and the affair. He told me that he regrets all the things he missed or overlooked and realizes that he can't get those memories back. All he can do now is make the most of today... every day. I think the more I try to do that the better I'll be, too.

    1. Dandelion, Interesting I think that is how my husband feels about all those FB memories. He never had a real account only a fake one. Well when I show him photos from the years it is hard on him. It makes it sink in even more how little he was connected to us. And for 10 years. That is a long time! And there are long lasting repercussions because of it all.

      I am glad he sees that now. And I cannot change it all but I am glad it came out when it did. In time for him to be a better husband but also a better dad. He is so much more connected thankfully with all of us.

  9. Hi guys... I'm really busy up until Christmas then I'm going to spend time with my children and family.. it's always busy and a bit crazy but I love it : ) Elle the little things we take for granted mean the most so I love the idea of thinking of five things daily that make you happy: I'm gonna say mine out loud for today:
    1.My colleagues.. they are the reason I didn't ring in sick this morning
    2. The students I work with.. one said to me today how she appreciated my help and I nearly burst into tears
    3. The fact that I've not argued with my 12 yr old today : ) result!!! although there is still time
    4. I have neighbours I can call on day and night and are a great support for me and my children
    5. You guys.. I love coming here to listen and share my feelings .. you make me feel safe like I'm able to tell you guys anything... love you lots

    Thank you for listening ..


  10. Thanks, Elle, for the holiday post. I, too, am trying to reimagine the holidays. Just thinking about the holidays and how they will be different makes me sad and a bit nervous on the inside. I hope it won't show on the outside. My dday was Dec 20 and I keep thinking a variety of thoughts. This time last year h was deep into the OW. He texted her on Thanksgiving, when we were out on date night at the theater (and there's one of those coming up the Saturday after Thanksgiving), and when we were at his mom's celebrating Christmas with his family. It was awful. I knew something was up, his behavior showed it. Now I dread these upcoming events. I cook a massive Thanksgiving dinner for his family that I'm hoping I can survive this year (it just might involve a lot of wine...). Going to his moms just might trigger me so much that I'm not sure I can do it. Maybe I can find a way out of going?? I don't think I want/can put up a tree this year. The only thing that may get me through Christmas is knowing I can see the delight in my grandchildren on that day and have them there to hug on. I hardly remember last Christmas as everything was so raw and I was a mess and just trying to keep it together.

    In some ways my h has been really good with me. We've planned a trip away right after Christmas, but sometimes I just don't think he gets it. He says I should be over it. That he doesn't think about it and when I brought something up the other day he said that maybe I would be better off without him since I can't get past it and we should separate. Things have been going really well so this caught me off guard and I replied (in tears) that if that was his way of telling me HE wants out then that was a really crappy way of doing it. He said that wasn't it at all, that he gets sad that I still think about it. I explained that this year, this time of year, is really hard for me. And things got quiet and the subject changed... as always.

    So I really am going to think hard to reimagine and put low expectations on the holidays. That way, when they turn out better than I expect, in any little way, I'll be okay with the way it turned out.

    Dandelion, thanks for the reminder to look at his actions TODAY and make the most of them. My mind movies are working overtime right now and I'm super sensitive to almost everything concerning my h. This is sooo dang hard.

    Thanks ladies, for your thoughts on the holidays. I'm sure I'll read and reread them as the days go by.

  11. Hello Sisters

    American Thanksgiving- I love it! The family and gratitude and joy and NO gifts!!! I love Christmas too, but I don't love all the gift giving. I wish I could convince my family to do something like homemade gifts only.

    I have been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving and this will be the first time in 15 years my H and I are not together. Right now what I mostly feel is relief- last year was aweful, so so hurtful. He was contacting the OW through out the day and it was terrible. I am looking forward to peaceful day, with people I love and who love me and none of my H's hurtful crap!!! I know I will think of him, miss him, and wish things were different between us, but I also know these have been his own choices, and i will take another step forward healing my heart and reshaping my life.

