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When the Holidays Suck


The holidays can suck at the best of times, let me count the ways. Credit card debt, over eating, dysfunctional family get togethers, box store shopping, the sacrilege that is the remake of “The Grinch”… Throw infidelity into the mix, and you get a very toxic wassail indeed.

It all slops out around the holidays. DDays usually hit because the cheater has an extra hard time juggling the demands of family and fuckbuddy. The holidays are often anniversaries of DDays in the past. Or it’s the first holiday post-separation or divorce. Or it’s the umpteenth holiday as a single parent while the kids go open presents with the cheater and their affair partner, and you spike your eggnog alone and hope to God the kids still love you more. (Not that you’re competing, because you aren’t, because you’re cooler than that… but then Johnny got an iPad? No! Fuck… you aren’t cooler than that. Fuck them. Fuck them all!)

I get it. I had sucky holidays. Oh, sure they were punctuated by good times spent with friends and family, and the delights of my son enjoying Christmas, but I did a lot of time in the trenches as the single mother attending the holiday concert alone. Or the single mom driving 500 miles with kid to see family. Or the married, but soon to be single mom again divorcing a cheater, oh shit it’s my fourth DDay, attending the holiday concert alone and then driving 500 miles with kid to see family.

All of which sucked, but did not suck as epically as spending an actual holiday with a cheater. My first DDay was November 29, 2006, a few days after Thanksgiving. Then DDay #2 hit immediately after Christmas. I spent that first holiday season at my lawyer’s office, where she told me my best bet in a no fault state was his guilty conscience and a post-nup, so I did reconciliation, and threw myself into therapy and Amazon chumpery, and online support forums. The cheater, meanwhile, just kept cheating. For Christmas he gave me a tie-dyed license plate cover (because I’m a “hippy chick.”) Worst. Gift. Ever. And a plastic necklace he said that was from my son, which was dreadful — like a bad, abusive joke, which he then returned and spent the $15 on HIMSELF for socks. (I am not making this up. You cannot make this up.)

That holiday, I started a thread online called “The Virtual Bonfire” — inviting all the other betrayed spouses out there to throw all their shitty Christmas presents on it and anything else they wanted to. The submissions were hysterical. Duck decoys. Bad lingerie. A can opener. Sweat pants. My contribution was the tie-dye license plate cover and elf literature (my creepy ex liked fantasy literature. A grown man with three graduate degrees enjoyed reading crap like Kwareg the Dwarf Swordsman and Part-time Metallurgist of the Fairy Forest…) One online friend threw all her ex’s comic books on there, and I said, wait! Another fellow I knew there might want them, and so an introduction was made. Those two eventually met and married, and have been happily married for several years now — I’d like to think all thanks to that bonfire…

So that was a happy outcome (as yet unrealized), but at the time, other than some gallows humor here and there, it sucked.

There is no shame in acknowledging that some times, especially in those early days, it’s HARD. So be kind to yourselves, chumps! Do whatever it takes to reclaim your holiday and build your own traditions for you. Buy yourself something splendid. Spend time with good people who get you and appreciate you. Ignore everyone and see movies and eat Chinese food, if that works for you (it works for Jews, Muslims, and everyone else who has to endure the exclusion of the Christmas season). Just know that it gets better. Really, it does.

My own personal happy postscript?

I love vintage pine cone elves. They make me deliriously happy for reasons I cannot fully express. They were made after the Second World War in occupied Japan and Germany, so really, pine cone elves, probably have a very grim story somewhere of postwar deprivation and Marshall Plan austerity… but they just look so earnest and goofy and happy. Kind of factory made, but with a sort of slip-shod homemade quality as well. Not a lot is known about vintage pine cone elves (trust me, I’ve looked). But some weird sort of people like me collect them on eBay.

My husband thinks I’m deranged. He loves Christmas and has more Christmas decorations than anyone has a right to (even after having lost half of them in a divorce), but he allows an infestation of pine cone elves that he’s dubbed “Elfadelphia” to colonize the top of the piano at the holidays. Although he gives me a hard time about it. “More elves? Has Elfadelphia grown?” (Maybe.) Then he chides me, that at some point we need to downsize and he doubts very much I will part with my elves, and we Have Too Much Stuff. Etc. Etc.

So imagine my surprise on Christmas morning to open a giant box FULL OF PINE CONE ELVES bought on eBay! Really fantastic ones! Santa elves and abominable snow men with top hats! And even a bag of spare elf parts that the seller threw in there! Enough elves to fill TWO piano tops! Elfadelphia will need a sister city! A satellite colony!

This is love, chumps. When someone will indulge your idiocy just because it delights you. Even when they don’t get it themselves. Even when they are diametrically opposed to sharing their living quarters with one more pipe-cleaner bearded elfin thing.

