December 19

Christmas Divorce: Surviving the Holidays in an Unhappy Marriage


coping with divorce, dealing with divorce, divorce blog, divorce tips

Christmas divorce shown by decorations on an empty dinner plate with a wedding ring on it

You know it to your very core. You are done! Watching your husband stuff himself at Christmas parties is unbearable. Listening to that fake laugh your wife puts on when she is trying to be social makes you cringe. You hate the way your spouse looks, acts, talks, and smells. Even the sound of your spouse breathing makes you crazy! Holiday spirit be damned! All you want this year is a Christmas divorce!

How Not to Be the Grinch Who Ruined Christmas

The problem, of course, is that, as much as you want your marriage to be over yesterday, announcing that you want a divorce for Christmas will make the Grinch look like Santa Claus compared to you.

You don’t want to ruin Christmas for your kids. You don’t want to make your entire extended family feel awkward and uncomfortable. So, even though your spouse gets on your very last nerve, the adult thing to do right now is definitely to suck it up and soldier through the holidays.

Figuring out how to do that, without spending the entire holiday season swimming in a vat of egg nog, however, is proving to be a challenge.

Sad beagle under a Christmas tree decorated with hanging sausages.The Christmas Divorce Dilemma

If you’ve never been particularly adept at hiding your feelings, getting through Christmas without mentioning the word “divorce,” when that seems to be the only thing you can think about, definitely won’t be easy. But you can do it.  Even if you’ve never been nominated for an academy award for your acting abilities, you can make it through the holidays without spilling the beans and blowing up the holidays like a bottle rocket in a garbage can.

10 tips for making your holidays bright(er)… or at least bearable!

1. Forget about Norman Rockwell.

The more you try to make this holiday season “perfect,” the more energy you’re going to have to throw at pretending to be something you are not. Doing that will make you feel like even more of a fraud. This year, let go of your expectations of having the best holiday ever, and just aim for a holiday that is “happy enough.”(… and if things are really bad, you may just want to focus on surviving the holidays and putting them behind you! I know that sounds kind of depressing, but sometimes just surviving is an accomplishment!)

Blurry picture with hands holding a frame. Inside is a clear picture of a tree in focus.

2. Focus on What You Want.

What you focus on expands. If all you think about is how much you hate your spouse or how much you want out of your marriage, you are dooming yourself to a holiday full of misery.  Instead of focusing on getting a Christmas divorce, focus on getting through this holiday with as much happiness as you can muster. Remember, too, that next year will be better. 

3. Start Wrestling Your Fears Now.

Getting a divorce will force you to plunge head first into the icy unknown, with no guarantee of how everything will turn out. No matter how convinced you are that you are doing the right thing, it is normal to be more than a little terrified of going through a divorce. The sooner you recognize that fact and start facing your fears, the better off you will be. (Bonus Tip: If you don’t have a therapist yet, start looking for one now. It will help!) 

4. Lay Off the Holiday Cheer.

While it may be tempting to drown your sorrows in a giant mug of hot spiced rum, doing that is courting disaster. Over-indulging in alcohol will only make you more depressed. Plus, when your inhibitions are down, you are way more likely to blurt out that you want a divorce, probably at the worst possible time, and in the worst possible way. 

Happy children decorate a Christmas tree.

5. Really Put Your Kids First.

Doing your best to make this holiday as happy as possible for your kids is a triple win. Your kids will enjoy their holiday more. You will be happier because your kids will be happy. Plus, focusing on your kids will distract you from your own unhappy situation. 

6. Make Time For Yourself Every Day.

Trying to put on a happy face when you’re dying inside takes an incredible amount of energy. No matter how busy your holidays are, take a little bit of time each day to do something that makes you happy. Even if all you have time for is to get yourself into bed 15 minutes early, do that. You’re not a robot. You need to recharge your own batteries in some way every day. 

7. Take Baby Steps.

Instead of focusing on how trapped you feel by having to stay married right now, start preparing yourself for the divorce you know is coming Educate yourself about divorce. Make a budget. Start researching different parenting schedules. Do some small thing to move your divorce forward in your head. Even making small progress toward your divorce will make you feel less anxious. 

