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How Do I Make It Through the Holidays?

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holly_petraeusDear Chump Lady,

I am six months out from separation. Facing holidays alone with three grade school age boys. Friends all happily married (for the most part). Family all happily married.

I need any and all survival tips. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more easily I cry. I can’t stand to open Christmas cards from friends because their beautiful intact families reminds me of my broken family thanks to my cheating husband.

Offers of help and generous gifts from neighbors and congregation members just make me feel inadequate as a mom. I don’t want to be known as “the single mom” of the neighborhood, but I will be.

Divorce is amicable so far, which is a huge blessing; but about 45 days away from being able to be finalized.

All of it is still surreal. When I calculated today that I had asked him to move out exactly six months ago, I couldn’t believe that much time has past. It feels like I have been treading water without help for only a month or two.

It is a relief to not have the tension and day to day interactions with STBX. However, I am mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. All of you who have been single parents know that this is one tough gig! And relief every other weekend isn’t even close to enough time to catch up on everything that falls by the wayside when you are doing it alone.

I don’t know if everything is compounded because of Christmas. Or if my new reality is just settling in and I am scared to death to raise my sons without a full-time support system.

I figured this was the best place to go for ideas on how to make it through the next three weeks and make it as good a holiday season as possible!

Next year has to be better, right?!

LimboLand

Dear LimboLand,

Some holidays suck. When things suck — let them suck. You’ve been separated for 6 months. Your divorce isn’t finalized. You’re trying to get used to your new reality during a season of oppressive bonhomie. Who can blame you for occasional fits of weepiness? Even the sturdiest of us reel at the disconnect between our drab, ordinary lives and the manic imperative to be fabulous at the holidays. What? You don’t have your presents wrapped in artisan, wood-block print paper made by free-range lepers in India? You didn’t translate those Christmas cookie recipes from the original German? Didn’t you get invited to that party? You know, the one with the live nativity outside and the imported camels? No? Oh. Sorry.

I guess only the Intact, Happy, Married people were invited.

Please stop comparing yourself. Not every intact family is beautiful. Many of them are flaming cauldrons of dysfunction. And yes, some are happy. Be happy for them. The world needs all the sane, happy people it can get. Your problem is you need to expand your notion of “beautiful” and “intact.” You have custody of three boys. You’re at the helm. That’s an intact family. You’re just missing a fuckwit, which is not missing much.

Yes, single parenting is hard work. But single parenting is not LESS THAN. It doesn’t mean you’re defective. Frankly, I found single parenting much, much easier than parenting in a bad marriage.

You were married to a cheater. No matter how many soccer games he attended, or bills he paid, that man was not a fully invested partner, in your marriage or in your family life. He directed his resources at fucking around on you. You’re mourning what you thought you had, how you enjoyed being perceived, not who he really was.

You don’t want to be known as the single mom? You ARE a single mom. Wear it as a badge of honor. You’re freaking HEROIC. You’re raising three boys on your own. This is your chance to raise good men with YOUR values. Did you really want to stay “intact” with that man and model to your sons that husbands and fathers cheat? And women must eat that shit sandwich and let the man enjoy his side-dish fuck entitlement?

Or do you want them to know that women are strong and life has deal breakers — and if you fuck with someone’s dignity and betray them, you will find your ass divorced?

Divorce is not failure. Cheating is failure. The shame of betrayal is not your shame to wear. I realize this is not how you expected your life to turn out, but it’s the rare person whose life turns out how they expected. And those people are dull and risk adverse. Intact can be enviable, it can also be boring as hell. And smug.

LimboLand, trust that in time you will find your sea legs on this parenting thing and you will have better days ahead, and yes, even happy holidays. But right now, you’re in crisis. Your world just got turned on its head. You are blessed that you are surrounded by kind people who want to help you. Accept the help. You know how you keep good people in your life? You let them help you. Don’t shoo them away. Be gracious, accept their kindness, and do a good turn for them later, when you’re able.

Reciprocity is what makes a relationship healthy. That means you don’t always get to be the giver. It means you also have to accept taking — graciously. That can be humbling for the more control freaky of us chumps. Makes us feel vulnerable. If you’ve been with a narcissist, you’re expecting that score card. Shit, I’m going to owe you and this is not going to be pretty. 

No. Some people are actually nice. Take the fucking casserole. Say yes to the babysitting. ENCOURAGE these people. Keep them close and do not reject them because you fear being pitied. That’s about you and you internalizing Single Mother is Less Than. They don’t see you that way. They see you as a lovely person who is in crisis and alone for the holidays, who could use some bolstering.

I could not have done single parenting without a lot of help. I had a dear friend who had my son for sleepovers every time I had to travel for work, or even sometimes when I had a date. And every chance I got, I reciprocated. I took her sons. Nearly every weekend I had a motley assortment of boys at my house. I looked for opportunities to do for my friends because I KNEW I was going to need their help too.

Being a single parent can open up your world in new ways, and deepen friendships. “Intact” families can be very isolating. As you build this new life, build a tribe. Lots of people are cribbing it together, doing this parenting stuff by the seat of their pants, even the married ones. Make some more friends.

But for now, just get through the holidays. Focus on your kids, making their Christmas bright. Create some new traditions (cookies for breakfast!) Relax. Please don’t spend those precious kid-free weekends doing chores. Enjoy some self-care. Watch a movie. Blob in your pajamas. You deserve it.

This new stage of life isn’t a punishment, it’s a gift. I know it doesn’t feel that way now — but you’ll get there. I promise.

