Surviving the Holidays

Even though it was twenty-five years ago when I received my training at the Colorado Institute for Marriage and Family Therapy, I still remember my mentor Dr. Jan Raynak’s words: “Rick, couples will make more movement in the holiday season than in all the other months combined.” I noticed that he didn’t say progress, and I asked for clarification, “Progress or movement?” I asked. “Movement,” he replied. The past 25 years have proven him right. time highlights the distance of a ruptured relationship more than this season.

Out of all the days of the year, no day symbolizes "family togetherness" more than Christmas. As a result, no time highlights the distance of a ruptured relationship more than this season.  If you and your mate are still close to ground zero, then the reminders can be excruciating. Even if you’re within two years of “discovery”, painful emotions may surface. Feelings of isolation and loneliness just seem to magically appear during times of holiday cheer.

At the same time, the season doesn’t have to be a disaster in waiting. Movement can be progress if you make it so. The holidays can serve as a time of giving and of reconciliation. It’s a time where memories of old stir forgotten feelings and where hope draws us to new beginnings. Those of us at  Affair Recovery pray you’ll find peace and joy during this time of the season.

Here are a few suggestions we want to pass along. I hope you’ll share suggestions you’ve personally found useful in surviving the holidays in the comments at the end of the article. Together, we can find a way not only to survive, but to thrive.

Dr. Calvin Frederick, formerly of the National Institute of Mental Health, estimated a 15% increase (this number may have increased) in the number of people seeking professional help during the holiday season. He made several suggestions.

  1. First, stop putting unreasonable pressure on yourself to be happy during the holidays. When you have legitimate reasons for being happy, acknowledge them and be gentle with yourself.  
  2. You may find your mood improves when you’re in the company of special friends and favorite relatives - especially those who accept your full range of feelings and don’t put pressure on you to be other than who you are. So seek out people who make you feel better, and avoid people who contribute to your depression.
  3. Make an effort to be more physically active. Physical activity is one of the best ways to make yourself feel better. Recent research indicates that exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, mood-elevating chemicals produced by the body. Take a walk, go to the gym, get out in the country, or take on a project that calls for physical activity.
  4. While a few drinks may make you feel temporarily euphoric, alcohol is a depressant and often ends up making you feel worse than before.

  5. Many people regain control and their equilibrium when they set one or two specific, manageable goals every day - even if they are as simple as cleaning out a closet or drawer or writing a letter. The satisfaction they get from completing these tasks adds to their sense of well - being and self - respect.
  6. Watch your intake of alcohol. While a few drinks may make you feel temporarily euphoric, alcohol is a depressant and often ends up making you feel worse than before.

Here are suggestions others have made:

  • If you are having trouble sleeping, have lost your appetite, have continuing thoughts of hopelessness and despair, seeking professional help may be wise.
  • Listed below are some ideas and suggestions that others have found helpful in coping with the holiday season. Choose the ones that help you.
  • Family get-togethers may be difficult. Be honest with each other about your feelings. Sit down with your family and decide what you want to do for the holiday season. Don’t set expectations too high for yourself or for the day. If you wish things to be the same, you are going to be disappointed. Do things a little differently. Undertake only what each family member can handle comfortably. Initiate activity yourself; do not wait for others.
  • There is no right or wrong way to handle the day. Some may wish to follow family traditions, while others may choose to change.
  • Keep in mind the feelings of your children and/or family members. Try to make the holiday season as joyous as possible for them.
  • Realize that it isn’t going to be easy. Do the things that are very special and /or important to you.

  • Set limitations. Realize that it isn’t going to be easy. Do the things that are very special and /or important to you. Do the best you can.
  • Once you have made the decision on the role you and your family will play during the holidays, let your relatives and friends know. Time spent by yourself can also be rewarding.
  • Baking goodies and cleaning the house can get out of proportion. If these chores are enjoyable, go ahead, but not to the point that it is overtiring. Either buy baked goods, or go without this year.

This season represents a time of hope and reconciliation. I pray that you’ll find hope and new life as you travel to the end of the year.

Those of us at Affair Recovery wish you a very Merry Christmas.



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Thank you so much for your prayers! Thats what I found out: ask friends to pray-and it helps to eas the pain.Buy baked goods and avoid stress-very good idea! Visit elderly people or make christmas cards and bring them to folks who need it!Merry Christmas to Rick and his team!


This is a good article, but it doesn't address those of us who will be celebrating Christmas, etc. alone because our spouses are with their Affair Partners. In my own case, my husband chose to not try and work on our relationship. We have been separated only 10 weeks and he spent Thanksgiving with his Affair Partner and our kids (without talking about it beforehand, confusing our young kids) and now he'll be with her and our kids post Christmas. Being alone during the the Holidays while your husband is with his AP and the kids is just so difficult. It would be great if you also could offer support/advice for those of us who continue to feel betrayed and alone during the Holidays because our cheatin' spouses decided to be with their APs.

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