The holidays are upon us. What was once a joyful time for families is now a whole new experience in light of the discovery or disclosure that a spouse is LGBT.
Some of us are newly divorced, others are in the process. Still others are remaining in the marriage for now. No matter the state of the marriage or divorce, holidays bring up a lot of questions for families like ours.
Who’s out? Who is not? Who do we tell? Who do we not tell?
Sometimes when we agree for very good reasons to not divulge to other family members that our spouse is LGBT, we find that we are left without support. We are blamed for ending the marriage. We are blamed for not trying hard enough.
Or we are suddenly not welcome. Out of the family, who embraces the new lover or same sex spouse, in a coming out party. Or abandoned for telling the truth and refusing to take the blame for ending the marriage.
As with any family undergoing separation and divorce, there’s the question of all those traditions. We can’t do it the way we’ve always done it before.
So how do we survive?
First, the hard part. Take care of yourself. That means food, sleep, health, and establishing safe and sane boundaries.
Instead of struggling to meet the impossible expectations of the past, strive for new traditions. Maybe Thanksgiving meal with the kids won’t happen the way it always did on Thursday. But it can happen for you any time that weekend, or maybe the day before. It’s the same with Hannukkah and Christmas celebrations. You may not have the magic Christmas morning but you may be able to establish Christmas eve traditions instead. And Hannukkah lasts for 8 nights.
Or maybe you will do something you never did before. You’ll go to the football game instead of watching it on TV. Maybe you will go on a real Christmas vacation. Or you might visit others who are helpful and supportive of you.
Dont try to meet the expectations of others at this point. Meet your expectations.
Holidays are a time when amidst the celebration we can be painfully reminded of our losses. This is true whether it is the loss of a marriage, a relationship, or a death in the family. But they are also a time for finding our new connections, renewing old ties, and taking time for ourselves.
It’s important in a divorce to have clear expectations of what the holiday schedule will be, either according to the terms of a court order, or developed in advance with your ex. If communication is not possible, or not responded to until the last minute, make the best plans you possibly can for your family celebration and know that they may be interrupted or changed. If it is possible to accommodate a last minute request and its in a good interest for your children, by all means be flexible. All too often, our exes make their own plans for the kids and don’t bother to tell us – and then we are seen as the spoilsports of the fun time. If that happens, communicate in writing that you had gone ahead and made plans instead of waiting until the last minute. Be sure you have communicated those plans with your ex. Texts and Emails are great records for these conversations. Above all honor what is truly in the best interest of your children, no matter how the in laws, family friends, or neighbors view you.
Gift giving is sometimes an area where divorcing families conflict. When a child is given a gift that was previously disallowed (for example a particular video game) it can be a way of discrediting the other parent. Or, sometimes children are given expensive gifts, but with conditions. For example the iPad which can be used for homework is never to go to the other parents house – so the child only gets to use it for SOME of the homework.
Holidays can be full of these games. It’s important to reinforce for your children that you love them and be honest and open about how they will use the gifts. And of course communicate with your ex on an ongoing basis about the reality of what their generosity has meant.
Above all, give gifts to yourself – gifts of special new celebrations with family, gifts of down time, gifts of independence, and gifts of celebration. YOU are worth celebrating!