By: Katie Lersch: Dealing with an affair in your marriage is difficult during any time of the year. But it can be particularly difficult during the winter holidays, especially if you have children. This is the time of the year when families are expected to get together and when everyone is expected to be happy and full of cheer. Many people are not comfortable sharing information about their marriage – even to family. And yet, it may be obvious to many that you are not feeling the winter cheer this year. And you can wonder if it’s best to just skip at least some celebrations (that include your husband) or to pretend for the sake of your family, despite the affair.
Someone might say: “my husband’s affair is still really fresh. I only found out three weeks ago. I am still really struggling. Sometimes I feel as if I am every bit as upset as I was when this first happened. And here we are at Thanksgiving. We always alternative between going to my parents’ at lunch and his parents’ at dinner. I am fine with going to my parents for lunch, but I have no desire to see his parents. No one else knows about this yet, but even if his parents did know, they think that their son can do no wrong. I have told my husband that I don’t want to go, but he insists that we will make it a short trip and he insists that it will upset our kids to not go. He says that we don’t need to announce that anything has changed and that we can get through anything for a short period of time for the sake of our kids. He keeps telling me that he hopes that next year, everything will be back to normal with our family. Of course he hopes for this – as it lets him off the hook. This is all so easy for him to say. He is not the one who is so hurt. He is not the one who has to try to pick up the pieces. I honestly don’t know if I can sit through the dinner with his parents. But I don’t want to disrupt my kids’ day and I feel like the winter holidays are an important part of childhood. I love my kids and I want things to be as normal for them as they can possibly be. Should I just force myself to go?”
Considerations Worth Thinking About: I think the answer to this depends on a few things. I think that the most important to thing to ask yourself is if you think that you can get through the day and act relatively normally without paying a high price. Because quite honestly, if you go and are visibly upset and have to explain your behavior to the kids, then this may be more disruptive to them than if you just came up with a plausible excuse not to go at all. Not only that, but if you go and are upset or things are awkward and people notice, then there may be more explaining to do than if you just came down with a headache or the flu and had to stay home.
If, on the other hand, you feel that you can just sort of coast through the day without anyone being the wiser, then that might be doable. It really does depend on your ability to compartmentalize and carry on when you are deep down upset.
Some couples are able to put on a happy face when things aren’t great and others are not. Your situation is a little more tricky and difficult because it is still so fresh. I don’t think it would be a crime to send the kids off with their dad and claim to have a headache if you truly don’t think you want to do this or feel that you just can’t do it. The kids still get to enjoy the holiday with extended family and no one needs to know that anything is amiss. People miss holidays due to illness or emergencies all of the time. And if you truly can’t or don’t want to do it, then it’s better to bow out than to have an unfortunate, awkward experience during the holidays.
If you think you can swing it and just want to get it over with, then that’s valid too. But I think that you have every right to make your own choice and to not be pressured by anyone else’s expectations.
If you choose not to go, you might try: “I know that you want to just carry on as usual this year, but I don’t feel that I can do that. I’m going to just beg off as not feeling well. You can take the kids so they won’t miss anything. Like you, I hope that things are back to normal next year, but I am just not able to pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t. It’s too fresh this year.”
If you decide to stick it out, you might try: “I’m going to do this for the kids, but I don’t want to stay as long as normal. I want to give myself a break, make an appearance, and then come home and spend time with the kids. I think that this is a fair compromise, considering how fresh everything is. I hope that next year is different, but for this year, I feel like we need to make concessions.”
No one can decide which route you want to take but you, but don’t let anyone tell you that either path isn’t valid. You should have the luxury to be guided by your own feelings and wishes. You aren’t trying to keep the kids from family. But you have every right to consider your own well being as well. Sometimes, we go and we find that it’s not as bad as we had feared. And other times, we just don’t have it in us to find out. Either way is valid.
I certainly did beg off of some traditions and get-togethers after my husband’s affair. And some traditions were important to me personally so I kept them going. It really depends on how you feel about each individual thing. And your wishes and feelings matter as much as anyone else’s. You can read more about my own struggles during a similar time on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com
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