I think I run this column every holiday season. Sending it out to all you newbies. It gets better. On a Tuesday.

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • As always I wonder, LimboLand are you ok? LimboLand are you happily living in the Land of Meh? I envision LimboLand and her three darling boys and maybe a couple of extra kids cutting down the Christmas tree, baking cookies, watching “Die Hard”. How I hope she is happier now.

    Cheaters don’t make good parents. Ever. LimboLand was single parenting before the divorce. She just didn’t know it.

    All of the newly chumped with children, you will get through this. All of the chumped without children, you will get through this. I will get through this. We will get through this.

    • “Cheaters don’t make good parents. Ever. LimboLand was single parenting before the divorce. She just didn’t know it.

      This this this. I was floored at how little my day to day life changed when I had custody of the kids (we did 50/50 split) because of how much solo parenting I already did. I don’t think FW realized how much more difficult 100% parenting is at 50% of the time.

      To the newly separated, this is a particularly shitty holiday season, though. There’s disruption on top of disruption.

  • I’d love an update how Limbo is now

    Last year I cried into a pot noodle and went to my bed at 6:30pm and cried more . It was so sad spending my first ever Christmas alone . I was so use to spending it with his family with drinks and food and games

    This year I’m going to my friends to spend it with her and her 2 children . I’ve bought myself gifts . I’ve bought gifts for others and I’m really looking forward to it .

    I’m going to see if I can change my user name also as I seem to have a stalker on Twitter ( the OWife) and I followed CL on Twitter so she’s been checking up .
    I’m just needing a new chump name for Christmas

      • I’m thinking of a total change like
        Chump up and down or something like that

        I got a few follower requests on Twitter and my Twitter is only about the sports team I follow so I checked who they follow as they seemed a bit dodge and every one of them followed my ex !! 🤣

    • Karenb6702 how about FreeBird? Or FreefromFuckwits?

      I’m so glad you bought yourself presents! I hope you got yourself something nice!!! Act surprised when you open that gift! You deserve nice things!!!!

    • Karen, your plans sounds lovely! Let us know what gifts “Ms. Claus” brought you!

      I bought myself an early gift for some planned time off work to read: a winner of the best translated fiction from Swedish (my original familial homeland) to English, “The Family Clause.” Last night after a 13 hour work day foxy and I took a bubble bath and I read the first chapter.

      At moments like this XH and the 25 years that ended with the horrifying discovery on Christmas 6 years ago are way in the background of my mind. Meh is wonderful.

      • P.s. “foxy” is my mensch significant other who thanks his lucky stars every day that I said GTFO to cheater XH, divorced, and that the fates allowed us to meet, fall in love, and we get to be together.

        • Early on in my relationship with my now husband, he said something so amazing to me. My ex had done something crappy and made me feel bad. Hubby hugged me and said “He’s a moron. If he doesn’t want this wonderful family life, I’m very happy to take it.” And he did. He adores my son and is a great role model. He loves us both and actually wants the family we have.

          There’s someone out there who wants what these cheaters take for granted, more than anything else. And even if I had never met my now husband, I was doing so much better alone, even after the first year of painful “firsts”. So much better.

          • My new husband (but not so new partner) said he has two words for my ex. I guessed what they might be but was surprised and grateful when he said, “thank you”.
            Such a simple sentiment but it filled my heart.

              • They are out there. I had to fix my picker. Since I was fine as far as supporting myself and my son was concerned, I insisted that anyone I was involved with had to improve my life or they weren’t worth it. Seems to have worked so far. I’ve been with my husband for nine years now, married 2.5. I never know what the future will bring, but so far so good. Sometimes you have to be picky. It’s your life, it is good to have high standards for the person you share it with.

          • That is so sweet, and well deserved.

            After my now H and I had been married a few years, we attended a family event where the ex and his owife were attending. We stopped and exchanged hello’s. Schmoopie was pleasant enough. FW wouldn’t look me in the eyes. It was a quick hello and goodbye kind of deal.

            After we went on, my now H said. Your ex is crazy, and I am glad he is.

      • Hi Motherchumper99! Fellow Swedish chump here (born and raised). Can you tell me the Swedish title and author of the book?
        God Jul!

    • Post a few memes about exes begging to come back as they’ve made a mistake. Give her something worrying to read before Xmas first.

      • Lol.

        I was going to say, if all was well in paradise, she wouldn’t be stalking Karen. My guess is she has been with him now long enough to know, he just might be a liar about his ex wife. Now who is he going to lie to and who are those lies going to be about. Hmmmmm, taps chin.

    • Karen, is your stalker the OW in your situation, or just a random stalker?

      I ask because if it is the actual OW, that is very telling.

  • Better days are ahead. This too shall pass.

    In the meantime, watch some holiday movies. Holidays is about single people dealing with holiday expectations. Holiday in the Wild deals with a middle aged woman ditched with the ILYBNILWY speech. Netflix.

