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December’s Dilemmas

Posted by on Dec 24, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Holidays are wonderful times for families to get together and renew relationships, celebrate traditions, and share the latest news.  For straight spouses undergoing the stresses of divorce, or the recent discovery that a spouse is gay, those same holidays can be awkward and painful.  It can hurt to see traditions discarded, or to be excluded from family gatherings, or be told that the spouse has to be excluded or included.

Holiday GlitterSome new dilemmas for straight spouses include basic things, like “whose house are we going to for dinner and who will be there” to “telling the kids mom is gay” before or after the holiday, to a lack of money to keep up all the traditions.  They can be as complicated as “will Daddy bring the boyfriend to Grandma’s this year” or taking the kids shopping to buy a present for Mom’s girlfriend.  A straight spouse might feel a rush of anger at seeing an expensive present that was lavished on a boyfriend or girlfriend, that was never considered for them, or seeing the gay couple take the trip of a lifetime that the spouse had thought would be a special second honeymoon.

Then there are always the friends and relatives who have their own opinions about things – and express them loudly.  That could mean saying negative things about the gay spouse in front of the children, or a tentative hint around the kitchen table that “you can still be married, just live together like brother and sister”.  It can be the brother in law who keeps asking “ya want me to ‘fix’ his car?” or the cousin who just CANNOT believe that this is true, and YOU must be mistaken.  Add to this family stew a gay spouse who is worried that nothing will be the same “because I’m gay and nobody accepts that”,  and your happy holidays turn into an occasion of dread.

How about those friends who are determined to be fair and friendly and invite you both to a party?  You venture out, and find your spouse there with a date – and the group of friends is affirming “coming out” but ignoring how devastating this is to you.  Isn’t it funny how the rules for divorcing heterosexual couples don’t apply to us?

The best advice we have for the holidays is to view them as an opportunity for new traditions affirming you and your values. Accept that things will be different.  The first year it is a discovery process, finding what works and what doesn’t.  After that, it does get easier.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with friends and relatives, and establish what is appropriate and what is not.  Tell the brother in law to fix YOUR car since you need help.  Tell the cousin that believe it or not, it’s true and you’re not discussing it right now. Tell the person who wants you to stay married that you can’t.  It really is not possible to ignore a gay spouse’s sexual activity, no matter how discreet.  It is different.  And if you are staying together, you are making your own rules.  Just don’t totally alienate people who truly love you.  Remember, they are struggling to understand what has happened, and want to know how to help you.

Holidays can be a bridge that we cross from an old life to a new one.  Sometimes it is a painful bridge, but we do get there!  The important thing is to keep going.

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Giving Thanks

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

Holidays can be a difficult time for straight spouses. Regardless of whether you recently discovered that your spouse is LGBTQ or have known for years, changes in traditions and family relationships can be unsettling. Sometimes they are isolating.

And sometimes, they are liberating.

For many of us, life has changed in completely unexpected ways. We didn’t expect to divorce. We didn’t expect to be sharing holiday celebrations with our ex husband’s husband/boyfriend or our ex wife’s wife/girlfriend. We didn’t expect to have our families, our friends, our adult children, be uncomfortable about making choices in how traditions are honored.

Family dynamics change. People marry, they divorce, they have children. They have stepchildren. They die. They age and have different needs. They have disagreements.

Changing family dynamics for us can include how we handle a spouse’s coming out, or how our families handle it. Or, do we all remain closeted, thus keeping the peace? If we’re divorced or separated, our family members may find the real reason to be too much to handle. They may want to rewrite the story. Sometimes that leads to us being excluded. Sometimes our exes are excluded, and we walk the fine line between family members who wish to be supportive and sympathetic, and those who think it’s time to let loose with homophobic remarks, or worse, the snarky jokes about your sex life.

Family dynamics change, and ours have undergone powerful changes. So how do we straight spouses survive the holidays, and actually enjoy them?

First of all, let’s own the experience. We acknowledge that things are different. The perfect Hallmark holiday setting does not exist, and it’s pretty clear that it won’t. And as you think about gathering with family for a Thanksgiving meal, a Hanukkah party, or Christmas tradition, name your feelings to yourself. Usually, straight spouses are pretty angry at the beginning, and sometimes that continues. Name your anger, your sadness and why you believe you feel that way.

