For many, Christmas is about family, but what happens when your family has been separated by divorce? Often, what has been your Christmas tradition for many years is now off the table. Divorce will all too often see a dramatic reduction in numbers of those you call family and friends. Many married men count the husbands of their wife's friends among their closest mates and divorce will often see them alienated as they break ties with their ex. Not to mention the loss of your ex's family from within your inner circle. Of course, the hardest part is having to split your children's time between you and your ex. It matters not if your children are young or grown up with families of their own, not being able to spend Christmas with them, hurts.
The Festive Season can be a time where many people will feel alone, with feelings of worthlessness and depression creeping in. It is also a time for socialising and work/office parties, a time when you may well be talking with people that you only see once a year. People like, colleagues from other offices/sites, the partners of workmates and friends of friends, people that may not know of the changes that have taken place in your life over the past year ( or so). These once a year acquaintances, in an attempt to be sociable, may well ask after your ex without knowing of your divorce/separation. Such situations can bring emotions to the surface, emotions that you had thought were under control, but now find yourself battling with. Many men having gone through divorce will try to abstain from socialising in an attempt to avoid questions of their relationship, however, during the festive season there is often a sense of obligation for you to attend. Combine all this with the presence and consumption of alcohol and it can become a dangerous time for anyone dealing with emotional issues. Alcohol and depression do not work well together, so if you are finding things tough this Christmas, watch how much you drink.
Dealing with a smaller social circle over Christmas
With divorce comes a reduction in the size of your social circle. A breakdown of a marriage or relationship will see a division and separation of assets and while most think of this only from a financial point of view, it is important to understand that in most cases there is also a separation and division of your social circle. Your ex's family will for the most part, tend to break of social ties with you, ( This doesn't necessarily mean they don't like you) and while it is quite understandable, it can still be hard. However it is the loss of the friends you shared as a couple, that can hurt the most. Unfortunately for all concerned, these common friends will often feel obligated to choose sides between you and your ex. It is an unfortunate fact that for the most part, your married friends will tend to side with your ex. The reason for this is actually quite simple. Think back to when you were happily married and imagine if you, as a couple, had to make that decision about some friends. Say what you will, but your wife would opt to stay friends with her "bestie" and whilst you could argue the case that you could remain friends with the husband, your wife would see it as betraying the trust of her friend. So, given the choice between your wife and her "bestie's" ex, the wise man chooses his wife.
The festive season is a time when we will feel the loss of these friends. Especially when it comes to those who you regularly saw at specific times. For instance, you may have, for the past 15 years spent Christmas Eve at a social gathering with a particular couple. Your ex remains very close friends with them and most likely will spend Christmas Eve with them again. So now, your left with not only a loss of some friends, but with the realization that you shall not be going to their houseparty again on Christmas Eve.
My advice is to accept that your Christmas Eve tradition is a thing of the past, move on and start a new tradition. This however does not mean you have to break all ties and civility with your friends. By all means send them a Christmas card, keep in touch via social media and even give them a quick call or text to wish them all the best for Christmas and New Year. Sure, they may no longer be part of your inner circle, but there is usually no need to cut ties as friends completely. They no doubt miss your friendship as much as you miss theirs.
The situation can be more complicated when you were very good friends with members of your ex's family. Again, for the most part there should be no harm in at least sending a Christmas card.
Sharing your children at Christmas after divorce
This is when it gets really hard. Like during the rest of the year, it is crucial that you never use your children as pawns in your battles with your ex. For most men in their 50's, their children will likely be adults and living a life of their own out of home. In this case then things are a little less complicated, much of the decisions on when you are to spend time with your children will be dictated by them. Many though, will have a partner of their own and so will be wanting to spend time with their partners family as well.
If however, like me, your children are younger and still at home then you will need to discuss seeing your children, with your ex. My teenage child lives with their Mum and so I am thankful that even though she has remarried we remain on good terms. For many of us without custody of our children, the festive season and particularly Christmas morning can be very difficult. I myself am a shift worker which makes scheduling visits even harder. The way you go about arranging to see your children over the Christmas period will very much depend on the relationship you have with your ex. My advice though, would be to speak with your children about what they would like to do and to not expect to have your children every year for Christmas day. One compromise that has worked for us, was for me to have my child until Christmas morning. This way both parents got to spend some of Christmas Day with them.
Something else that can get forgotten, is your family. Don't forget that your family will no doubt want to see your children over Christmas as well, most especially your parents. So please remember to allow your parents to see their Grandchildren over Christmas. I mentioned earlier that I had my teenager on Christmas Eve, what I didn't mention was that we spent that night at my parents. This gave my entire family the chance to see them and share gifts with them on Christmas morning.
Reboot your Festive Season
So what do I mean by "Reboot your Festive Season"? Your Christmas period is now going to be different to that of recent years, your divorce has made certain of that. So now is the ideal time to make the changes you want to make. Sure, you may not get to spend the season exactly how you would like, but then again, who actually does? So push that reset button and make the most of the opportunity to change. I myself love Christmas time and it is a wonderful family time. Now, ( if I am not working) I get to spend Christmas with my family and not having to share my time with my ex's family too. For those of you with Grinch like sentiments of disliking the whole Christmas thing, your single, make your own choices, book yourself on a cruise, go on a holiday, the choices are endless and yours alone to make.
Allow yourself to enjoy the season, don't hide yourself away at home. Go to those work parties, put up Christmas decorations and don't wallow in self pity. ( Plenty of time for that during the rest of the year)
Just remember though, not to go overboard with the Christmas spirits. Now that you no longer have a partner to watch how much you drink, remember to drink wisely. If you are still having a hard time dealing with the breakdown of your marriage, keep in mind that alcohol can make depressive thoughts much worse. So keep your self respect and dignity intact whilst enjoying this Festive season.
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Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.