  • All this is true. I had such a hard time going back to church and looking all around at families that were still together. Sitting by people who knew my husband left. Those same people helped me by praying for me, reaching out to my kids, inviting us over for dinner and just letting me cry. I don’t go to church so much but my intentions are to go back, but the people that helped me move forward are my heros. I had 2 ladies show up to my house and told me to leave and packed up every article of clothing/personal items in 11 bags and handed it to him when he showed up. These were women that were older than us and they told him take your shit and leave. Hahaha. I wish I could’ve seen his face. It has been 5 years and I am remarried to an amazing man. He spent all last night outside with his son and my son riding motorcycles. This is a man who married a woman who had a son from another man and took him in as his. Let me tell you this kid loves his dad even though he is not biologically his. He loves me even though I am a new woman in his dads life. When I saw that, I knew this is who I wanted to raise my kids with. I waited for 3 years before dating him. He was my 4th date. I was almost going to give up on dating and just stay single. The other guys were ok guys just not what my kids and I needed. And when I mean date. I mean a single date hahaha. I would go on a date and be like no thank you. I fixed my picker. My husband with tattoos all over his arms sat and ate ice cream with me, knowing it was all over his beard. He said he was so nervous that he didn’t care. So what I am trying to say is stay the course. Its OK to be a single mom. It allows for your kids and you to heal. Maybe its just going through the motions but I promise Tuesday will come. And who knows maybe you will wake up to your own guy who doesn’t care there is ice cream in his beard because you make him nervous. You got this mama.

    • My ex was raised to go to church (I wasn’t) but of course as soon as he left home he never set foot in the place again. But every time we went to visit his family the pious prick put on a suit and tie and sat there like the bees’ knees, Mr. Marine Corps himself – all the while he was beating the shit out of me at home. So I wouldn’t take ALL those “intact” church-going families at face value!

      • So true. I think one of my neighbors might be a wife beater. There have been cops and paramedics there twice in ten days. The cops were there for hours, probably trying to convince her to press charges. I’ve heard that batterers tend to get worse around the holidays.
        I’m sorry that happened to you and glad you are free.

          • I don’t know what it is about the Holidays. My ex got so much worse during the holidays. Dday for me was Christmas day. He didn’t admit to it, but I caught him out early in the am on the phone; it was obvious to me then.

            He didn’t admit it until we got home after Christmas, he stayed until after New Years and insisted we have the people over that we had invited. The day after New Years he told me he thought it would work out, but he needed space to get his head on straight, he was gone all night; but the next day got most of his crap and moved out while I was a work. Took him three days, he did it while I was at work each day; and I never saw him, he didn’t come home for those three nights. He came back a couple weeks later and dropped the bomb.

            Did and said everything he could to burn all the bridges.

    • “These were women that were older than us and they told him take your shit and leave.”

      I love that, and what a lot of folks don’t know is many of those church ladies (and men) have been through hell and back in their own right.

      My sweet little sister in law when I was going through my hell came and stayed a few weeks with me. I was so lonely, she really saved me. But, one evening FW came to the door, and I asked her to field it. She opened the door, he stepped in and said, I heard you were here and wanted to give you these two passes for dinner (they were passes for a really expensive steak house that he had gotten at his job Christmas party).

      Anyway, she took them and looked at me. I just nodded. Then he said, “I guess I made a big mess of everything”. She said “yep, its one for the books”. I kind of wish she had then kneed him like the sister in the “Something to Talk About” movie.

    • This was so sweet. It felt like you were talking to me! It was like a box of assorted chocolates except instead of dark and milk chocolate, there was empathy and encouragement.

  • KEEP IT SIMPLE, SISTER!

    And keep it super super super simple during what is a season of trauma for you and your boys. And I am so so sorry for your loss and that of everyone going through loss at this time of year, which underscores it to the max.

    I like to remember Christmas as described in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder since my own family was nuked by the soul rapist masquerading as a husband and father. In the woods, on the prairie….no one for miles around, or maybe they gathered at church. A tree. They felt lucky to get an orange!! No modern day month-long hoopla and hype.

    Keep it simple, sister.

    Christmas can be what works for YOU, what works for your children. Compare leads to despair….don’t allow that into your mind.

    This is my fourth post DDay Christmas. The gifts are in the trunk of my car. My tree is in a bucket on the back patio. The lights aren’t on my house (one string!). No cookies baked. No cards. I know from past experience with profound loss (my father died) that years of healing are par for the course. Infidelity involves profound loss, trauma, divorce, rage, dealing with extreme emotions around the living-it-up spouse who acts like YOU died and they didn’t care. Throw single parenting and COVID on top and I ALMOST am in agreement with Melania Trump on Christmas.

    But NO! My solution is to keep it very very very very simple. I learned in grief counseling 30 years ago to make a list of holiday activities and decided if I can do it, if I can skip it, or I can delegate it.

    My living room looks like an episode of Hoarders. My goal is tree, presents, Christmas music, Christmas movies, my one string of lights on my house, wreaths on the door.

    Keep it simple, sister.

    I am not religious, but spiritual, and as such it’s also very comforting for me to think that the person whose birthday we are celebrating at Christmas will completely understand and love whatever I do.

    Also VERY important to remember is that I am not alone, and there are others in my position, and many many other Christmas-harshing circumstances. Not to dismiss how I feel at all, but to remind myself that I have lots of comrades in the Christmas trenches. Reach out to others for help.

    Keep it simple, sister.

    • Nicely said. And this pandemic is another layer of stress and isolation.

      Keep it simple. My mantra for the day. Thanks.

    • Beautiful words of wisdom, Velvet Hammer! I love the ‘Keep It Simple Sister!’

      Stay safe; stay healthy! Merry Christmas! 🎄

  • My first Christmas after D day I threw a kick ass party. I had many friends who didn’t have anything to do Christmas Eve and they came to my house. Two of them were single mothers with kids.

    When my ex had to drop off the kids, he had to park in the street and walk up the drive through all those cars. He tried to come in and asked “Who are all those people in there?”. My response “It’s none of your concern.”
    And shut the door.

