by Dan Drake, certified sex addiction therapist, clinical partner specialist. Please note this article has been published along with more information on surviving the holidays in this book.
Support comes in many forms. So during a time filled with anxiety, stress, loneliness, and pain, I wanted to share with you the supportive words of other partners about the holiday season. These brave women come from all different backgrounds, some who are coming into their first holiday season post discovery/disclosure, and others who have been on this healing journey for more than 15 years. They anonymously shared words of encouragement to you, so that you’d have support during the holidays.
I asked these questions on a survey, and below are some of the responses I received back. So if you feel like you don’t have support this holiday season, just know that you’re not alone. You have a community of other partners out there who are standing by your side. You can do this!
What was most difficult for you about the holiday season after the initial discovery / disclosure of sexual betrayal?
(ranked in order of difficulty):
- Navigating triggers associated with the holidays
- Handling family and friends (e.g., communication, secrets, tension, etc.)
- Contrast between THIS holiday season and previous holiday seasons
- Holding secrets
- Navigating traveling with addicted partner or partner traveling on their own
- Other, which included:
a. Dealing with Affair Partner contacting spouse
b. Tension of just being present with my spouse while holding the reality of our situation inside
c. I knew very little after the initial discovery because I still believed my partner was truthful & I did not know that he was & had been lying to me for our entire relationship.
d. Our wedding anniversary was in December. My day of discovery was in mid- January. Christmas was right in the middle. So there was a whole month of pain for me.
- Dealing with gift-giving
- Managing expectations around sex with addicted partner
- Handling office holiday parties
How was the holiday season post discovery / disclosure of sexual betrayal different from holiday seasons pre-discovery?
- Felt very sad wondering if all of my memories of holidays past were false.
- We were separated, so he didn’t celebrate Christmas with us
- It was really difficult to find the energy to put as much into Christmas as I would have normally -- and I really wanted to do that for the kids' sake.
- Pre-discovery, my holiday were full of many people, lots of joy, laughter. I was big on traditions. Now, our traditions have all changed. But they are back to being wonderful again ❤
- I had to be pleasant on the outside while dying on the inside
- My partner & I were not living together & he had to give a vague explanation of what was going on because we were in crisis & told that it was too early to share the details of what was going on with our adult daughters.
- Reality shattered and future uncertain
- We went from splitting up holiday tasks to doing them together. One of my discoveries had been that my husband was acting out while I was shopping and wrapping presents. Doing those things together served both to reduce my worries and it built closeness.
- I went shopping for Christmas gifts and started wailing out loud in the middle of the mall. I had never done that before. I was hurting so much thinking about how my family had been blown apart. I had to flee the mall. That year, I gave money. I just couldn't bear shopping. Before discovery, Christmas was always a magical time. I decorated the house beautifully and cooked and cooked and cooked. My children loved getting ready for the holidays. After disclosure, it was never the same.
- Have not been thru one.
What helped you make it through the INITIAL holiday season after your discovery / disclosure of sexual betrayal? Please describe any resources, supports, relationships, or tips that helped you.
- I talked via messaging and email with a friend who had been betrayed. I also wrote in my journal.
- Friends came over and spent time with us. We chose to limit the activities we did that year so it wasn’t as stressful and busy. I prayed a lot
- We had just moved and didn't have to see any extended family... and even if we hadn't moved, I think bowing out of some of the usual commitments just makes a lot of sense.
- I took care of me. But the first year was difficult. I felt rather numb. Taking care of me was key.
- A LOT of prayer and getting alone to cry
- I have a best friend who I spoke to everyday who was & is a tremendous resource. I was still lacking much information initially.
- Therapist—individual and couples; close friends
- We did what was called pre-loading... Anticipating the triggers, and making a plan for communicating to the other we needed to get out of a particular situation and an opt out sentence to those who would wonder why we're leaving an event. We also each planned ahead for what we could do on our own if the other wasn't being supportive. For example, driving separate cars, opting out of events altogether, in non-event situations, i.e., everyday life, the usual trigger management stuff was practiced.
- A friend gave me a sampler she had counted cross-stitched with Jeremiah 29:11 on it. I hung it where I could see it all the time. I kept reading it and reminding myself that God had good plans for me to give me a future and a hope. I still have that sampler. 27 years later it still hangs where I see it every day. It took many years, but my life is very good now. I have a present and a hope.
To be continued, next week.
Dan Drake is a licensed professional counselor, certified sex addiction therapist, certified clinical partner specialist and board member of APSATS. He works out of Banyan Therapy in Los Angeles and is the co-author of Letters from a Sex Addict.
Merry Christmas to each of you. May it be filled with His peace, even in the midst of the storm.