How Can Santa Claus Be Coming to Town When My Life is Falling Apart?

We are smack dab in the middle of the holidays. If you recently discovered that your significant other has been cheating or is a sex addict, this time of year can be fraught with emotional landmines and pitfalls. This week and next we are going to talk about some of the specific challenges you are likely to run into as you try to navigate the holidays amidst heartbreak.

One of the craziest things that happens after experiencing betrayal trauma is the sense of confusion as life keeps going. For betrayed partners, the trauma has made your world stand still. You are feeling pain, loss, grief, and anger. Your world has changed permanently and you are trying to grasp what happened. Meanwhile, everyone else is going about their business. Holiday parties, Christmas get-togethers, shopping, cooking, merry-making, etc. It’s surreal, and it can leave you feeling disconnected, weird, and very, very alone.

Even worse, your sense of disorientation is likely to be exacerbated by a whopping dollop of seasonal pressure. Pressure to buy the right gifts, pressure to make the cookies and pies that you always make, pressure to get that damn elf in the exact right place every night, and pressure to make sure the kids don’t miss out on any of the joys of the season. Plus, there is the pressure to show up at parties and make small talk like everything is perfectly OK. You might also have the pressure that comes with being around family.

Life keeps going, despite the betrayal, and it makes demands on you the same as always. So, even though you probably just want to crawl in bed, pull the covers over your head, and wait out the festivities while the clock runs out on the crappiest year ever, you can’t. The holiday season just won’t allow it.

If you are dealing with the heartbreak of betrayal trauma this Christmas, please know that you are not alone. There is a whole sisterhood (and brotherhood) of hurting individuals who are also trying to not throw the gingerbread house across the room or dip way too far into the Christmas punch as they navigate what’s supposed to be the jolliest time of the year.

So, what can you do to survive the holidays? For starters, as you make your way through the next few weeks, give yourself permission to be in your reality. You might have to paste on a smile at the office holiday party, but afterward you can get in your car and ugly-cry the whole way home if you need to. And when you get there, feel free to dive into bed and pull the covers over your head for a while. Stay in your pajamas all day if you need to. Take breaks from the obligations and to-do lists to breathe. Most of all, give yourself permission to say no.

That’s right, feel free to say no. The holidays will not crumble if you don’t make the cookies and pies this year. Christmas will still happen if the elf on the shelf breaks its little leg and gets benched for a season. You might even need to miss your friend’s annual holiday party.

Even though it’s the holidays and every event feels like a must-do, people will understand if you just don’t—especially your close friends, who (hopefully) know what you’re going through and empathize. The people who truly care about you will understand that your energy is limited and you are occupied with grieving. So, be kind to yourself and reasonable in what you ask of yourself as the holidays move forward.

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