    Holidays are so so hard when parenting with a fuckwit but you make your own traditions.

    I would love to know how Limboland is. Hope she has found her Tuesday.

  • Ah. The American habit of sending out family vanity pics instead of nice cards. What is that? Does Esther Perel get a cut? So — not Christmas.

    • I know, right ?
      I’m American and when I lived abroad, I was asked to answer for this American habit. My response was not all Americans do this. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, not detailing your and your family members’ accomplishments during the past year in the annual brag sheet. Inserted in a card with a photo of the family posing in Xmas sweaters, on a sleigh, you get the idea.

    • Only my most competitive and cringey relatives do this, and it drives me crazy. One year I wrote up an over-the-top, humble-brag, ridiculous “Christmas newsletter” and sent it to my Mom, who cracked up because she knew exactly who/what I was poking fun at. I mean….pretentious much, people?!

      Not all Americans do this–I’m sorry about it though, because TOO MANY of us do it and it’s extremely obnoxious.

      • The XAss does these. And I was the one who was roped into putting it together every year. His big brag sheet on how wonderful his life is – how many animals he killed, fish caught, whose garden was bigger, the trips he took (hunting and fishing) etc. etc.

        The first year after I left it was such a relief to just send out a simple Holiday card. And then I fought guilt and shame that I didn’t have a brag sheet to send everyone – my year had been devastating. But the X? – he still sent out his annual brag sheet – it was just not edited, aligned or done in non-competing fonts, and sent out late, of course.

    • And now it’s all about matching outfits! Sad to say, in thirty-five years, never sent a “photo” card but would include children’s photos inside the card.

      • I got one of those brag letters from another English girl who married a marine just after me. It was all “hortense’s cello lessons are coming along just swimmingly and hyacinth is top of the polo class”. I thought f….k me but what is this shit? So I drafted my own “how son no. 1 had finally gotten the gum out of his dreadlocks and son no. 2 was having a blast in the heavy metal band”. Sent it to my sister and she burst out laughing! At least mine was realistic! Who did she think she is – the bloody Queen?

        • I consider these letters smug and self-congratulatory. “What about baby 👶 Jesus ?” Or Hanukkah 🕎 wishes

        • I once got a brag sheet from people I barely knew & it contained all the details about their new furnace. That said, I’m thankful for just getting a photo card or two each year.

  • To pick up on what CL said about making new traditions, we have used the 5 Christmases since Ex-Mrs LFTT left to progressively redefine how the 3 kids and I work as a family unit.

    We use the holiday to host those who have supported and helped us …. and to celebrate ourselves too. We go overboard on challenging ourselves to cook things that we’ve not cooked before, and also to refine the “family favourite” recipes that we love. And New Year’s Eve is always myself and the youngest – I cook her whatever she wants and then we go to watch a film; always her choice and always the better for it. This year will be a bit different as a result of COVID, but that won’t stop us making new memories for the future.

    So …. my message for LL would be simply to use the holiday as a first step towards defining how things are going to be going forwards; FW free for a start.

    LFTT

  • This is a non-cheating-involved aside: I recently had the opportunity to do a favor for a distant friend in need. To me it wasn’t a big deal financially or time-wise, but I know it helped her immensely. I have to say that the whole thing gave me such a good, warm feeling that I definitely benefited at least as much as if not more than she did. So you can look at accepting help as giving others the joy of doing a good deed.

  • This may be my favorite Chump Lady response ever. I went through exactly the same thing and needed to hear those same words. I nearly cried reading this.

    Being a single mom is hard work, yes. But it also rocks. I’d never go back to being married.

  • I left a man who was a perpetual complainer, downer, Eeyore on steroids. He had a problem for every solution. Everything we did together became something that he would find fault with and fight with me about.

    If we went to a movie, afterwards he would tell me how it was terribly done. How it was a waste of money.

    During the holidays there was always something. He would stay in bed until late and then when he came out he’d be miserable.

    I. Do. Not. Miss. That. One. Bit.

    This Christmas my spirits are light. We separated in February This is my first Christmas with just me and the kids. It is heavenly. I’m doing the same stuff I did every year but this year I’m doing it without a black cloud hanging over my head.

    I’m a naturally upbeat happy person. I feel like I have not only been released, but I’ve been released from a mental hospital that I didn’t belong to.

    • OMG you had me at ‘problem for every solution’! Dr. Cheaterpants was the life of the party–funny, engaging, everyone’s best friend–if it was something he wanted to do and he was central. If it were my family, my work party, just us and the kids at home, he was fucking miserable! Disgruntled, angry, sulking, pouting, sour puss look on his face–the grinch! And the kids and I could never do anything right. I do not miss that one bit. Once you’re a few years out from this nightmare, you will be grateful to be free of this.

      He used to tell me I was never happy with anything and I complained about everything. I took it to heart and made my needs even smaller. I didn’t know about projection. I’m an upbeat and happy person. Grateful for my morning coffee and feeding my birds (and squirrels!) outside. Enjoying my kids and pets. I guess he’s sitting alone with young schmoopie these days in his huge house. Is that something that finally brings that man joy? I don’t know. But I sit in my warm and comfortable home and gleefully think schmoopie is a lucky, lucky girl—bwahahaha!!

      • People don’t “change.” They grow, through going through the fire with courage and facing the hard work of grieving, of putting down the spackle and hopium that keeps us stuck in destructive relationships and patterns. [This is why we say here that cheaters don’t change. They hunt for kibbles.]