Hold out for love. Don’t settle. And throw the shit you don’t want for Christmas on the virtual bonfire.

Happy holidays, chumps!

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      • Only there was no mention of dogs, just the tie dye motif. It apparently will set you back $15.

        A very thoughtful gift for someone you can’t be bothered to recall with any detail.

        • My STBX bought gifts when we were dating, and I bought him expensive gifts too.

          My gifts though always seemed to be something he had showed an interest in, while mine were things that were not my taste and had never expressed an interest in.

          I accepted them graciously as I was taught too. Then when needing funds to open a third business, we both agreed not to buy each other gifts for any reason. He seemed happy with that and even boasted about it to his friends, and so it remained even when we were finally in a better financial position. I foolishly was okay with that, too.

          But then, I saw in the emails that he and his OW were exchanging gifts. She was a huge gimmee girl and his gifts were apparently a lot more expensive than hers, given that she didn’t work and had to spend her husband’s money on the OM’s gifts.

          She gushed about the wonderful thoughtful gifts being exactly what she had expressed an interest in on one of her dates, and how he was so charming and observant. Gag me with a diamond necklace.

          So obviously he was paying attention to something she expressed an interest in, while never paying attention to anything I expressed an interest in, ever.

          I know he now realize that the OW or any women who would date a married man is going to be a high maintenance person, and that may be fun for awhile, but he doesn’t want it full time. Too bad he didn’t think of that before dipping his wick in.

          Oh well, rant over.

  • Mine loved to buy me chocolate while telling me I was too fat. But I really think that the satin hot pants, size extra small were the best!
    Because, what woman doesn’t love satin hot pants!!!

  • I guess I should have considered it an ominous omen when early on in our marriage, he filled my stocking with a dildo and porn magazines. What tender, sweet love!

    Tomorrow is my 1st anniversary D-Day. Yay. Not feeling too terribly though, as my family has been wonderful and we are almost ready to sign the divorce papers, which makes me happy.

    Happy holidays, everyone!

  • One year when xH was in love with someone else, I got a nice soup pot and a plastic dog turd (not joking) for Christmas. I got the plastic dog turd because I really wanted a dog, and he didn’t want a dog in the house, and dogs make turds, so it only made sense to give me a taste of having a dog, by giving me a plastic turd.

    Actually, what gave me a taste of having a dog was having him around.

    I should have bought stock in a spackle company. God knows I used a lot of spackle in the marriage.

  • My first wife, during the height of her serial cheating, announced that rather than spending Christmas day with our kids, her folks and siblings, she would be leaving to go to a homless shelter to feed the hungry. She was gone all day, 12 plus hours.
    Her sisters and parents were aghast. I was sort of releived that she was gone, as she was such an a-hole and so abusive.
    But, there is no way she was anywhere other than with one of her OM, I realize now.
    The same year, at Thanksgiving, she wanted to drive to a resort in northern Minnesota where they would serve dinner and where we could spend the weekend with the kids. She insisted we drive seperate cars (four hour drive) and I took the kids.
    So, shortly after dinner, she announced that rather than spending the remaining time with us(two more days) she was heading off to St Cloud to visit a friend( that would be her gay lover this time).
    So, I took care of my boys the remainder of the weekend alone while she munched rug, apparently.

  • “The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
    Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
    It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right.
    It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
    But I think that the most likely reason of all
    May have been. . . that he was a sociopath with narcissistic tendencies who liked to f*ck people other than his wife and lead a d life and then make her feel like the problems in their marriage were all her fault.”

  • Your husband sounds very thoughtful! Congratulations on ending up with a good guy.

    My XWH was always a good gift giver. I realize now that he loved the attention and praise he received from everyone when they heard what he bought for me. When we would see friends and family during the Christmas break he would always say to them, ” Did she tell you what I got her yet?” And if I had not told, he would be upset with me!

    Honestly, some of the gifts were so ridiculously over the top I was embarrassed to tell people. Especially people with financial struggles.

    I think in hindsight he was a narcissist. I also think that his affair was partially due to not receiving enough ego stroking at home. The truth is, no one person will ever be able to give him enough.

    • My STBX is a great gift giver. She always goes all out and gives you something that you’ve expressed interest in. It’s generally spectacular.


      It’s all about her. If you don’t use what she gave you, she gets offended, pouts and has actually cried. It can’t be that she went overboard with a casual comment of yours, oh, no! It’s your fault if her gift was somehow not used or appreciated as she wanted you to.

      Fucked up, bass-ackwards. This Christmas she wanted to give me a big present. I told her not to, she still did. I refused to take it, so I’m the Devil for doing it, and an idiot for refusing a gift. Gag.

  • Awesome post. I am spending the holidays with my family. My octogenarian mother is going strong. Another 5 years to 90. Sadly, my STBX is here, too, but there are a couple of good take-always.

