The holidays are a stressful time for anyone and everyone (Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the big top 3). You go thru the following questions every holiday: “Who do we see first, who gets shafted for dinner or dessert, who gets left out this year? Why don’t we host so we’re not running around like crazy?” Now that you are on your own your holidays change and for me it was for the better. I didn’t have to deal with the stress of answering those questions anymore. I went where I wanted to (or just stayed home), stayed as long as I wanted to stay (not to satisfy the hosts), there was no more juggling, no more stressful holidays when those dates came along on the calendar. I had spent most of my driving life (with and without being in relationships choosing where to spend my holidays because my parents were divorced) so this was a relief.
One thing to keep in mind, whether you are separated/divorced/single you will be the topic of conversation to family members who haven’t seen you in a while. It’s best to let them speak their mind as you nod and smile to comprehend, they do not need to know all the details of the separation/agreement as to spread that information across the soup can telephone lines to the rest of the family. If you are uncomfortable then just politely say “Please respect my privacy as I wish to not speak about this at this time.” I can’t quite put a finger on when the whispers stopped for me as I had other things to contend with the details of the agreement. I know after five years certain family members refrained from asking if we still talk because my response had been nothing but ‘no’ or “I’m waiting for him to refi”. Not something I wanted to discuss at the family dinner table while passing the vegetables.
Since my divorce, I’ve hosted Thanksgiving, which was not stressful at all thanks to Mom’s stuffing. I love hosting events, if you’re late we don’t wait to eat, too bad. We drink, we have no filter at the table which makes the traditional family dinners not so traditional to some. The adults man the television which means football is on at all times – except maybe during dinner when there’s dinner music on. Just like it was when I was little, I had no say over what was on the TV after dinner at Grandpa’s, the Uncle’s had football on. The next day, Black Friday I’m up and shopping, a new tradition that was started over the last few years with my Mom and my sister when the three of us are together. Thanksgiving, like Easter is one day a year, you don’t need to spread it over an entire weekend - especially if you just saw those people the previous weekend for dinner or a birthday. I’ve always wanted to celebrate it with friends, perhaps one of these years.
I actually look forward to Christmas morning on my own terms now instead of the dread of waking up and having to be at someone else’s house at zero-dark-thirty watching their kids open their gifts while mine sat under the tree at home. I no longer have to deal with the brilliant idea of rotating the holidays and then having to face disappointment when the SOs family doesn’t ‘get it’ or understand that you have family too. (Ah I got that out again, yes I’m still a little bitter from my previous life, but the last few years of doing it all my way have been way more enjoyable, this is the last time you’ll hear me mention that I promise!)
Now I wake up on Christmas without an alarm (even if I’m out on Christmas Eve), visit family on my schedule and theirs. Christmas is one day to spend with those you love how you want to, not what is expected of you. Others’ will just have to deal or for a better term, concede to the other, especially when most of us have to work the next day. My Christmas’ since the divorce have been most memorable.
One thing I almost forgot which is a huge factor in deciding who to keep or toss from your friends list - when the Christmas cards come rolling in family and friends may not remember you’ve changed your name back, they may not know about your divorce. It’s best to get your cards out first this way you won’t be angry if they address your envelope with “Mr. & Mrs.” Or “Mrs. (insert married name here)”. Saves you the frustration of having to write off your friends and family based on their lack of paying attention to minor details.
Then there’s Easter…Easter for me is always just another Sunday dinner and reminiscing about our matching Easter outfits as children. We no longer color eggs, but we hold the traditional baking of multiple recipes of Babka from Grandma. I still don’t think we actually have the entire recipe – she must have left something out on purpose. Overall unless they’re questioning you at the dinner table again, Easter isn’t a big deal since its only a few hours and there aren’t any gifts being exchanged.
Being married and then divorced and single, having to split holidays between two-three families even prior to all of those events gives one a different perspective even though I do not have children. We share the holidays with those we love, we should not have to experience subconscious guilt because we choose to spend the holidays with someone else’s family or friends. Yes we’re not getting any younger and our families are getting older but in hindsight we should not have to feel that we’re doing something wrong if we chose the latter. Society places such high regard on expectations of everyone that we spend most of our holidays stressing about them instead of enjoying them. We spend too much time worrying about what other people think and hurting someone’s feelings.
And lastly….after dealing with the ‘rotating’ and traveling from house to house do not feel pressured to show up with a date to your families holiday dinner. Do not by all means succumb to the pressure. I for one do not want to schlep my new SO around when he could be spending time with his family. It would be entirely different if I was engaged or married again, however while you are single you stick to your family and him to his. It’s so much easier on both of you that way, there’s no stress or fighting. Forget what your family might think it’s not their life, and you’ve already ‘been there done that’ and probably didn’t enjoy it. I’m not saying write it off entirely, if there is an opportunity to share a holiday then great, otherwise there should be no pressure to rsvp to dinner with a +1. You can always go to dinner another time. Because the minute you show up with a date the new whispers start of ‘how serious is this one?’, ‘oh do you think he’ll/she’ll get married again?’ will come along, and if he or she doesn’t show up with you for the next holiday, god help you because society wants us all to be attached at the hip and now you’re not so something is wrong in their eyes and they break out the soup cans to start the telephone line. The vicious cycle begins, so its best to just do your own thing until you’re absolutely ready to bring someone to the holiday dinner table.
So this year I ask you to spend the holidays as you want to, without the stress, the unwanted expectations from outsiders. If they do not understand then its their problem, do it your way and you will enjoy the holidays.
**I didn’t include July 4th, New Years, Memorial Day as those are holidays that don’t particularly count as ‘shared’ events, more for spending time with friends.