        What a tell–in public, Dr. Cheaterpants is the life of the party, if the situation centers on him. That can’t happen with kids. And attending events with Twice’s family or work colleagues puts him in the shadows.

        With XH the substance abuser, I was on edge every time I took him to an event that was important in my life, starting with the griping and Grinchiness and featuring the need for all holiday plans to revolve around his adult son and his grandkids. The year my mother with dementia was in the hospital after breaking her shoulder, I tried to tell him that I wanted to skip eating Thanksgiving dinner with his family because my mother was in the hospital and was much calmer when one of us was with her. He DEMANDED that I come for dinner. I was there long enough to set the table and choke down a meal and after the rest of the day at the hospital, I came home to clean up the mess. He couldn’t put my family first even in an emergency.

        The last holiday we were together, he refused to commit to attending my family’s dinner (which didn’t conflict with his plans) and he griped and groaned about it. So he was shocked with I got dressed and left without him. He said, “I have nothing in common with those people.” He expected that I would remind him and he would get to drag his feet and complain. Instead, I left him sitting at home until finally I left him alone with his grievances.

        • OMG. I was thinking about this today. Every time my ex had a family event — a wedding, a dinner, a holiday — I would go happily, tell him how much I was looking forward to it/enjoyed it, and was overall so positive about these interactions. He was SUCH an asshole when it came to my family and friends. He’d tell me it wasn’t his ideal way to spend the day, or that it wasn’t the most fun thing to do. Once he even told me he anticipated being so bored at my niece’s Bat Mitzvah… which would be in 5 YEARS from now anyhow. What a JERK.

          • Yep, my fw wouldn’t go to my work events, but of course I had to go to all his. I accepted this as normal. His excuse for not going, “Not my thing”

            God I was stupid.

      • twiceachump, this was exactly like my cheater. He’d be life of the party, funny, charming, personable, tell amusing stories. Like yours as long as it was something he wanted to do and he was central. Also like yours, if it was something with my friends, my family, or just us he’d be miserable. Angry, sulking, nit picking, disagreeable.
        When our son was young I’d go downstairs with him to open his gifts from Santa. Ex would take at least 20 minutes before he’d make it downstairs. No excitement or joy watching his young son.
        Ex also accused me of being unhappy, I could never understand why, because I felt happy, and have always had an upbeat personality, and positive attitude. (have to being married to the wet rag). I let my needs get smaller and smaller in fear of being accused of being unhappy, He’d say I looked unhappy, so I made a concerted effort smile whenever he’d walk into a room. I must have looked ridiculous. One morning I asked if he’d made coffee, he reacted with, are you bitching again?
        I’m so glad not to be walking on eggshells and wondering what I had done to make him angry , I could never figure it out. I’d replay our conversation in my head trying to figure out what I had done wrong. I began to wonder if it was the tone of my voice.
        They don’t get personality transplants but I can imagine that they become more miserable as they age. Not my problem..

        • Ah yes, never a part of the Christmas joy. He was always an obstacle to overcome as he would have to approve of the big gift the kids would get from Santa but never a part of the shopping, planning, setting up process. He would gripe about me keeping him awake while Santa set up then he’d not want to get up when I heard the pitter patter of little feet. And when he did wake up, he would have to brush his teeth before he’d come downstairs!

          • Twice and Gayna, thank you, you just put my former life and everything that was so damn draining about it into words!

            The angry, p’d off attitude, pouting, huffing, eye-rolling – yep everything check.

            People who worked for us (contractor, pet sitter) even called him the Grinch. But oh what a golden sparkle of the party he could be if it was something HE fancied or his family.

            He even bragged about not having been drunk or obnoxious at the Xmas party with his family after our last Xmas before D-day where he got rude to my mother about asking for one family pic without a liquor bottle in his hand.

            I was always accused of being unhappy and complaining. Notoriously unsatisfied he used to call me.
            I never realised it’s a manipulation to make you put your needs or reasonable demands aside.

            D-Day was brought about more or less by a string of petty events: he absolutely exploded at me when he overheard me being joyful and truly happy about my friends with young kids getting a grand promotion to Switzerland with a house on the lake and private schools paid.
            Quickly apologised when I coldly pointed out how telling his reaction was about himself.

            Next day, I had my ‘morning coffee’ moment compelling me to dig: I had to ‘confess’ that I had forgotten to buy coffee the day before and was making strong tea instead. He immediately shouted, insulted and banged/threw stuff so hard my little daughter ran out crying.

            Needless to say, not many people from his camp believed me when I told them. So I just quit on that.

    • “He had a problem for every solution.” I love that! Reading that, I realized my ex had an objection to every suggestion!

      • Adelante,

        Snap! Ex-Mrs LFTT had a grievance for every situation; she was the original vibe killer.

        LFTT

    • Same here. The perpetual whingeing was awful and you had me at “being released from a mental hospital I didn’t belong to”! That is so true!

  • And one more thing: I moved into my own house that I rented a couple of days ago. It is a refuge. I am so happy here.

    I refuse to look over my shoulder like I’m trying to back down the driveway. I refuse to study the past for everything that was wrong. My future is ahead of me and that’s the way my head is turned.

    God is good. I am happy.

  • The Christmas cards can be especially tough.

    Yesterday I received a card from another couple–old friends (or so I thought).

    Anyway, the card was addressed to me alone and sent to my former address (it was forwarded), so they’re well aware of the divorce. Inside they wrote: “[Spinach] and family, Merry Christmas! Stay safe! xoxo.” Then there’s a two-page typed, single-spaced Christmas letter that I may or may not read. There are several photos of a happy family.