Know that your feelings are valid. Expect that others who are adjusting to changing family dynamics may not be able or willing to validate them for you.

It’s not easy when children are involved, but that’s why it is important for you to exercise grace and keep communication open as safely as possible. Sometimes in families where we have been cast aside, it can be difficult because they want to include the children but not you, and don’t really want to communicate much. Make certain you know the basics – where and when – and plan your own joy.

Yes. Plan your own joy. Maybe that joy will be shared with family, with children, maybe not. Take the opportunity to establish new traditions, new experiences, ones that give you joy and peace. It may seem to be easier said than done, but once you start focusing on what is meaningful to you the holidays can take on a whole new experience. You might even begin new traditions – and that can be very satisfying.

Don’t forget to do something for you!

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The December Dilemma

Posted by on Dec 19, 2016 in Blog | 15 comments

Holidays are wonderful times for families to get together and renew relationships, celebrate traditions, and share the latest news.  For straight spouses undergoing the stresses of divorce, or the recent discovery that a spouse is gay, those same holidays can be awkward and painful.  It can hurt to see traditions discarded, or to be excluded from family gatherings, or be told that the spouse has to be excluded or included.

Holiday GlitterSome new dilemmas for straight spouses include basic things, like “whose house are we going to for dinner and who will be there” to “telling the kids mom is gay” before or after the holiday, to a lack of money to keep up all the traditions.  They can be as complicated as “will Daddy bring the boyfriend to Grandma’s this year” or taking the kids shopping to buy a present for Mom’s girlfriend.  A straight spouse might feel a rush of anger at seeing an expensive present that was lavished on a boyfriend or girlfriend, that was never considered for them, or seeing the gay couple take the trip of a lifetime that the spouse had thought would be a special second honeymoon.

Then there are always the friends and relatives who have their own opinions about things – and express them loudly.  That could mean saying negative things about the gay spouse in front of the children, or a tentative hint around the kitchen table that “you can still be married, just live together like brother and sister”.  It can be the brother in law who keeps asking “ya want me to ‘fix’ his car?” or the cousin who just CANNOT believe that this is true, and YOU must be mistaken.  Add to this family stew a gay spouse who is worried that nothing will be the same “because I’m gay and nobody accepts that”,  and your happy holidays turn into an occasion of dread.

How about those friends who are determined to be fair and friendly and invite you both to a party?  You venture out, and find your spouse there with a date – and the group of friends is affirming “coming out” but ignoring how devastating this is to you.  Isn’t it funny how the rules for divorcing heterosexual couples don’t apply to us?

The best advice we have for the holidays is to view them as an opportunity for new traditions affirming you and your values. Accept that things will be different.  The first year it is a discovery process, finding what works and what doesn’t.  After that, it does get easier.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with friends and relatives, and establish what is appropriate and what is not.  Tell the brother in law to fix YOUR car since you need help.  Tell the cousin that believe it or not, it’s true and you’re not discussing it right now. Tell the person who wants you to stay married that you can’t.  It really is not possible to ignore a gay spouse’s sexual activity, no matter how discreet.  It is different.  And if you are staying together, you are making your own rules.  Just don’t totally alienate people who truly love you.  Remember, they are struggling to understand what has happened, and want to know how to help you.

Holidays can be a bridge that we cross from an old life to a new one.  Sometimes it is a painful bridge, but we do get there!  The important thing is to keep going.

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Holiday Times

Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 in Blog | 7 comments

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.

Holiday TimesSome 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!

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Happy Mother’s Day

Posted by on May 10, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

mothers dayWe want to wish a happy Mother’s Day to all!  Whether you are a mother yourself, or honoring your own mother, take the time this weekend to enjoy the day and appreciate the special mom in your life.

For many of us, holidays that honor families can at times be difficult when we are undergoing a separation or a change in our family that comes when we realize our spouse is gay or lesbian.  It helps to remember that even for the happiest of families, these occasions are often not as perfect as they seem – or as we remember them.

Enjoy this day – with your children, or without them, with your mother or without her – and be good to yourself.  It gets better.

Read more about moving forward through spring holidays and family occasions here.

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