    First, after temper display #1, I discovered I am looking forward to a holiday when he’s not here. No longer will I have to try to spackle over why he all of a sudden walked out on Christmas dinner. Yes, I know that he has a bad back that will spasm, but his complaints on the way back to where we were staying about how people ignored him were textbook narcism. I have a lot of siblings. No one gets to engage anyone exclusively or in any depth in a large gathering of this sort. However, he did get his wish to be the center of attention when he decided to leave–but probably not because he’s so brilliant and fun to be with.

    Second, I realize that I have more good in my life than an asshole of a cheating husband. I deserve him out of my life so that I can enjoy social gatherings and entertaining people once more. I can visit with my large immediate family and the tribe that is my extended family.

    In short, I realized more that I don’t need him. I needed him to be true, to be there for me, to be wiling to put up with the chaos that is my family for 1 week out of the year in exchange for my putting up with his work schedule, his anger at work, his insistence that the house run to his schedule for the other 51 weeks. I need for him to be a helpmate.

    This holiday underscores that he can’t be that. I am grateful that I see this more clearly. It will make leaving him easier, once I get a job that allows me to live independently.

    And next year I will enjoy this holiday.

    • Good for you KB! God, your STBX sounds like a real jerk to be around. One of those people who sucks the oxygen out of the room — that whole demanding centrality thing and huffing about and feigning injury if he doesn’t get it. Insufferable! Your holidays would be improved without him and his dramatics.

  • I just always told him what I wanted for Christmas. Gave a list of things from which he could choose so that he was not left in a panic on the day before the holiday. That always seemed to work really well in terms of not being disappointed by crap presents or things that were not suited to me.

    I have to say that some of the things that you guys are saying you’ve received were pretty passive aggressive “gifts”. I mean, again, if these people were so unhappy in the relationship then they should have just said so and got out, not tortured you with crap Christmas gifts. WTF???

    CL, what the hell did you say to him when he gave you the license holder? I hope you said: “What the hell is this?”

    • I think I just stared at it blankly. And then he got out a screwdriver and affixed it to my car.

      Pried that sucker off later.

      Sorry, Kristina, I didn’t have any snappy rejoinders. I was in a zombie chump state in the holidays weeks between DDay 1 – 2.

      • Oh I’m sorry, CL, I didn’t mean you should have had something witty to say to him. Of course who could especially that close to D-day? No one. I just hoped you’d thrown it at him or something. The door knob.

        I’m just thinking that this goes beyond bad gift giving. It isn’t that these people were just a little clueless giving these kinds of gifts. They were being intentionally unkind. So, it isn’t just some kind of misunderstanding, you know? Where they put thought into a gift and it just wasn’t suited to the person. These gifts seem actually designed to hurt the recipient. Who can understand that kind of nonsense.

      • seriously… you just found out that he cheated on you and then he still gives you that license plate thing for xmas?!?! if there was ever a time to have a change of plan and give jewelry, it was then. Dick.

        I can’t imagine having to go through the holidays so soon after D-Day. My D-Day was in the summer but it was just a few days before he underwent surgery. I had to sit there and talk to surgeons, worry (or something) that he could die, then deal with his mother staying to help with the kids and his helpless/pained state for like a week after. And bitch girlfriend texting him and crap. But at least it was only a minimal amount of family around compared to doing holiday stuff and I didn’t need to appear to be cheerful. His mom thought my screwed up mental state was because I was so overcome with worry about him. HA!

    • i would also tell my STBX what I wanted for xmas, but that was because he asked me. While that was nice because I always liked what I got, it also meant there was no surprise, no thought on his part. I might as well have bought them myself.

  • The 3rd anniversary of my DDay was this past day after Christmas. I was as blindsided as they come. The day before, XH gave me a card that read, “Life gives you beautiful things…it gave me you.” He also planted several hundred spring bulbs in the fall & came home a few days before Christmas with 2 small pine trees to plant in our yard for future Christmases. Then he ups & runs away. Did find out a bit later that he was cheating with a divorced subordinate who did not have custody of her 5 children. Nevertheless, Christmas sucks for me. I’ll give presents to those dear in my life but the wonderful holiday spirit in me has been destroyed.

    • Welcome H1 — I hope that spirit returns soon. Life does give you beautiful things — a life without someone cheating on you is one of those things. The bulbs and the card are nice, but the real him is the guy capable of doing those things while cheating on you, and then walking out. I’m so sorry!

  • I bet many of us got through that final Christmas together – “for the sake of the kid(s)…” – then got D-day bombed.

