by Ginita Wall, CPA, CFP®, CDFA
Holidays are usually a time for reconnecting, but if you are married — and not so happily — seasonal preparations and celebrations can put a major strain on relationships that are already teetering on the brink. So how do you celebrate the holidays when you don’t think your marriage will make it? Here are some tips for getting through it all.
Ask for help from friends and family. If it looks like getting divorced will be one of your New Year’s resolutions, but you and your spouse are still together, you may want to confide your situation to a friend or family member. But limit what you share to just one or two people. If you blab to everyone, your spouse could hear of it, your marriage will suffer even more, and your holiday will explode into ruin for everyone – especially if you have children.
Curb holiday spending. Heading into divorce deeply in debt complicates everything, so don’t drown your guilt or sorrow in shopping. This may not be the most picture-perfect memorable holiday season, and that’s okay – right now, you are just trying to get through.
Lighten up your expectations. Holidays are about getting together, but divorce is about breaking up. Get through this pressure-packed time of year by focusing on others. Maintain a gracious spirit and be grateful for every good thing you have. Consider what’s most important to yourself and your family, and pare celebrations down to just those things.
Don’t let marital storms destroy your joy. Think of your marital problems the same way you would a big storm during the holidays. You might have to change your plans a bit, re-arrange schedules and deal with some unpleasantness. But you can still figure out ways to celebrate without the downpour derailing your holiday. Find and share every little joy you can this holiday season.
Don’t squabble with your spouse. Keeping your emotions in check is key, so resentment doesn’t overcome you during the holidays. If you act in anger now, you may ruin your chances to get to a peaceful divorce settlement with your spouse in the New Year. And, fighting in front of the kids is never a good idea. Children learn what they see at home, and they will take to heart things you say in anger.
Take your time. When the holidays draw to a close, don’t rush headlong into divorce. Take as much time to plan your divorce strategy as you devoted to shopping and decorating for the holidays – this preparation will pay off for an entire lifetime, instead of just one season.
Think peace. The more peace you can bring into your life, now and in the coming year, the more centered you will feel, which will affect your entire family. You have many options available to you as you end your marriage: negotiation between you, mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigation. Choose the avenue that will bring the most peaceful resolution for you and your spouse.