    Love and support sisters

  12. I still have to deal with the other woman because she lives down the street from us. Its going on three years now

  13. Thanksgiving this year. my first without kids, dumbass, and extended family. In fact the first where I will be with no one with whom I share genetic materials. I'm OK a little sad but have volunteer work planned first thing, a fabulous dinner with friends to attend and Black Friday (post midnight) traditions with my daughter. I'm actually looking forward to meeting new people, enjoying time with myself, and starting new things.
    I own Christmas, so honestly, however it turns out I am ready for loveliness, some bittersweet, but overall good.
    New Years. That's my Dday gang. 1 year this year since I found out. I guess I should be grateful he managed to keep his shit together through the holidays at all. But also, so typically selfish. So. No real plans there. I will be on sober standby in case I need to rescue my teen socialite. Watch movies with my son. It will be fine.
    Instead I am claiming December 21 for my new New Year. It is the solstice, endings and beginnings all rolled into one.The longest night that begins the slow creeping growth of light. The new solar year. I am going to have such a party! Making something new for myself! Love and light!

  14. Thank you for this post. I too am re-imagining my holidays this year. Thanksgiving and Christmas were always favorites for me and not for the gifts but being together with my immediate family and their spouses. My Dday was Feb. of this year and so far we haven't spent one holiday, birthday or anniversary together and it looks like the trend will continue with Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every missed holiday or birthday or anniversary is difficult and a time for reflection. This years' Thanksgiving will be a MUCH smaller affair. I was invited to attend a large family gathering or even join other families but honestly I don't want to. So instead it's just going to be me, my mom and dad cooking a delicious meal and being together at the beach. I plan on lots of reading, long beach walks, wine, good food, window shopping and taking time for myself. Yes it will be different...but it's just that - different. Not necessarily bad and I need to remember that. The holidays can be celebrated any way you want to and sometimes traditions are meant to be broken. For Christmas I'm headed to New Orleans with my family, sister and her husband for 5 days or so. I told my family I wasn't sticking around here so either they went with me or I would go by myself ;) Luckily they obliged and were happy to join but I couldn't face the last holiday of the year reflecting on what ISN'T. I wanted to be somewhere festive, warm and honestly, distracted. I'm thinking New Orleans will fit the bill. If nothing else, I'm trying to end the year on a positive note. Giving a big F-U to 2016 and awaiting the changes that 2017 brings.

  15. Photogirl--my husband and I will be in NOLA too!!! I thin we may go to Brennan's for Thanksgiving lunch /dinner or Pasquale Manales for BBQ shrimp. Yes time to change traditions

  16. Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate. (I'm in Ireland) I'm having a bad few days, hormones (always bring out the worst feelings) and the thoughts of Christmas just now. I just can't do it. It will be the third anniversary of D-Day just after Christmas and I know they were building up to things just before it (D-day was an announcement that she existed and that he thought he wanted to leave for her.) On top of that I discovered bills for many payments to porn sites going back to 2004, a time when we had very small children and were forging our family life together. I had known that he looked at porn from time to time, I didn't particularly have a problem with it. Its the extent of it, and the money squandered! We have talked it through and he admits that he stopped it at the time because he knew he was going too far, though he did not ever realise the extent of the billing. Head in sand again! I've suffered from depression and anxiety over the years and I'm just looking back at this bleak landscape of troubles with my eldest son and me as a person and as a stay at home mum just taken apart, no value, no respect. I know we are supposed to find our own value, I just feel like the things I put my efforts into turned out so badly, my writing took a hit and I've managed to get back into it but after too long. I've ended up cynical. My husband is trying to do things right and he says he cares, but I can no longer feel it. After years of his argumentiveness and undermining (not meant but just a feature of his conflict avoiding mentality) I don't feel accepted, loved. At times I care but I just don't feel I love him. This goes way back, I fell big time for a first love and then, although, me and husband were friends he was aware it wasn't the grand love affair, so he felt uncared for. There are key incidents over time where we could have made a better 'love' story together but things went wrong. Now I just feel everything is too knotted up and gone too far. He keeps saying he cares and that he's said it all before and so it seems that I'm not 'hearing him.' Maybe it is down to me. I don't even know if I want to try anymore. So many lies, deceptions for reasons that were logical to him at the times. Telling me in a text how much he had hurt me and wanted to make it up WHILE chatting to the OW behind my back, nine months after D-Day. I can't get it all out of my head. I still feel humiliated how he told her stuff about me. Is it really possible to get over this and make a path through all the lying.

