How to Survive the Holiday Season in a Troubled Marriage


First, we would like to wish all our current and past clients and their families, our staff and their families, and everyone we work with best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season and New Year 2018.

Despite it being a festive time of year, when we reconnect with family and friends in the spirit of the season, the holidays can be a stressful time. As famous Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy put it in his masterwork Anna Karenina, “all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way.”

In addition to the stress of fitting in social engagements, shopping, cooking, travel plans, and too many other ‘to dos,’  the holidays can be a source of mental and emotional stress, too. In fact, 64% of the respondents in one U.S. study said that they are affected by the ‘holiday blues’.

You may find yourself wondering why Christmas doesn’t have the same spirit that it used to, or, when looking back on the year, you might have feelings of being ‘stuck,’ with your life no further along in 2017 than it was in 2016.

If you and your partner are having marital problems, they can exacerbate all the physical and emotional stresses that the holidays bring. Now, not only do you have the usual holiday blues, and the relationship stresses, both of which can be significant, but you must mask all of them as you get together with friends and family. Put on a nice face and pretend to be happy!

You may also be dealing with additional stresses, like feelings of loneliness and isolation that can be unique to the combination of the holidays and relationship issues. When you’re in a marriage that isn’t working, it is common to feel alone.

And if you have children – well, you know what the holidays mean to them.

So how will you survive the holiday season? First, it always helps to know that you’re not alone. The holidays are a family time, but that can mean revisiting family issues that may have been brewing beneath the surface for some time. We’ve all been to family gatherings during the holidays where heated arguments, often carried on from previous years, have broken out.

So, considering that many others have gone down this path before, here are a few tips for getting through the holidays in the face of marital problems.


1.    Make your children a priority

Yes, this is the same advice you’ll get if you end up in any sort of separation and/or divorce proceedings, but these are the holidays and it’s even more important to protect their emotional wellbeing.

Talk to your spouse and see if you can’t come to an arrangement to avoid conflict that could affect the children and their enjoyment of the holidays.

2.    Take care of yourself

It’s very tempting to look for a relief valve at holiday gatherings. But excessive eating and drinking will only make things worse. Instead, it’s best to make sure you sleep well, eat healthily and stay active. And don’t forget to be a good boss and mentor to yourself.

3.    Prepare yourself for the stressors

Due to stress and fatigue, your ‘buttons’ can be pushed more easily during the holidays. If you can see a situation coming along that might be a tough one for you, like going to visit your spouse’s family, prepare yourself for the worst. Often, when you do, the worst never happens. 

4.    Live in the moment

There may be an advantage to the ‘busy-ness’ of the holidays. It gives you lots of diversions from dwelling and ruminating on your problems. Take one day at a time, appreciate the moments when you find some true enjoyment, no matter how brief, and immerse yourself in the tasks at hand, like your cooking or children’s activities.

5.    Try to stay objective

Whether you’ve openly talked about ending the marriage with your spouse, or you have just now come to the realization that the marriage in untenable, nothing will likely change over the holidays.

This can be very difficult to understand, especially if you’re just realizing the gravity of the situation, but do everything you can to keep things in perspective.

If your marital problems are growing and/or coming to a crisis, 2018 will be a challenging year for both of you and your family. But it doesn’t have to be as contentious and litigious as you might think. Get in touch with us here at Williams Family Law to learn more.

Williams Family Lawyers