Surviving the Holidays – Part 2

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

So we’ve talked about surviving the craziness of the Christmas season and some simple things we can do to slow down and enjoy this time of year versus hiding until sometime after the new year.

Now let’s talk about what we can do to survive (and thrive) as we engage with our immediate family as well as our distant cousins.

If you are new on this journey…

I want to start by saying – if you are new on this journey and this is your first holiday since your world fell apart – I think it’s really important to take some time to decide what you will be able to handle and what you won’t be able to deal withAnd don’t even think about apologizing for what you can’t manage!

For instance, you might not be up for going to your in-laws house for Christmas, even if it’s just for Christmas morning.  And while you might feel terrible saying no – I encourage you to think through what you feel safe engaging in and what you need to bow out of.

Some women feel better going to family functions with the understanding that the grief and pain is on hold until later in the day or even a couple of days later.  (I remember Jason and I taking these “time outs” for family functions early on in our process.  I was so afraid that Jason might forget that we are NOT okay.  I made it real clear that I was putting this on hold and we would revisit it at xyz time frame.)

Some women, on the other hand, can’t even imagine engaging family and prefer to alter their plans all together.  Jason and I did this as well and it helped that Jason would absorb the repercussions, not me.

Whichever you choose – remember the key is what do you need?  And what would help you feel the safest?  Think this through and if your husband is working his recovery (not just checking the boxes mind you but also doing the heart work) and if you feel safe talking to him about this – share with him what is doable for you and what isn’t.

If you are going to be around his family…

Two things come to mind that I think are really important to work through before celebrating with his family.

First – it’s super important to be on the same page before the gathering.  Jason and I literally have to have no less than three conversations as we prep for time with his family and one of the biggest things that we plan for is taking time every day to check in with each other in order to keep the lines of communication wide open.

We will usually try to go for a walk or a run but if that isn’t possible, then we will make sure to connect before going to bed.  The focus for us is on intimacy so we share what we are struggling with, what might feel tender, and also what we feel is going smoothly.  Remember men – defensiveness is the enemy of empathy so watch for this and work toward caring for your wife’s heart more than anyone else’s.

Second – is to have a conversation about the role he played in his family of origin.  For instance, was he the golden child?  Was he the funny guy that kept everyone laughing?  Was he momma’s boy with some unhealthy attachments?  Whatever it might be – it’s important at some point to explore this together and gain awareness so he can take the initiative to not slip back into the role that made the “system” function back then.  Talk about triggering for us wives.  Whew.

If you are going to be around your family…

More than anything – I needed Jason to show his character changes to my family.  And even today, I still need that.

So if you are second guessing yourself on what you need from him – don’t.  God created us with needs and when we are around our families – those needs go way up!

For instance – one of the things that can really send me into a tail spin is if Jason just lounges on the couch and doesn’t help with the dishes and food prep or with the boys.  Another thing that drives me crazy is if he doesn’t engage with my family and retreats to the bedroom for hours on end.  Um – no.  Totally triggers what he used to be like before his sexual integrity issues came to light:  self-absorbed, checked out and basically not even there.

While Jason loves his time alone (going to a coffee shop to journal or going on a bike ride) – he is always careful to plan it at a time when it won’t impact the entire family and/or put extra stress on me.  Likewise, while Jason doesn’t always love playing games with my competitive family – he will engage in a game or two here and there because he knows it’s important to me.

So think about what you need from your husband before the event or trip and again, if you feel that your husband is engaged in his recovery and if you feel safe having this sort of convo with him – talk to him about it.

A note for those of you whose husbands are not in recovery

I know this can be tricky because if you explore what you need and yet your husband isn’t about to listen to you or care for your heart in that way – then what?

If this is you – it’s still important to still get your needs met (think: needs met by God, self and others) and to also set boundaries with your husband in order to survive and thrive.  It might be that you focus on your kids at the family gathering and don’t spend energy focusing on your husband and the way he behaves when he is around extended family (I would call this healthy detachment).  It might be that you alert your go-to girls that you are going in and it might be ugly and you need them on stand-by in case you find yourself locked in your aunt’s bathroom and unable to leave because of the anger or the tears.


