Dear Deb: My ex wants us to get together with our adult children for the holidays like we are all a happy family. He had multiple affairs, and we finally divorced after 32 years. I am not comfortable being with my ex. How do I proceed?
The holidays are notorious emotional triggers bringing up and amplifying unresolved anger, grief and sadness. Some Exes can mix and mingle during this time, but many would rather eat paste. That’s OK. There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about what feels right for you.
The fact that you’re not comfortable being around your Ex says it all. You don’t have to force yourself to play out the “one big happy family” scene. Period. Full stop.
Here are some things to consider:
Talk to your kids: Sitting down with your kids and letting them know how you feel will help create a holiday everyone can enjoy. I suggest you kindly let your kids know that you’re setting boundaries, and this is one of them. Without going into the story of why, let them know you aren’t ready to be around your Ex. You don’t need to explain or justify your feelings. Work with your kids to plan a separate gathering to celebrate.
Don’t overshare: Remember to focus on your relationship with your kids and not on your Ex and why you’re in this situation. Avoid venting to your children about your Ex, which puts them in a no-win position and can have long-lasting negative effects on your relationship with them. Save that for your coach, therapist, or best friend.
Stay Flexible: Accept that because of schedules, your time with your kids might not be on the milestone days or dates dictated by past traditions. Adult children have considerations of their own, especially if they’re factoring in in-laws. You’ll be more likely to spend important moments with your children if you take the time to address their needs and respond to them with flexibility.
Practice Self-Care: This is difficult. You deserve your own love and care as you navigate your post-divorce holidays. Be exceedingly kind and gentle with yourself. Buy yourself a holiday gift, get a massage, plan something fun with friends . . . whatever makes you feel good. Taking active steps to create moments of joy for yourself will give you a feeling of power over your holidays.
Breathe: Remember, it will get easier with time.
Side note! Whether or not you EVER decide to co-share a holiday with your Ex and your kids, you owe it to yourself to continue to work through and eventually release your anger over his years of cheating. While it’s completely justified and understandable, you don’t want to carry it with you for life. Letting go of your anger doesn’t condone what he did. Instead, it frees you from being emotionally stuck to it.
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