    I get that the event that shook my world barely registered on most peoples’ personal Richter scales. But I would think that a friend, albeit an old one, could waste a bit of ink on one short sentence showing some level of empathy or some acknowledgment that this might be a tough time for me and my kids.

    As I write this, I’m arguing with my chumpy self because she thinks I’m being petty and overly sensitive, But NO! It’s not petty to expect a soupçon of empathy from a friend.

    Btw, before the affair began (if my ex’s timeline can be believed, and it can’t), the husband of this friend couple took my then-husband to a strip club for lap dances.

    Anyway, this couple’s Christmas card photos show them looking OH SO HAPPY! One wonders…

    I don’t wish ill on others (except my ex and the OW–not at meh), but I am skeptical of all the brand management we see in cards and social media.

    Here’s my open card to my fellow chumps:

    “I realize this might be a tough time of year for you. I hope it gives you some comfort knowing that you’re not alone. We’re all in this together. We’ll make it through. Be kind to yourself. Here’s to a better 2021 (and vaccines)!”

    Signed, Spinach ((hugs))

  • It’s also ok to cry, to go to bed early, to morn. It’s necessary to recover from the pain. It feels shameful, but it’s rather healthy.

    I’m sure this holiday season there’ll be extra weirdness and loneliness. Its not for forever, it’s just for now.

  • The anticipation of the first real snowfall since my separation is sad because it was a joy/chore we shared together as a couple. I’ve recognized the holiday this year is different for everyone and so I focus on mailing gifts and scheduling brisk walks with folks nearby. It will be more daunting next year when families are able to gather. Maybe this has been the benefit of 2020 – practicing self care, creating healthy boundaries, learning new skills. When I ask myself “did anything bad happen today?” I realize that I have strung together 500+ good days.

  • The two things that have helped me the most over the years to cope with all high-pressure holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas/Winter ones, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Birthdays…) are these:

    1) Giving myself permission to change how I celebrate, including releasing obligation to observe traditions that don’t serve my life anymore and embracing new ones that DO work well in my life

    And

    2) Giving myself permission to skip years and simply not celebrate or even acknowledge a day when it’s emotionally too hard for me to push myself through it, and to do this without apology or negotiation.

    Once I gained the boundary setting and communication skills to allow myself these two permissions, I found that the strain of setting and enforcing the boundaries, while tiring, was MUCH lower than the strain of pushing myself through the shit-in-flames of the days themselves.

    Did some people get pissed and/or refuse to understand and accept? Yep. Did it hurt to lose them? Yep. Do I regret it? Nope.

    I am worthy of love and acceptance. Turns out a person who loves a tradition more than the person loves and accepts me is a person whose love isn’t adding much to my life.

    • On that subject: I don’t and won’t tell others what they should want or do, but for myself, I’ve decided that Valentine’s Day is complete horse shit and I refuse to celebrate it in any way. I don’t care if I’m deliriously and passionately in love, I can’t abide by that horror show of an objectification of romantic love and I won’t be a part of it.

      That’s your primer for two months from now from moi. 😆

      • Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve are the two holidays I despise. Too many horrible things happened to me under the guise of the “Holiday”. Just thinking about them and attempting to come up with some kind of festival spirit and I can feel the rage building. Nope, let them go, and Good Riddence.

    • I used to think I had to have the perfect tree, decor, table set properly and on and on and on. Last night, I realized how far I have come. The kids and I ate on TV trays and got our food off the stove and counter for Thanksgiving dinner. It makes me sad how much importance I put on being “perfect”.

      This year, we are picking up my new puppy this Saturday, making Christmas Mice candy (at my 38 year old son’s suggestion because we hadn’t done it since fuckwit left, ordering Chinese and eating off of TV trays.

      Glorious and Merry Christmas to all!

        • Amiisfree-
          Thank you so much! I lost my 11 year old poodle to cancer. My kids were insisting I get a pup to keep me company. Lo and behold, they are the ones who found my new pup. We are calling it a Christmas miracle.

          Long story short, they ended up at a yard sale that wasn’t in their plan. When they got out of the car they saw a play pen.

          The lady having the yard sale said hi, are you looking for a puppy. Lol, sure enough there were four little darlings in the playpen. Three boys and one girl. She was available because the person who was going to take her, backed out.

          The kids called me, came and got me and my first “mistake” was picking her up. Instant love and bonding on both our parts.

          I’m excited and nervous as I haven’t had a puppy in years. I tell ya, it’s almost like bringing home a new baby. Lol, play pen, carrier, treats, puppy food, toys. I’m puppy poor at the moment.
          💕😂

  • Okay Mrs CL, This one made me cry! I understand limbos concerns completely! Your response was the most direct honest heartfelt one thus far, for me and that’s tough because I love them ALL. Perhaps it was more fitting who knows, I’m in tears and that’s great.
    “Or do you want them to know that women are strong and life has deal breakers — and if you fuck with someone’s dignity and betray them, you will find your ass divorced?” ♥️💪🏼
    Rock on ladies and gentlemen I can’t wait for the day I share my mightiest of days so life can begin again God willing
    Merry Christmas to ALL in every situation

    • Dear Shann,
      You have already begun again. I know from your previous posts that you are in a tough situation but even changes in the mindset are changes. It may be two steps forward and one step backward, but it is still progress. Be kind to yourself. You need it. Some days, just getting out of bed and looking yourself in the mirror and smiling is mighty enough. It’s a marathon.