Hear my heart as I wrap this up – I want each of you to know that you are not alone and there are women across the world in similar situations to yours.  Trying to figure out how to celebrate Christmas with grace and ease.  How to honor their families and children and also honor their emotions as they walk through one of the most difficult seasons one could go through.

If all else fails – I encourage you to put on some comfy clothes, grab some of this and turn this on right away.  I promise, you will feel better almost immediately.

Would love to hear your ideas for how you are going to survive and thrive with your extended families this holiday season.

xo – Shelley

4 thoughts on “Surviving the Holidays – Part 2

  1. Beth

    December 7, 2018  |  09:34 pm

    My first holidays in 2014 occurred after discovery in early November. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found out about my husband of 31years. I was completely obsessed with everything I could possibly read about SA , fact finding and connecting the dots, and dealing with PTSD symptoms from the severe trauma caused by his betrayal. I literally remember NOTHING about that Thanksgiving and Christmas. The only way I remembered was to look at pictures. Our son was 20 at the time which was the exact amount of time my husband had been hiring prostitutes. My husband started this horror while our son was a baby. Just seeing my precious son slapped me in the face with the reality of how many years this had been going on. It took absolutely every ounce of my energy and control to act like nothing was wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I retreated to cry in the bathroom. The only thing that kept me moving was my children. I literally could have skipped the holidays completely because I was so consumed with pain. 4 years later, we are still married, our marriage has survived and has thrived despite relapses with porn along the way, still healing and still finding myself again. Give yourself much grace, allow yourself to say no, focus on your children (I had to detach from my husband to protect my heart), focus on your self care, know that you will survive even though it feels impossible, try to stay connected to your faith and the Lord, and know that one day in the future, you will be able to actually have periods of peace. If you are early in the process, it is absolutely so very painful, so be kind to yourself. Don’t overcommit yourself even if it is for good things. I felt like a zombie trudging through that first Thanksgiving and Christmas. Don’t expect too much from yourself. Thankfully we didn’t get to go to our out of town families so that was helpful to me at that time. Set very small goals, since you already feel like you’re drowning. talk to your husband about what you expect from him. Listen to your broken heart and treat it gently . Strength and blessings to those of you who are early in this process.

  2. Laurie

    December 21, 2018  |  02:27 pm

    This will be my first Christmas since dday. I am only 8 weeks in to this mess. My commitments are no so much out of the home but in the home. My adult children are arriving tonight and they know nothing of what my husband has been doing for 50 years. Thanksgiving was a nightmare and so painful, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. I don’t want Christmas to be the same thing but not sure how to cope. I have to once again put on the mask so “everything is all right”. It is not all right and I am doing this to protect my children but also my husband. Who is protecting me?

  3. muchalone

    December 30, 2018  |  02:46 pm

    Finally got the time to read this…the part about roles in family of origin really hits home for me. My H has always believed that he was the ‘only mistake his Mom ever made’ and as a kid he coped with that by going to the bathroom…and we know what he did there for an hour at a time until he felt better…sigh…
    We haven’t spent holidays with his family in years, but even with my family, H will just wander away and I have not been able to find the words that start a conversation instead of triggering his defensiveness. I guess that is the telling sign that his ‘recovery’ is a collection outward tasks, but not something he has been able to internalize yet.
    Thanks for this post–good practical things to look for as we move forward…and practical things to look for to see if we really are moving forward, or mostly just stalled.

  4. c

    January 3, 2019  |  12:45 am

    So glad to be reading this. Thank you. Discovery for me was November 2006 and that was almost 4 months after marriage while I was very ill. My recovery process is just starting bc I was told so many lies and just tried to bury it even though anyone around us could tell I despised him and he desperately wanted to escape our reality. So I have years of pain, grief, anger, and trauma to sort through. I avoid family especially at holidays. I don’t want to pretend with his family and I live really far from my family. We go to Florida for Christmas..allows our son to have fun and allows me to relax a little. Now I’m realizing I haven’t grieved and hurting alot more than I knew. We had a surprisingly good Christmas vacay. I decided to escape the madness and enjoy it. I felt like I deserved a break. Since return home Sunday night, a flood of memories have been affecting me. I started counseling for umtenth time in September for anxiety, stress,and anger. This time I have a great counselor at a place that specializes in sex addiction and trauma. Soon to start attending a wives support group if transportation and finances work out

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