Monday, November 26, 2012

Surviving The Holidays Alone

Holidays aren't the most wonderful time of the year if you’re single, divorced or widowed. You find yourself remembering what you and your ex did for the holidays. The memories are so much better than the reality ever was.  If that isn’t bad enough, you fall prey to the happy family advertisements and syrupy sweet movies.  If your rose-colored recollections and vintage movies don’t do a number on you, the people you know will.
As a single person, you need to decide now how you want to handle the holidays. Your relatives mean well, but will ask nosy questions about your love life. Have an upbeat response that denotes that you are okay with where you are. When I showed up at a family reunion after breaking up with my boyfriend, my relatives were quick to offer sympathy. I explained to them that I wasn’t sad and pasted a big smile on my face. Sure, maybe I didn’t want to be alone over the holidays, but I was unwilling to endure a bad relationship to keep that from happening.
Even when you don’t plan on it, it happens. People break up before Christmas or shortly after. The before Christmas breakups are usually due to the guy being terrified the woman might expect a sign of commitment such as a ring. Those after Christmas break-ups are from too much togetherness visiting various relatives, wrong gifts, and interfering exes.
The relative fight is a bad one. Sometimes you can agree to visit your relatives individually if you can’t agree on anything else. My ex hated visiting my family, and made the visit uncomfortable for everyone involved. Leaving him at home would have made the holidays much more enjoyable.
The gift issue is a hard one. Most men are not good shoppers. Women expect Christmas to be this opportunity for the man to showcase his love. There are so many ways he can screw this up without even knowing. A woman can relieve the pressure by saying something about not wanting a ring. Of course, if you do want a ring it might not be a good thing to say you don’t. You can make gift suggestions. Even mention a trip the two of you could take in lieu of presents. Now, if he does buy you something that is ugly or doesn’t fit, realize he isn’t the shopper you are. Be grateful, and decide if you want to end your relationship over an awkward gift.  
Set boundaries to ensure better holidays. It would be nice if they were already in place, but it isn’t too late to start now. The first boundary should be set with you. Have realistic expectations; no one really fixes those meals on the cooking shows. I once picked up an entire meal from the grocery deli pre-cooked, and no one died from shock. Decide on what you can afford to spend and stick with it. Do not get in a buying war with your ex. Exes can get crazy at Christmas trying to garner more attention and attempting to prove he or she loves the children more. Don’t fall for it. In the end, years from now, the kids don’t remember the gifts, but they do remember you red-faced, screaming at your ex.
The secret to getting through the holidays is being flexible. Your ex demands to have the kids on Christmas when it is your year. You can refer to a legal agreement in a civil manner, and ask him to take it up with your lawyer. You can also see them Christmas Eve. I would warn against going to your ex’s house to spend Christmas morning with your children to feed into the big happy family fantasy. This is a disservice to your children.
They don’t understand why mommy and daddy don’t live together because they do everything together for the children. Either you or your ex is invested in the happy family scenario. Participate in this travesty, and expect your girlfriend/boyfriend, or even a new spouse to be treated like crap by your kids. Why not? You and your ex perpetuated a lie every time you did something together and your newest sweetie takes the blame. It is another divorce all over again.
Be nice to yourself over the holidays. Go ahead and put up a tree even if you live alone. Buy yourself presents and wrap them up. Make plans to see a movie or do something you’d like to do such as a spa visit. Invite friends, but don’t hesitate to go if you’re all alone either. Treat yourself the way you imagine a loving partner would.
There was a sad story in the newspaper of a woman who died in her home surrounded by boxed up crystal and china. She never used it because she was waiting to marry to bring it out. She had almost no furniture because she wanted to pick it out with her husband. The woman had a very healthy bank account because she never did anything besides work. She kept waiting to get married to start her life.  She died in her sixties before she’d ever lived.
This holiday season, set your boundaries, don’t answer questions you don’t want to. Don’t set up unrealistic expectations. Make sure to enjoy the little moments. Make your own holiday rituals. Refuse to fall into the old arguments; I am betting one of the reasons you divorced was to get away from all the arguing. Have a budget and stick to it. Do something nice for yourself. Remember the holidays are for everyone, not just couples and families.

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