  • We have to try to guard against the anxiety that sets in. The ‘what if’s’ can take over.

    It will take a few years to wrap your mind around all the events and the betrayal. Having kids to occupy you is a blessing in many ways. Otherwise a person can get lost in ruminating about the loss.

  • During the holiday season I think about the old adage, “all that glitters is not gold.” Sometimes the decorations are beautiful, and peaceful, sometimes they just cover up an unhappy household. When I was a child, I looked forward to the decor, cookies, and Santa, and I really did not pay attention to my parents unhappy marriage. When I was an adult, married with 2 small children, I looked forward to the decor, cookies, and playing Santa. I tried to ignore my own unhappy marriage. So, focused perception might get you through the season with minimal trauma? It worked for me, for a short term solution.

    I recently watched a series on Netflix called Flaked. (Not a holiday flick) I thought about some things Velvet Hammer told me on this sight about alcoholism. I grew up with a father I was later told was a “dry drunk”, and married a man who I was told was a “functional drunk”. I never joined AlAnon, maybe I should have, but my point is I only knew what I had been told and what my personal experience was. I did limited reading on the subject. I am convinced the alcohol was just a contributing factor to a cluster of dysfunctional problems, but that was my perception.

    Since Velvet Hammer gave me a few tips, I have tried to pay more attention. Flaked is about an alcoholic community living in Venice, CA. I do not know how accurate it is, but it seems to me most of the people in the program make their own problems, and blame the alcohol, other people, anyone but themselves for their unhappiness. They focus on other people’s perceived success, or not, and don’t focus on their own involvement in their happiness. They truly appear to have an illness, but they also do not know how to focus their perspective on reality.

    Every person I know has had good times and bad times in their lives. Most have been mistreated, one way or another, at some point in their lives. Every one of them has had to refocus their perspective to find a path to meh. In Chump Nation, we have all been cheated on, and there are some horrendous examples in the stories here. But I find it helpful to focus on the success stories of those who learned how to refocus. As CL says, change the narrative. Think about how much easier life will become without a FW messing it up all the time. Have hope the days will get better, and work toward that hope coming true. Having a Charlie Brown Christmas tree Christmas? Next year will be better. Can’t afford what you used to afford? Work to make that better. Regrets and past memories of failure will not motivate you. Focus your perspective on building a new reality for you and your children. I am not being PollyAnna here, there will be a lot of work when you build your new life, but keep your eyes forward. You cannot change the past. You’ve already learned the cheater was not the person you thought you married. Case closed, move on. You can choose to focus on what you know is real, what you can achieve, one step at a time. Don’t shop for pain, ever, but erase that from your holiday list of things to do, It does not matter what the ex is doing, what the smug people are doing, they are not your friends. There are many lonely and sad people who crawl thru the holidays, stand up and dust yourself off and put one foot in front of the other. If you don’t move on, you won’t get to meh. Focus on what is important to you! Happy Holidays!

  • This is my third holiday season since I left my marriage. My divorce was final in the November of the first year. That year, it was important to me to reproduce the traditions of our family. I bought a huge tree, my adult son and I decorated it (as well as my apartment), I cooked a special holiday meal for me and my son, I baked cookies and exchanged them with friends. Last year, the second year, I spent back in the mountain town where I’d grown up, where I had returned to look after my (then) 93 year old mother for most of the year. Last year, the focus was on her traditions, with me acting as her eyes and hands. I helped her choose gifts and ordered them, I wrapped them, I did her decorating–all so that she would not have to have a diminished Christmas. In the condo where I was living, a place I was caretaking for one of my mom’s neighbors, I had nothing of my own. I bough myself an amaryllis bulb and a Norfolk pine that I hung a string of lights on.

    This year, I am back in my apartment. I decided that after a year of wanting what I’d lost and a year of having nothing for myself, I needed to use this year as a re-set. I decided I would not celebrate in the way I used to just because I used to do it that way, or in reaction to not having a celebration of my own last year, but in the way that I needed and wanted this year. I wanted to reflect where I am and what I need, this year. I decided that what I needed and wanted, what we all need in this season of darkness and this year of Covid losses and isolation, was light–and hope. So I have decked my house in them. A string of icicle lights hangs from my mantle and a curtain of lights adorns the front windows so they can be seen from the street; another string of them lines the dining room windows. Chili lights surround the kitchen window. I decided not to have a tree this year–a first for me!–but I have set up a “Christmas altar” with a poinsettia surrounded by a red and green garland and colored lights. I have made it a practice each evening at sunset to light candles, and rejoice in their dancing flames.

    I may be an older (67) woman “flying solo” after 35 years of marriage in the midst of an isolating pandemic, but my life is peaceful and full of light.

    • Adelante,

      Ah, all those lights!!! That’s lovely!!

      I don’t have my place decked out as much as yours, but I have been fairly fanatical about my outdoor lights. There’s something about the lights that helps my mood, especially on these cold days when we have so little daylight.

      I remember wanting to decorate with market lights the backyard porch area of my former home, but my then-husband said he hated the idea. He said something about my wanting the place to look like a trendy restaurant. *sigh*

      Anyway, I strung market lights on the old, wooden porch of my new place, muttering “fuck you” to my ex as I did it. Ho ho ho!!

      But beyond that, I just feel good about claiming my space and asserting control. As my lawyer put it, “He doesn’t get to call the shots anymore.” Acts like these are my little declarations of independence!

      Let there be light!

