It seems the Hallmark-like images of holiday celebrations and Christmas romances are everywhere this time of year. For women married to active pornography users, these perfect Christmas card images can hijack our ability to regulate the trauma of betrayal with their associated triggers.
The truth is, even if it looks that way, not everyone around us has the best love-life or perfect family. But when the list of their haves and our have-nots feels endless, Christmas time can feel miserable.
Ask any woman who has been betrayed by her husband’s lies and porn use. She’ll have a painful holiday memory, likely several. Loneliness may come from actually being alone or from being in a relationship where love and connection have been missing from years.
Making Holiday Decisions Based on Your Values
This approach from Steven Covey can provide some needed guidance during this difficult season:
“Begin each day with the blueprint of [your] deepest values firmly in mind then when challenges come, make decisions based on those values.”
This holiday, begin each day as Covey suggests with an outline or a set of plans for you! Make a plan based on the values you hold. Some suggestions include:
Create the memories you want to create
Regardless of whether your partner is present, distracted, or non-existent, building a new memory can be valuable for future holidays.
If this is your year without the kids, or if you find yourself without company for the holidays, give yourself permission to have your own party! Plan something fun to eat, a good movie, a hot bath. You are worthy of your own holiday memories. Create beautiful memories for yourself this year!
Talk to your friends and family
Be (age appropriately) open with the kids and honest with friends and family regarding you this holiday. This doesn’t mean spilling your emotional guts–it means stating your purpose and intentions and acting upon those values.
It would be so nice if everyone was tuned in–the truth is, we can all be self-absorbed, especially this time of year. Reach out to those around you to see how celebrations might be merged.
Keep it manageable
Simplify! A good value plan is about being present in the holiday moment. Keep your lists simple. It’s not about all the decorations, all the food, or attending every event. Remember it is ok to say no or decline an invitation.
Planning is everything–the more rushed you are the more opportunity for stress to arise.
Practice good self-care
A good value plan is a good self-care plan. Consider the areas where you will need to use the recovery tools you have acquired (i.e. grounding tools, affirmations, soul-balancing music, and the word “no,” when appropriate).
- Take a time out when emotions elevate. Limit your time in difficult environments.
- Use code words when conversations might be triggering.
- Keep your self-soothing or grounding tips/tools close by (i.e. affirmation, quotes, music or grounding image on your phone, etc.).
- Spend time journaling; it’s a great place to purge elevated emotions (or write gratitude statements to help re-frame heated moments) in a constructive way when others are around.
- Step outside for a quick breath in the fresh air to clear out the negativity. Hot chocolate, a blanket, and a good book on the porch could be just what you need.
- Be mindful of limiting belief and remember the importance of a positive thought life during the holidays. Be empathic with yourself. Acknowledge you are doing your best. Speak gently to yourself if struggles arise.
Maintain healthy boundaries
Just like self-care, boundaries should also be included in your daily value plan. Holidays can be stressful, and words are often spoken in haste, taken the wrong way, or not said at all. Use a “conversation postpone” rule to address issues that come up in awkward moments. Opt out of conversations that include gaslighting or blame-shifting. Good holiday memories are built upon good holiday boundary values.
As one of the most discussed terms in recovery, boundaries are an even more important tool during the holidays when emotions and stresses impact the coping skills of the addict or the partner. Here are a few tips for maintaining your boundaries:
- Avoid walking into a situation without a plan.
- Discuss expectations prior to the event–especially if difficult family members or friends will be attending.
- Set a time limit for how long you will stay at the event to help minimize stress from difficult relationships.
- If you are going alone, remember you own the “whys” of your story. A simple, “We are respecting one another’s decisions for how we are celebrating this holiday,” can put the stop to inquiries regarding a missing partner.
- If staying over, prepare your sleeping arrangements as early as possible to avoid awkward situations.
- Quickly dropping by the celebrations may be better than a long stay risking recovery repair or separation agreements.
Use your support system
Lastly, remember to use your support system and don’t hesitate to reach out. If you are traveling, find a local support group you can attend. Or join our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group for access to daily support during this difficult season. Schedule an appointment ahead of time with a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Coach on the 26th or 27th to help process and decompress post-holiday emotions. Preparing your resources ahead of time means you have the tools when you need them, instead of trying to find something when trauma is heightened.
Remove limiting beliefs this year. Give yourself the gift of truly celebrating the season.