    1. Just in the last few days I discovered an author of MANY books called Andrew Marshall. He may have something to help you. He has a book about I Love You But I'm Not In Love With You and I'm currently reading My Husband Doesn't Love Me And He's Texting Someone Else. He seems DEAD ON about a lot of the situations so far. I'm going to try to implement his ideas for better communication to try to get my h back on track and back "in love" with me. He's ILYB and I'm sure it's because of OW. She has nothing better than I do OTHER than she makes way more money. BUT she put up with an abusive husband for a decade, has a kid with this loser, her parents are lowlifes that like the abuser, and she has two different skeezey guys lurking around trying to move in on her after less than 3 weeks since miscarrying my WH baby. REALLY?! That's what you're throwing away ten years of your life, a condo, and your "best friend" for? OI! Anyway back to the point from my tangent. He also has some books about bettering yourself and working on different aspects of relationships. You should look into him because he seems to really know what he's talking about. I desperately which my h could read the book I'm reading so he could have some clarity but I'm not managing him. He's in charge of his own shit. Thank god he's at least seeing a therapist but I don't hold much hope he has the ability to really look at himself and see where things have gone wrong. Fingers crossed miracles are real. Although if I'm getting a miracle I'd rather just the hindsight is 20/20 rewind button where I see what is going to go wrong and fix it before that point or the Powerball $403m button where I win the Powerball dump my foolish h to figure himself out with that broken skank the OW and I spend the next year in Fiji in an overwater bungalow crying into my millions and listening to Stronger by Britney Spears and Stronger by Kelly Clarkson and Rockstar by Pink and moving on from this shit show.

  17. Anon I've read lots of Andrew Marshall too. He does seem to get it, in terms of how affairs work and understanding what us happening and he offers a lot if hope. I read and reread his books when I was I limbo, trying to give my h time to come out if the affair fog. The best parts if the books are where he tells you to focus on becoming your best self, not as a tactic to win him back, but rather as an act of self esteem and self love. What that did for me was help me get right with myself do that I knew I would be better than ok if my marriage came to an end, even though I was committed to saving my marriage if I could. I think the draw backs of these books and any for that matter, is that they are aimed at us, to sell the books to us and may create the illusion that we can do more or control more than is really true when it comes to our wayward, out if their minds spouses. No book can take into account the family if origin stuff your h and you brought to the table.
    I guess I'm just urging caution when it comes to the books. I certainly read the crap out of them. They were like a security blanket for me but ultimately, for me, couldn't make my h willing to face what he'd done or undo the damage to himself or our relationship of years of sex addiction and cheating.
    I hope his therapist is helping him figure out why he was able to do this and meantime, you focus on taking care of you. Do your own work. Invest in yourself. Don't feel like you have to make any decisions before you are ready. And you will know when you are. Hugs

  18. It's all so complicated! I agree Still Standing, even when they do look at themselves there is so much history, family of origin, relationship history, and current ways of interacting and uncertainty about ultimate safety in the relationship. My H has done lots of the right things but undermined me so much throughout our history and even, in many ways, during the reconciliation, until I finally heard him mostly agree with me rather than argue. Even when you talk through things, how do you know that they really get it in the way you mean. Anonymous, I read a lot of Andrew Marshall's books in the first year and found them helpful. He gave a good explanation of D-Day 2 in one of the books. I asked my husband to read it to see if it made sense to him (after D-Day 2) but he gave up reading the books (though he read other articles). Each relationship is very personal and complex. I still can't figure out if we can get through a very dubious history of poor and resentful communication and poor boundaries in many ways. He says lots of the right stuff but life so often gets in the way.

  19. Getting back my husband after separation was a very difficult for me because he went to settle down with another lady, i had two children for him already. I have tried to make contacts with him to come back home yet he refuse, each time i look at his kids i become more sad and i needed him at my side to raise the children together. I was so lucky i finally got the help i needed, i went on a search and i saw Priest Ajigars contact. People say he is a very powerful spell caster that he can put an end to relationship problem, causes that disturb destiny, he is also good in curing different diseases. He is such a special man gifted with powers and reliable spell caster that have a cure to most problems of life. My husband is back to me and we are living happily as it used to be, Priest Ajigar have done what i could never have done with my own powers, i'm also very happy that i will have a very lovely Christmas with my family. Here is his email in case you need help too (



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