  • I needed this today. And I needed to read all of your comments too. Last year was the first Christmas post Dday. But, I lived in my house and was able to have the Christmas traditions I had created, and managed, for decades. This year I live in an apartment because I haven’t found THE house yet. My daughter and her husband live in their own house.

    I am seeing someone and he has his children this year for Christmas. They are including me in all of their festivities.

    I have allowed myself to cry and mourn the traditions that won’t happen again. It will be the first Christmas in 30 years that I have not had Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my daughter, and for a few years, her husband. No spending night, and the day in matching pajamas with presents, and breakfast, followed by dinner, and day drinking. I am currently making plans with her and her husband for this year. Together we can create a new version of Christmas that is happy.

    I am reminding myself that as project manager of Christmas and all holidays, I worked my ass off, and was exhausted! XFW sat and drunkenly complained. “How much did you buy? When will you be done (he didn’t want any presents out until Christmas eve)? Is that all there is?” There was no winning. There was no appreciation. There was no gratitude. I am glad he now lives in another city with or without young stripper Schmoopie. I don’t care. I am not doing cards. I am not overspending.

    I am looking forward to Tuesday meh. Maybe Santa will bring it to me. Or maybe with my New Year’s resolution. I am grateful for the people that love me, want me to be with them and accept me as I am.
    Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays. Or whatever works for you.

  • Divorce is not failure. Cheating is failure.

    I needed to read this today. Will be our 7th Christmas without The Wandering Willy and I have to say, they’ve mostly been great. There’s been tears but also new traditions (pjs until 2pm, pizza for lunch). I buy myself a book from ‘Santa’ and once the boys leave at 2pm I walk my doggos and hopefully spend the rest of the day with friends and/or family. You will get through this, and your boys will see the strength in you xx

    • I buy myself a book each year, too! This year, I bought (and wrapped) two of them. Between divorce, kids getting older, and covid, I am likely to be on my own most of Christmas day, and I don’t want to run out of special reading material.

  • I was a single mom before I met the fuckwit. I was lonely and stressed and he came around at a time when I was vulnerable. I suspect these narcs can sense this and that makes us good prey. So anyone in this situation; don’t start dating at a vulnerable time. When we are needy the love bombers know just what to say to make us think we have found a life partner.

    So I’m single again and having my first Christmas without my parents, who are deceased. 😔 So there probably won’t be a family get-together.
    I’m trying to carry on and be cheerful because my mom would want me to. I’m getting myself a gift that is to help me stay fit. I find keeping fit helps my mood. I also ordered some new clothes, which is always a pick-me-up. Buy yourself something nice, Chumps, even if it’s only something small because you have a small budget. I feel for the chumps who will be alone for the holidays. My ❤ to all.

    • OHFFS,

      Great idea to buy something for yourself!!

      All the best to you from this internet stranger and fellow chump.

      ((hugs))

  • Back at ya, Spinach. Funny how internet strangers are often more helpful than most of the people we know IRL. That’s because we share a common experience and the worldview that comes from going through it. Let me know if you ever need to talk and I’ll give you my email.

  • Christmas is hard because we lard it up with all sorts of magical notions. We’re like addicts using the holiday to “get high.” So one thing that helps is simply re-thinking what the holiday means.

    I keep my traditions about things I control: decorations, a house blessing on the solstice, Midnight Mass (virtual this year), buying myself some things for under the tree, whether I bake or not, dinner with my own family no matter what. I watch my favorite Christmas movies and TV shows. I build a fire on Christmas Eve. I listen to my Christmas playlist. The focus of all of this is to ground myself in what it means to love my neighbor AND myself, what it means to live in harmony with the universe.

    The rest is all jimmies on the ice cream.

  • Amen to everything Chump lady said, my similar situation very similar, found out my ex wife was having a supposed emotional affair( then lived with her for two months whilst she continued to see the other man, whilst I begged and did the pick me dance.
    Anyway 10 days out from Christmas she leaves me for the other bloke, and leaves me with my three sons and my pregnant non biological daughter( only dad she knows)

    Anyway Christmas was hard, every day was so hard, I was completely humiliated and traumatised by the whole situation.
    Like the lady in the post I was also part of a congregation, and for a month I didn’t cook a meal because the people in my church brought me and my kids meals,
    Also like chump lady, my boys had great friends and were always hanging out( my sons best mate eventually became my wife😊( she also 8 years earlier had been cheated on, and wow I’m so blessed to have her as my wife)

    Anyway get all the support you can, and I know the saying sucks for you now but time does heal, and your happiness will be the greatest revenge( not that revenge is motivation) but hey buddhists call it karma, as a Christian we call reaping what you sow.

  • Merry a Christmas to all! Two years ago today I found out my spouse was cheating. Then the true fun began as I started to untangle lie after lie. All of the truth came out last-year, complete with multiple sex partners, visits to parks (doing God only knows what), and financial deceit.. I have spent all of 2020 divorcing this evil man. It is now final.

    I’m now in graduate school. This Christmas holds no special meaning for me but only pain. I managed to get a tree up, but had few decorations as FW has stolen nearly the entire contents of our house. I’ve come to realize he is a psychopath.

    Anyway, I hope this pain one day stops. It’s been two years since discovery and I still feel like some days I am reeling from pain. It was 24 years together so I guess this is normal. Worst part is my daughters have rejected me and are on team dad side. FW is a high functioning alcoholic and I am the scapegoat of this dysfunctional family….but I’ve exited stage left. Tuesday can’t come soon enough.

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