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!
The holidays are here.
What used to be a time of celebrating family and friends with time honored tradition is now a physical and emotional obstacle course. Whose house? Who will be there? What about the children, especially when the court says one thing and the family says another?
Maybe you plan on spending holiday time with your gay ex, but the rest of the family doesn’t approve now that they know the secret. Maybe you wanted to accept your former in laws invitation but then you find out they invited the new boyfriend you haven’t met yet – and you better make nice for the sake of the children. Besides, grandma will be so disappointed if you dont come. Maybe your lesbian ex has planned the perfect holiday trip with your children, without even consulting you, effectively cancelling the simple but important celebrations you planned to share with your children. And you realize – your role is no longer that of a family member but of a spoiler. The truth of your life is an unwelcome part of the script, so it becomes necessary to rewrite the family story, casting you as the one who ruins all the fun.
In the middle of all the drama, you are angry at missing out on all the celebration and festivity going on around you. So many of us feel as if we have been cast aside, thrown away, discarded – and the holidays remind us of this because we no longer fit the celebrations or expectations of our families and friends. Or you might be included but the expectations are clear – don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones in a holiday season that follows disclosure, discovery, or divorce is to go forward. Recognize that this is a transition. Spend the time with people who support you. And you’ll find that being open to new traditions is a great pathway to healing for yourself and your family.
Don’t be afraid to be clear about what you need and want. And don’t be shy about setting boundaries concerning topics or behavior that are insensitive to you.
If you are separated or divorced and the holiday coincides with your time with the children, don’t be afraid to set limits about joining traditional gatherings that now make you uncomfortable. Make your own plans as benefits you and your children. All the wonderful presents from the in laws who now despise you and show it will still be there, or they can be presented in advance or later. Its still special to the kids. And if you don’t have the kids this holiday and find yourself alone – again make new traditions. Find new people. Do something for you that you have always wanted to do. And be sure to set aside a time to have a special celebration with your children before or after they are to be with the other parent.
It’s still a holiday, it’s still special, and it can still be wonderful. Set realistic expectations, acknowledge how you feel, and plan some enjoyment and down time for yourself. YOU are worth celebrating!