Between the parties, gift-buying, decorating, cookie-baking and traveling, the holiday season is enough to test the limits of even the most organized, level-headed, happy person. Add in having an affair, and surviving the holidays feels like a mission impossible.
Been there, done that.
In the fall of 2011, my husband and I separated. I had chosen to leave him for another man who lived on the other side of the country. My husband and kids were devastated. Our family and friends were in shock.
Did I mention that I had only met the other man in person three times?
My life – and the affair – were quickly spiraling out of control. Surviving the holidays tested me emotionally and physically. I never thought I’d make it to January.
I don’t want your holiday season to be like mine was.
How to survive the holidays when having an affair
You’re having an affair because your marriage isn’t working and you’re desperate for the love, attention and affection you’re not getting from your spouse. I know that, and you know that. But most people don’t.
Keep this simple truth in mind as you read through my tips.
Be an adult
Being an adult simply means taking the high road. Be polite and respectful to your spouse. Excuse yourself from the room when someone starts to test your patience (you know it’ll happen – prepare ahead of time!).
Want to let loose? Don’t do it at a family gathering. If you get drunk, the filters will be off, and you’ll say god-knows-what to god-knows-who.
Rely on your support network
When you need to let loose, do it with your support network. They’ll do shots of tequila with you, and most importantly, they will listen and won’t judge you.
If you don’t have a support network in place yet, do so stat. No idea where to start? Check out group therapy membership here at The Shelter.
Keep holiday traditions alive
Traditions are very grounding. They not only remind us of happier times, they give us a sense of control, security and comfort when life feels uncertain. They might also serve as a nice distraction for you.
When kids are in the picture, it’s especially important to maintain holiday traditions. Scale them back if you must, which leads me to my next tip.
Say “no” when you need to
Living a double life is exhausting. Don’t add to your plate.
Baking 10 kinds of holiday cookies, just like you do every year, might help you feel better. It’s OK if you don’t want to. Ask your kids what their favorite is, and only bake those they truly can’t live without.
Holiday cards are a huge source of stress, especially if you don’t want to pretend life is all holly and jolly. Don’t send any cards this year. The world won’t grind to a halt.
Make time for self-care
You’re exhausted and lonely. Sleep if you need it. Go to therapy every week if you can afford it. Let a massage therapist knead the stress out of your muscles.
Desperate to avoid faking it? Run by yourself instead of with your running buddies to avoid small talk. Turn down invitations for lunches, drinks or parties. Say no – without explaining why.
Imagine a new normal
You don’t want to resort to surviving the holidays every single year. This year, you just need to get through the season. But what about next year?
What do you want the holidays to look like in the future? Is your spouse with you? How has your marriage evolved? What has he/she done to change? And what have you changed?
Are you single? How have you adjusted to single life? Are you with the person you’re having an affair with? What does your new relationship look like?
Use some of the time you’ve set aside for self-care to reflect on what’s next. Having an affair won’t fix what’s wrong. It’s up to you to take those steps forward into a new, happier life.