When you’re recently divorced and it’s Christmas time, you may feel like the rest of the world is operating in another dimension. They’re abuzz with love, with holiday spirit, with parties and sparkle… all the feelings you’re struggling to remember, or working hard to shut away and forget.
Even years after divorce, the December holidays may be especially challenging when you find yourself without a romantic partner. Worst still… if the ex has one!
You may be entirely on your own, and feeling sorry for yourself. You may be banished from the old crowd, but fortunate to have a few friends or family to spend time with.
Your kids may be with their dad, or they may be home with you. But something still aches this time of year – when what you want seems out of reach – and what you want is love, and the restoration of a loving family.
Stockings Hung by the Chimney?
If there’s no love interest, not to mention sex, you may find yourself wondering if you’re destined for coal in your stocking until you’re collecting social security.
You may wonder if you’ll ever have reason to put on a pair of stockings again!
You try to convince yourself that “someday” you’ll have a truly happy holiday, but the pep talks may not be working. You’re healthy! You’re fine! You’re managing! You repeat the refrain every morning, but it doesn’t seem to be making a difference when you turn around and there’s another doting duo, another ad for diamond engagement rings, another Christmas movie with couples cozying up in front of the fireplace. Hell, when you walk the dog and glance into a neighbor’s window, you imagine that all they argue over is how to decorate: tinsel versus paper chains, or an angel tree topper versus a silver star.
Did you ever think about why Match.com and eHarmony and all the online dating services do so well in the weeks preceding Christmas?
We all want to feel loved. Especially this time of year.
Did You Get Engaged at Christmas?
Some of us have indelible memories of the holidays: perhaps you were engaged at Christmas, or married at or around the holidays.
Some of us still long for the sensation of a “traditional” family, which doesn’t mean we’re unhappy with the way things are, but environment and remembrance make for powerful conspiratorial allies.
Some of us may idealize what once seemed like “normal” life, though we forget the inconveniences, the annoyances, and the constant compromising of what we want.
It’s impossible not to remember. So stop trying to forget what was once good, but don’t idealize what surely wasn’t perfect.
And if you’re wandering the house or flipping through old photo albums of Christmas Eve dinners five years ago or ten, and smiling children before you had to put them on a plane to see Dad – cut that shit out! Or rather, be sentimental for a bit, but set yourself a time limit. Then walk away from the photographs.
When Couples No Longer Invite the Divorced Woman
Sure, the parties you once attended may be closed to you now. When you’re no longer invited to the couple-oriented festivities that were once a part of your life, you feel another layer of post-divorce hurt and isolation.
The change in marital status has broken you away from the “fold.” You’re simply not part of the club any longer, or possibly, you make others uncomfortable.
But here’s the bottom line as I see it: Are you really going to let your marital status define you? Are you really going to set an example for your children that you – and you with them – aren’t more than enough?
Sure, loneliness can be more piercing at certain times – anniversaries, birthdays, and naturally, the holidays. We’re surrounded by reminders, but we don’t have to take “misery” sitting down.
Helping Your Kids Through Christmas After Divorce
If you’re feeling nostalgic and moody at Christmas time, imagine how your kids are feeling! They may see your sadness, they may feel torn about leaving you to see their father or other relatives, they may be working through grief over holidays past just as you are – but without an adult’s knowledge or perspective.
- Can we put our children’s needs first?
- Can we help them through the holidays after divorce by observing and listening?
- Can we not judge what they say, allowing them to speak if they’re confused or conflicted?
- And if it’s their first holiday with a blended family – can we do whatever it takes to make it easier for them?
Can we be steadfast enough to help them buy a present for their dad or step-brothers and sisters, if they’re too young to do these things for themselves?
Does this take intestinal fortitude in some circumstances? You bet. But don’t we do this and more for our kids every day? Can’t we be examples of kindness?
Opportunity Knocks Year-Round
Without question, I had my years when the holidays were painful. Christmas in particular was difficult – knowing the way we once celebrated, and aware of gatherings in my old neighborhood that I was no longer a part of.
In some instances my kids were welcome – though I knew that I would make the adults uncomfortable – so I dropped them off and then I returned home.
There were many Christmases in which there was no man in my life, but I found that taking care of myself was a help. I would do my face, fix my hair, and insist that I still feel like “me” – as a woman. And I say this though I was well aware that my children’s feelings needed to be the focus of my energies, especially during the holiday season.
Those were not easy times, but we get through as best we can. These moments also provide us solitude for reflection, the freedom to get up and get out if we want, and opportunities to create new traditions.
Managing Expectations at the Holidays
Shouldn’t the holidays remind us to simplify and get back to basics? Isn’t it the ideal time to get beyond our own problems, to recognize what we do have in our lives, and to reach out to help others who may be struggling?
Must we compare to what we no longer live, or what we think others might?
Naturally, issues of self-worth and loneliness are harder when your ex has remarried and you aren’t involved romantically – and you’d like to be. But openness is key to perceiving opportunity when it lands on your doorstop. This includes romantic and sexual opportunity. The heart is surprisingly expandable and resilient – even when you least expect it.
I’ve learned that lesson, though it took a great deal of time.
And you know what else? I do remember the good times. I do feel grateful that my boys are doing well. I count my blessings that I know who I am and what Iwant, and that for now there’s a loving man in my life. And this time of year especially, I slip into my most beautiful lingerie as though it is a most personal gift to myself.
And I wear it for me.