Dear Anne – My husband and I have been on a rollercoaster since the discovery of his affair 6 months ago. We’ve been reading your articles, as well as other books and trying to heal. Some days I feel hopeful that we will make it, and I see my husband trying to do the right things. Then inevitably we have a big argument, he gets mean, and I can’t imagine myself staying with him anymore. I’m so afraid we are going to end up having a big fight over the holidays, and that I might have to just tell him it’s over, but then I feel afraid for our children, that instead of a happy time in their lives, all they’ll end up remembering is it being the time their mom and dad split up. How can we make it through the pressure of the holidays after an affair with all this turmoil? Any suggestions?
I understand how you feel and the fears you have about Christmas. This is exactly how I felt approaching Christmas during my own affair recovery journey. In fact, at this point, Brian and I had been fighting so much; I doubted we were going to make it. I feared the holidays after the affair might bring an argument that so seriously escalated that I would end up throwing Brian out of the house for good, and that our kids would forever remember Christmas as the time Mom threw Dad out.
So I approached Brian with my honest fears and suggested that we put all this affair recovery stuff on hold during the holidays and just try to somehow get through it, to somehow enjoy it. I didn’t know how I would manage this, but for the sake of our children I wanted to try. Brian thought this was a good idea too, so we both agreed to put all of our discussions about affair stuff on hold until after the holidays. We tried as best we could to remember how things used to be, and to enjoy the good things in each other during this time.
This turned out to be one of the best things we could’ve done. It was a great strategy for making it through the pressure of the holidays after an affair. We had been trying too hard for too long, and we were both worn out from the intensity of our arguments. So we stopped, and coasted through the holidays. At first I couldn’t imagine how we would stay true to this commitment, but it actually went quite well. Frankly, it was a relief to take a break from all the fighting.
Backing off from the intense fighting, gave us the opportunity to re-experience all the things we had enjoyed about each other in the first place. We emerged from the holidays rested, and most importantly with renewed hope for our future together. The break from our intense affair recovery journey gave us both the opportunity to realize we did really love each other in spite of it all, and we still did enjoy each other’s company. There was hope for our future together.
We never returned to the intense fighting again. From here our affair recovery journey was much more peaceful, stable and less painful. We were by no stretch of the imagination healed this early in our journey, but the intensity of the journey had diminished.
10 STRATEGIES FOR SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS AFTER AN AFFAIR
1. Put your affair recovery journey on hold over the holidays. Decide to put your “healing from the affair” discussions on hold for a couple of weeks.
2. Use this as a time to make deposits into your spouse’s love account with you. This means aim to have positive experiences with your spouse, like you used to in the past. Whatever you used to enjoy doing together, do those things again.
3. Don’t say anything negative about your spouse over the holidays. If you are tempted to criticize them, hold your tongue and say nothing at all.
4. If you have struggles, things you feel angry about, things that need to be dealt with, journal about them over the holidays, but don’t initiate discussions about these hard things. When the holidays are over, you can go back to your journal and bring up all of these things, so you are not overlooking them, instead you are merely putting them on hold.
5. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for in your life.
6. Make a list of your spouse’s strong points. What attracted you to them in the first place? What good qualities did you notice about them when you first met?
7. Take at least as good care of yourself as you take care of others. What kinds of things do you do for your children? For your friends? When is the last time you did something kind for yourself? Treat yourself as a person of value. You are worth it. Maybe it’s time to treat yourself to a spa treatment, a hot bath, or a day off. Are you eating right, exercising and getting enough rest? How can you be effective in all the things you are required to do, if you don’t take care of yourself? Do you change the oil in your car when it needs it? What makes you think your body can run without proper care then? Have you thought about giving yourself the gift of a coach for 2009? A coach can help you gain clarity and start to live your life by your design instead of like a ship in the ocean with no motor and no sail, left at the mercy of the currents of life. Don’t leave it to chance that your life will get better. Be intentional about making your future what you want it to be.
8. Take quiet time out to meditate. A few quiet moments before your day by starting to read something inspirational and prioritize your day around the things that are important rather than the things that are urgent can make all the difference. A few moments of quietness in the morning can help you feel peaceful and centered all day, even in the midst of the storm you may be in. You are only one person. You can only do so much. Stop striving to reach the impossible goal of making everyone happy. In order to do the big things, you have to be willing to let some small bad things happen.
9. When you think of things you wish someone would do for you, do that thing for someone else instead. Phone someone and tell him or her you care. Send a card with some words of encouragement.
10. Laugh. Make it a point to have as many deep down belly laughs as you can. Be intentional about getting some humor in your life. People are hilarious. Look for the things that happen that are humorous. Best of all, laugh at yourself whenever you can.
For most people the holidays are actually a difficult time. This holiday, we are wishing for you the miracle of healing and joy in the midst of the storm. Jump off the rat race treadmill of life, and allow yourself to enjoy the present moment.
©Copyright 2008 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.