    On the subject of presents, two can play that game if they care to. I like to give my ex little gifts that remind her of the good times or other things we went through when we were strong. Years ago when her dad was terminally ill, I was there every step of the way with her and her family that terribly, sad year. I really loved the man too, so it was not like I was only there for her sake. We went through the process and grieved together. Anyway, one of his favorite meals – hers too – was lobster. My tradition while we were still married and after he passed away was to buy her tails for Christmas. I still do it…

    • Bede, you’re still making her lobster? That’s not very meh! Please honor the tradition for yourself, but don’t give your ex gifts to remind her of What You Shared. That just makes you seem weak and pathetic to her, not missable. She’s enjoying lobster at your expense! Nooo! Send your lobster to the other chumps here at CL. 🙂

      • I dunno CL… “Meh” to me, (so far), is mostly what it is to me. I can easily see how lobster for my ex is not practicing good meh by your lights. Yeah… That shoe fits. Truly, snark can be just as misdirected as cordiality.

        It bugs me if you see me as pathetic. But it does not bug me that my ex might see me as pathetic. Does my ex see me as weak? Pathetic? Not missable? Thanks for pointing out the possibility. I can honestly say… I. Don’t. Care.

        So, yes! I’m baby steps closer to knowing “mehself” better. That feels good. But I also see that there are better ways to remember my old friend…

        Thanks for your words CL. I bought extra tails… You and the mister or any other honest chump that will kick my ass when I’m being a chump – is welcome at my table anytime!

  • I visited my Mom at her place on xmas eve. She has dementia and seldom recognizes me these days – they have not been good years for her – I brought her little cheesecakes and tea and I called my siblings across the country and put her on the phone with each of them…. she talked to her kids (in the USA), their spouses and many of her grandchildren.

    She felt so good that I was planning to spend my life with someone, and she (oddly enough) always remembered Mike and liked him alot, everybody liked Mike – he seemed like a real stand up guy, she always worried about me, she didn’t want me to be alone.

    I didn’t feel like I could really say anything to her about what had happened because I didn’t want to upset her but, I was weepy and i finally told her why. We had this really sweet talk for about an hour, I told her all the details and for the entire conversation, she became my Mom again…… she was all there (mentally) she was so sweet and supportive and she followed everything I said – it was like all her dementia just vanished for that one hour. I so needed to talk to my MOTHER and to have her BE my Mother again, -but those days have been long over – we switched roles so long ago. But out of nowhere, she was back, all there, and I was grateful beyond words.

    I didn’t know it was possible to still have that experience with her – and subsequent to our talk she has gone back into her private demented world but I will never forget that from somewhere deep inside she came back to comfort me and it meant alot. To experience my Mother like that even if it really is truly going to be the last time…. I don’t even know what to say. I needed her and she was there. Funny how unexpected life can be.


    • I was just crying and stumbling around the house saying, “I want my momma!” Here I am in my 50s wishing I could have the comfort of my mother. What a treasure of a memory you have to have your mother come back to you just when you needed her most. What a gift.

      • Isn’t that the truth? I wanted my Mom – there’s no substitute – I’m 57 and I wanted my Mom. She left so slowly – I know this isn’t a site about dealing with aging parents…. but when they leave, one way or another, I don’t think it matters how old you are, it makes you feel cast adrift – unanchored – even in a well established life.

    • Erika:

      Actually a patient with alzheimers or lewy body dementia, can go in and out of reality.

      It is normal and happens when something triggers assess to memories in a part of the brain that may be still healthy.

      Your tears likely triggered your mom t access memories and while she was there being your normal mom, she was really there. Trust that.

  • This is the first holiday since STBX left me for OW. We still have contact due to the fact that we have a teenage daughter. We spent a couple hours together on Christmas Eve to open gifts together. (A shorter version of our usual routine.) On Christmas Day dd and I went to a movie and out for Chinese with family friends. A great escape. Then STBX brought dd to a Christmas party at the house where he is living with OW. Yuck. Today will be my extended family gathering, which I am hosting. I have to say I am looking forward to the day with my loved ones (and without STBX, who always complained that spending time with my family was irritating to him.) Then on New Year’s Day, he will take dd to be with OW’s family. He immediately started pushing dd to blend with OW and her kids and family. No time for her (or me) to deal with all of this emotionally, just dive in to the next chapter and you all better come along for the ride.

    This first holiday season has been difficult, but I feel I’m getting through and it can only get better from here.

    Thanks CL, and fellow chumps for helping me through.

    • First holiday season for me as well. Not fun knowing OW watched my kids open their many, many gifts from the inlaws, etc. I sucked it up but did get a bit twitch a couple of times and had to aplogise to the kids. I hope they understand that it’s difficult to see this happening and I really do want them to be happy and content, even when I’m not with them.

      Grrr…but it chaps my ass when that skank gets time with my kids that should be mine. Fuck, can’t wait until January 1st.

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