The holidays are here and that can mean a lot of high emotions for some people; sometimes, they have difficulty with their family of origin, like their mom or dad, or maybe a sibling rivalry that just hasn’t ended.
For others, they might be going through something in their lives that they don’t really want under a microscope like an affair or possibly the endless barrage of questions about what’s next. “So, when are you going to get married or, when are you having kids?”
For some couples who are dealing with the aftermath of an affair, the holidays might seem like the last thing on their mind. The affair might not have been disclosed to anyone, so they might have to act like nothing has changed when inside they’re hurting.
If the family is aware of the affair, children, in-laws, and other family might demand the couple continue to engage in the status quo of the relationship or “put on a brave face for everyone”. Either way let’s face it, it’s difficult!
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of an affair during the holidays or know a couple who is, it’s important to remember the following tips:
Whatever the case surrounding their affair, it’s important to set boundaries, and the first step in affair recovery, especially as it pertains to the holiday season.
Perhaps it means only staying at a holiday party for a two hours, rather than staying until the very end to help the host clean up. Perhaps it means no drinking or no work parties as that is where the affair may have occurred. Perhaps it means a couple doesn’t host this year and rather offer to assist by bringing the side dish to a family member’s house instead.
Sometimes a couple wants to share and tell everyone (especially with family), about what’s happened to them or what’s going on in their lives. It’s important to be cautious about who you share the information with and how much information is shared. When either part of the couple opens up to family or friends, they’re opening their relationship up to potential negative opinions and judgements, which may or may not be helpful.
Assure there is a clear understanding of whether or not you’ll share and what you will share. Check in regularly regarding thoughts and feelings about communication with others.
Figure Out What You Need
Think about your relationship as being in the Intensive Care Unit, ICU. Especially when an affair is fresh the couple is treating and managing the symptoms of the affair as they come up, often moment to moment.
If an affair is still in its first year after discovery then a couple might be experiencing the holidays for the first time post affair. This can bring up a lot of anger, hurt, frustrations, resentment and more. Family and couple traditions can feel tarnished or no longer special.
It is important to talk about this with one another or work with a therapist trained in helping couples navigate an affair.
Get clear on what both parties need during this time and how to communicate that to one another. Maybe taking some time to be together is helpful or time apart is what is needed. Come to a compromise on what that looks like and help each other honor that, knowing that from moment to moment that may change. Discuss how you’ll handle any unforeseen events that might come up.
When an affair, an emotional trauma, is fresh, each party needs a lot of self care especially for the partner who is just learning about the affair. For the partner just learning about the affair this information is brand new as opposed to the partner who was involved in the affair. The involved partner has been processing the affair over time.
Recreating a New Relationship Story
One of the important things in affair recovery is that the couple begin to create a new relationship story. If the couple is ready and has worked through aspects of the affair sometimes it helps to create new rituals and traditions especially during the holiday season. Helping the couple say goodbye to the old relationship pre-affair and living into a newer relationship that is just the couple’s, post affair.
The holidays overall bring added and undue stress to most of us. If you are working through an affair and having difficulty I urge you to seek out a trained professional who can support you through the process.
Katie Lemieux is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, expert couples counselor and coach
specializing in affair and betrayal recovery with offices in Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale, FL. If you live or are willing to travel to the area to help heal your relationship reach out to her www.FamilyAndCouplesCounseling.com.