Each week i asks experts to answer readers’ questions about love, sex and relationships
My partner and I separated earlier this year and this will be the first Christmas without my kids. My ex is taking the kids to her parents in Scotland so they’ll be away for three days.
I have no plans and I don’t know what to do. I made so many mistakes and they haunt me. It is my fault my marriage ended. My ex has already met someone new.
Lucy Cavendish, a counsellor and dating coach, says:
First of all, ouch. This is painful. There are no two ways about it. You are going through grief and it’s Christmas which is like grief times a million. Christmas is hard at the best of times. It has a way of taking all the things we usually feel miserable about and putting them into painful clarity.
Everything is about families and little children and you are without yours. What’s more, your partner has moved on to a new relationship. So you have not only lost your family and your family Christmas, but also someone else has stepped into the gap. I imagine you might be going into fantasy, picturing them having a great time, when in reality I’m sure your family will be struggling in their own way too.
So how to get through this Christmas? First of all, give yourself a break and tell yourself that actually there were two of us in this relationship and it’s ending is not totally my responsibility.
People often respond one of two ways in break ups. One is to take no responsibility at all. The other version is to take 100 per cent of the responsibility which it sounds like you are doing. Neither is true. Relationships are co-created. So while we need to take responsibility for our part, they also have their part to play. There were two of you in the marriage and you both contributed to the fact that it didn’t work out.
Number two: know that it isn’t going to be like this forever. This Christmas is going to feel terrible and it’s just a day. How might you get through it? Reach out to family, reach out to friends, reach out to every single volunteer organisation you could find. Arrange to do something on Christmas Day. Like go for a walk, go to church. Find a way of doing something whereby you actually see another human.
Lots of people are alone for Christmas. More than you will imagine. Someone put a note on my local Facebook group saying they would be alone if anyone wanted to meet up for a walk and a drink – they had 200 replies. They now have a whole day planned. On the other hand, you might enjoy some time on your own. You could reframe it as time for yourself. Take the time to think about how you would like it to be next year. Think about how you would like to arrange time with the kids. How can you negotiate with your partner? Try to find a stronger, higher part of yourself.
As much as possible – and I’m sorry if this sounds harsh – get out of the blame, shame and victimisation mode. When we see things through victimisation we can’t see a way out, no change is available. When you get out of victim mode you can think proactively about what you want to build going forward.
You don’t say what you feel you did to contribute to the end of the marriage but whatever it is you need to make amends to yourself, and you need to make amends to your former partner.
That looks like vowing that you will never do what you did to another person, and sticking to that.
It might be too late for this to make a difference to this partnership but you can learn from your mistakes and you can strive to be a better person who will behave in a better way going forward. When you do that you can learn to forgive yourself. Forgiveness takes time but you will get there. Good luck.
As told to Marianne Power
Lucy can be found at lucycavendishcounselling.com