8. Change Your Approach.

The last thing anyone needs at the holidays is more drama. This holiday season, refuse to argue with spouse. (Yes, you can!) When your spouse pushes your buttons, walk away. Doing that may take an extreme amount of self-control. But, you, and your kids, will enjoy a much more peaceful holiday if you can pull it off. (Plus, it will confuse the devil out of your spouse!) 

Silhouette of a grateful man at sunrise.
9. Appreciate What You Have.

This is probably the last holiday you will spend with your spouse and your kids as a family. Treasure it! (Yes. I know that sounds wierd. But what if you watched your kids with different eyes – eyes that could focus on and appreciate your kids’ joy! … Just don’t heap giant mounds of guilt on yourself in the process, by thinking, “This will be their last holiday with a whole family, and it’s all my fault!” Honestly, you don’t need those kind of thoughts right now.) Do your best to find small moments of joy. Instead of dreading spending Christmas with your spouse and his/her extended family, try to make the holiday celebration great. If you succeed: Bravo! You’ve given your kids (and you) a great gift! If it still sucks anyway, next year you can remind yourself of how much better off you are.

10. Dream.

Imagine your life as you want it to be. See yourself being happy. Visualize yourself as living where you want, and with whom you want. Picture your kids as being well-adjusted, and satisfied with their new lives. Not only will dreaming distract you from your current woes, but it will keep you focused on what you want. That will make looking away from what you don’t want (and don’t like) this holiday season, a little easier.

Lonely woman in a Santa hat eating Christmas dinner alone - divorce during the holidays

Surviving the Holidays in an Unhappy Marriage

Getting through the holidays when your marriage is on the rocks, takes courage and strength. Give yourself credit for taking on that challenge for the good of your kids.

As unbearable as the holidays may be for you, it helps to remember why you’re sucking it up for one last year. You’re doing it for your kids. You’re doing it to make their holidays happy and peaceful.

In the end, whether they ever know it or not, that can be one of the best gifts you ever give them

Need a Christmas gift for yourself this season? Get your FREE DIVORCE CHECKLIST!  Just CLICK THE BUTTON below, and it’s yours! 

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  • I’m not so sure that it’s the last time. Many people are unhappy for years and years before they divorce. Most marriages, especially those that started as the betrayal of another marriage end up unhappy as hell with people staying together for fear of he unknown – long after the glitter has worn off the so-called marriage that they caused so much pain to be in – and now cannot stand.

    The one time affair partner is now the hated and resented spouse but many people live in denial because they cannot acknowledge the blame for the heartless pain they caused their former family. They cannot admit they were horribly wrong – so they stay and rationalize until they just cannot take it any longer.

    • Actually, you’re right. People often stay in unhappy marriages for years. There are many reasons for unhappiness, though. Not all of them have to do with betrayal. Even still, healing after infidelity can be rough. It takes a lot of patience, love, and forgiveness. (I know that there are those who don’t agree that you should ever forgive someone who cheated on you, or that you are worth of forgiveness if you were the cheater, but I disagree. Holding on to anger and pain only continues to hurt the person who is angry. Not feeling worth of forgiveness will ruin any chance at happiness you may have in the future.)

      Hopefully, the holidays will inspire us all to learn how to forgive so we can find peace.




  • […] Karen Covy is a divorce attorney, advisor, mediator and coach who is committed to helping couples resolve their disputes as amicably as possible. She is also the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally. Karen has been featured on the Channel 7 News, WCIU You and Me This Morning, WGN Radio, MarketWatch, The Goodmen Project, and numerous other radio shows, publications, and podcasts. You can find her articles on The Huffington Post, Divorced Moms, Divorce Force, GUYVORCE, and Your Tango, as well as on her own website at This article was originally published at […]

  • Here’s a thought… Rather than divorcing a good husband and that worked hard to support his family, treated her friends and in-laws well, and cherished and adored his wife for decades…… Instead of walking out, how about walking off a cliff?

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