Can you name a time of year that is more chaotic than the holiday season? While the idea of spending Advent in contemplation of the coming of Jesus sounds lovely, the truth is that December is often more of a mad dash to check off everything on the holiday to-do list.
Family get togethers and holiday parties can be stressful on their own. But the experience of divorced singles can be exponentially more complicated. Tidings of comfort and joy can be replaced with feelings of sorrow and anxiety if you’re not prepared to proactively tackle the holidays.
The best way to get the most out of the season for divorced singles is to be prepared for the festivities. This year, know what to expect and have a plan which will help you enter into the Christmas spirit.
Should divorced parents spend the holidays together?
One of the first questions divorced singles may need to ask is if they should spend time together with their ex this holiday season.
If you have children you may feel pressured to celebrate the holidays as a pair. But it’s important to realize that once the divorce is final, it is time to move on and begin new traditions. Often parents will think that it’s best to come together for the holidays for the sake of the children, but this is not always the best idea.
It’s one thing to both show up at the same party or gathering, but planning a low key Christmas morning opening presents together doesn’t really fit the description of moving on, and can give children a false impression about what is really going on.
” I strongly recommend that most divorcing parents do not try to be friends. Great, if you can be friends. You’ve probably gotten there as a result of a lot of emotional effort, together and on your own. But most divorcing and divorced parents, I think, will do better at their job, parenting and co-parenting, if they treat each other like business partners, ” advises Dr. Robert Emery. “Your relationship is formal, structured, relatively uninvolved, governed by clear rules of behavior, polite but not overly friendly. You politely return a business call. You do not vent, or call late on Saturday night.”
The first holiday following a divorce should be all about figuring out a new and exciting way to celebrate, one that focuses on an exciting new season of possibilities.
Being a newly divorced single during the holidays can be scary, plain and simple. But it doesn’t have to be a bad experience. Make the most of your new single status by allowing yourself to truly enter in to the season with those surrounding you who still are a part of your life.
Don’t let this uncharted territory deter you from enjoying Christmastime to the fullest. Read about the different scenarios below that you’re likely experience this season and prepare your heart for the best way to navigate through them
7 scenarios to prepare for if you’re single and divorced around the holidays
Just what kind of situations should divorced singles prepare for this holiday season? Here are seven scenarios you may run into this time of the year.
1. Office parties
Maybe you met your former spouse at work. Perhaps you work in different departments and have been able to avoid bumping into each other so far. But then the memo for the office party arrives and you’re left wondering how this is going to go.
To have the best time possible as a divorced single (for you and your coworkers), it’s important to make the encounter as comfortable as possible. Plan ahead to make sure the party doesn’t turn awkward.
First of all, arrive at the party with a friend. If you’re encouraged to bring a plus one, reach out and have a friend come with you.
Don’t have a friend from the outside who wants to sit through a company party? Ride together and arrive with one of your coworkers.
Secondly, say hello to your ex right off the bat. Don’t spend the whole evening dodging him or her and feeling anxious.
Cordially acknowledge each other’s presence, exchange some pleasantries and then move on. This will not only benefit you, but will give others at the party a sense of ease.
Last, pay attention to your feelings. If being in the same room with your former spouse is making you uncomfortable or you’re just not having a good time, allow yourself to duck out early.
Whether you go for a nightcap afterwards, read a good book in front of the fire or just turn in early, do something for yourself that will help lift your spirits. It’s important for divorced singles to learn to do things that feed their souls and help them grow back into their own person.
2. Family gatherings with your relatives
When it comes to family get togethers after divorce, things can be tricky. If you had a civil divorce and your former spouse was (and still is!) close to your extended family, it may be tempting to invite them along.
The best plan of action, however, is to cut them loose from family gatherings and move on. Divorce is a severing of the relationship. Other than working together to raise children if you have them, it’s best to journey into life without having them always at your side.
Maybe you have a family that is understanding of the situations surrounding the divorce. If that’s the case, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about when getting together. Relatives can provide a tremendous amount of support when you’re healing and moving on from such a traumatic situation.
3. Juggling your relatives and your love life
Maybe you’re dating this holiday season. It may be tricky trying to navigate between your established family and that of someone you are newly dating.
Make sure you talk with your relatives ahead of time and let them know you will be splitting time between family and your new partner.
When you are at get togethers and relatives inquire about your new love life, feel comfortable setting boundaries and don’t be pushed into a conversation you’re not ready to have.
4. Texts and calls from your ex
Some time has passed since your divorce was finalized and there hasn’t been much communication between you and your former spouse. Then the holidays arrive and suddenly he or she is messaging you out of the blue.
Maybe it’s a simple, “Merry Christmas” or “Hope you have a good holiday.” But maybe it’s much more involved. How do you respond?
The holidays tend to heighten emotions and bring big feelings to the surface of everyone. Now multiply that times two for divorced singles.
Feelings of longing, missing the past, and loneliness can emerge causing an ex to reach out and want to start a conversation. For the most part, simple messages wishing you a good holiday are harmless, and are fine to be returned.
If the messages become more frequent and involved, it may be a good idea to tell them that it’s best if you don’t continue communicating except for an as needed basis (kids, finances, etc.).
5. Seeing your ex with a new partner
Regardless of the circumstances of the divorce, seeing your ex with a new partner can come as a punch in the gut.
My sister-in-law recounted how she knew she needed to meet her former spouse’s new girlfriend. After all, the kids already knew her. One day in the grocery store, she ran into her ex and his new girlfriend. She said it stopped her in her tracks.
They were both kind and polite, met and moved on to go about their own ways. But my sister-in-law said it’s hard to put into words the feelings and thoughts that went through her mind.
Allow yourself to feel a little jealous or hurt. But then let yourself move on.
6. Introducing a new partner to your relatives
If you’ve recently started dating someone, the holidays may be the perfect time to introduce them to your relatives.
Before bringing someone new to family gatherings, it is important to give your relatives a heads up and make sure it’s okay. Once you get the all clear, be excited for the opportunity for those closest to you to get to know the new interest in your life.
Dating as a recently divorced person can be exciting and really help ease your heart during the holidays. Bring this new person in your life to spend time with your family. It may give you a renewed sense of hope.
It can also help your relatives see and acknowledge the fact that your past relationship is over and that you’re moving on and thus they should too.
7. Feeling Lonely
Whether you’re a newly divorced single, or newly divorced and dating, the holidays can be a very lonely time. Being single while watching happy families and couples celebrate together can feel like a knife in the heart.
The important thing to remember is that these feelings won’t last forever. The pain of the divorce will lessen with time and you’ll move on to find joy in new people and places.
To navigate the holidays, be sure to say yes often. Say “yes” to parties and gatherings, outings with friends and get togethers with families. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and bring you happiness.
Many divorced singles also recommend spending the holidays doing things for others. Local mission work such as serving at soup kitchens and helping at toy drives for children can help raise your spirits because we almost always feel lifted up and inspired when doing things for others.
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Instead of letting the holidays get you down after a divorce, use this time to prepare and plan for a season that will be full of hope and new traditions.
As with any transition in life, there will be growing pains, but they will subside as the joy of new adventures fill the loneliness from the past.
Allow yourself to explore life in an all new way during these holidays and find comfort and peace in your family, friends and the people that bring happiness to your heart.