Are You “Faking It” Through the Holidays?

Gingerbread Cookies

You know who you are… You are putting on a happy face and carrying on with your holiday routine. Cookies are baked, cards with the picture of the happy family have been mailed, you’ve attended the work and neighborhood parties, and now it is time for the actual holiday. You’ve done well to this point, but here’s where the rubber can hit the road and the proverbial mask falls off. Extended family has arrived, you and your spouse are spending more time together since you’re both taking time off during the holidays, you’re running around buying last-minute gifts, wrapping, preparing for the holiday meals, putting together toys and all of the other usual odds and ends. Holidays are stressful under the best of circumstances, but is so much more difficult when your marriage is on the rocks and you are just trying to put on the happy face.

And The Oscar Goes To…

I know this feeling all too well. I was absolutely that person, and I know many others who are in the same boat. If this sounds like you, trust that you are not alone! So many people play this part, and some play it for many years. I believe I’m a contender for the “faking it” Oscar. My last “married” Christmas was interesting, to say the least. We were a month away from our divorce being finalized, I had just purchased a new house, we were still living together as we didn’t want to tell the kids until after the holidays, nobody outside of our family and a couple of really close friends knew we were divorcing, and both mothers were staying in our home over Christmas. I still baked the cookies, went to the neighborhood parties and did all of my “duties”. Even though that was only two years ago, I can barely remember it. Probably for good reasons! This was “faking it” at its finest!

The First Christmas

Last year was my first Christmas being single again. I ignored the regular routine and did whatever I needed to just get through it. I think I was so overwhelmed by not having my kids for Thanksgiving or Christmas Day that I numbed out a bit for a few weeks. I ignored the Christmas cards – outgoing and incoming. I remember the feeling I had the last time I sent out Christmas cards. It was a card with our family picture on it — it looked picture perfect even though we were a mess. This was inauthenticity at its best. I felt like a fraud. A few weeks ago, I actually found a stack of unopened cards from last year in my Christmas boxes. I don’t think I was ready to face the pictures of the happy families. It was a pretty lonely feeling.

What a Difference A Year Makes

This year, I decided to be all in again. I had family pictures taken with the kids for the cards. I debated on sending out our family picture, or just one of the kids. I chose to use a picture with all three of us because that’s what felt right, and I feel great sharing that! I scrubbed my mailing list and deleted the names who belonged to my ex, or that I just didn’t feel I wanted to connect with anymore. Our list had gotten so long and had more casual acquaintances than real friends. More inauthenticity. I added new people who I am grateful have come into my life over the last couple of years. I took the extra time to write notes to people I haven’t spoken to in quite awhile. This year, I feel really good about sending the Christmas cards — even though they will be showing up closer to New Year’s Eve!

I have found that I also have a different perspective on the cards I receive. I definitely receive less than I used to because I was obviously scrubbed off of others’ lists, but the cards I do receive have so much more meaning. They are from those who are really in my life in a meaningful way. This feels so much more authentic to me. The pictures of the picture-perfect families no longer bother me. I am happy for those who are happy and feel honored to be in their lives. I do know that some of them are “faking it”, as they have confided in me — this tends to happen when one has gone through divorce. For those people, I appreciate how they are feeling and hope they will find their way to a happier place.

If you are one of those people, here are some thoughts to help you keep your sanity through the holidays:

  1. Carve out time for things you truly enjoy that isn’t intertwined with the pressure. Have lunch with a friend, bake some cookies, zone out to a football game – whatever it is. Decompress.
  2. Identify your triggers and decide in advance how you will respond instead of having the emotional reaction. You know what they are — it could be something your spouse says or how they act, your mother-in-law’s critical tone, whatever it is that typically throws you into an argument or tears. Be conscious of that and decide that you will not engage and just let it roll off of you when it occurs. You’ll instantly feel just a little better that you didn’t allow yourself to get dragged into the normal muck.
  3. Watch the alcohol. This is the time to eat, drink and be merry, but too much alcohol added to holiday festivities that include an unhappy couple is a recipe for disaster. Even if others are drinking too much and the hurtful words start flowing, your clear head will help you see it for what it is and avoid disaster.
  4. Focus on creating a wonderful holiday for your children. Be present with them so you can fully enjoy the precious moments.
  5. Get some exercise – it simply makes people feel better and feel more grounded. Even just taking the dog for a short walk every day will do wonders for your sanity!
  6. Remember to practice gratitude. Consciously think or write about at least a few things, no matter how small, for which you are grateful. This will automatically elevate your mood at least a bit!

Most importantly, set a strong intention to not be a member of the “faking it” camp next year. If there is any hope, work on fixing your marriage. Visit the Untangle The Knot Contemplating Divorce section for completely free information to help you through your decision.  Once you make a conscious decision that “faking it” is no longer acceptable, an authentic and happier life will be waiting for you. It could be waiting to be unearthed within your marriage, or may ultimately be found down an entirely different path. Whatever the case, it’s worth the journey to find the life you want to be living and to be “faking it” no more.

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