Christmas holiday is one of the most dreaded seasons for many spouses in troubled marriages. The stress of holidays triggers sadness and depression for many. This time of the year is especially difficult because there’s an expectation of feeling merry and generous. People look at the reality of their situation and compare their emotions to the picture-perfect moments projected by others. Then they think they alone fall short. It’s also common for some partners to feel emotional distance from the people they’re with, thus feeling lonely even if they’re in a room full of people. For those who feel a sense of loneliness during the holiday season, this time of the year can be one of additional stress. Truth is, not everyone looks forward to this season.
Our hearts are with lonely spouses in troubled marriages that are holidaying with in-laws while their partners seem to be having a jolly good time.
The scenario neatly plays itself out when for instance, the wife spends holidays with her husband’s family. Because of the dysfunction that already exists in their marriage, she perceives her husband as inconsiderate of her feelings especially because he’s in his comfort zone. He spends lots more time outside the family home with his childhood friends, while she feels stuck with people she’s not accustomed to. Her mind is racing, thinking about all sorts of things that may not even be true.
And if you’re in such a situation, we’d like to offer some ideas to consider.
The only way to overcome loneliness in general is to take actions that involve emotional risks, which for lonely people is a scary proposition indeed. As previously mentioned, it is possible to feel lonely when surrounded by people, but it’s harder to feel lonely when you’re reaching out to them. Whether you ask the mother-in-law to tell you about your husband growing up, exchanging friendly words with the sister-in-law, or picking up the phone and calling an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, reaching out and strengthening bonds can help you feel more connected and less lonely.
Choose one person in the family with whom you might get closer over the holidays and make an effort to spend time with them, talk with them, and do activities together. Going over your in-law family photo album is a great way to connect and rekindle feelings of a shared history.
Also make every effort to participate in group activities, games or family discussions as removing yourself from them sends a signal which pushes others away. Yes, it takes a huge effort to put on a smile and participate, but doing so is an important investment. The holidays do provide an opportunity to get closer to people which will pay dividends later.
Take the initiative yourself. Your in-laws are part of your life even after the holidays, and for as long as you’re married to your husband and have children together. Cultivating great relations with them will ensure a harvest of wonderful time together in future. It may even help to heal the rift in your troubled marriage. You’ll be amazed at how personable your in-laws may be if you reach out. Not everyone is out to get you.
Find the source
Instead of simply blaming everyone else or bottling up negative feelings, take some time to figure out why you feel the way you do. Perhaps the real reason for the feelings of isolation stem from something internal that needs to be addressed. Is it about something that actually happened? Are you in fact being abandoned, or is it just a perception?
Try and avoid social media
Fewer platforms can be as insensitive, cruel and fake as social media. The heightened show-off contest during this season often wrapped up in falsehoods and exaggeration can have a depressing effect on a lonely heart. Never forget that people post only what they want you to see, from an angle they want you to see them, and project an image they’re comfortable with you seeing. Never compare your whole life to an airbrushed picture-perfect moment on your timeline. If you find that you often compare yourself to your “perfect” cyber-friends who seem like they’re having perfect holidays, log –off. Rather consider developing conversations with the people you can touch. You’re already spending holidays with your in-laws; you might as well try to make it pleasant for you for as long as you’re there.
Avoid blaming your spouse – or yourself
Wallowing in your own sadness or allowing it to morph into anger won’t solve anything, and it could actually make you feel worse. If your spouse is acting in a way that bothers you, confront them with a positive tone and try to express that. Blaming your spouse for enjoying being with their family, or spending time with childhood friends can make something that’s relatively easy to manage into a huge problem. Rather approach the issue in a constructive and open way. That’s your spouse, and those are your in-laws, if you can’t be open in a respectful manner with them, who will you have an open communication with?
Importantly, instead of looking outside for the problem, it may well be that you’re an overly-sensitive and unhappy person. In that case, no one can help you but you. It’s not your spouse’s job, nor anyone else to make you happy.