12/28/2011

Post-Christmas Post (heh heh)

Ok, so my title was an unintentional play on words. I love those.

As I'm enjoying my time off for work, reading my Blog List since who-knows-how-long ago, I'm enjoying getting back into the lives of all my favorite writers. I feel like I've missed quite a lot in their lives, so I did some back-reading to catch up. It's nice to be back in their familiar lives via their writing.

Everyone seems to be summing up how the holidays went. Several spanked women have reported getting more spankings due to increased Christmas-time stress. It's very understandable, but that's not how our holidays went.

Like most of you out there, my holidays were stressful. Thankfully, that didn't really cause problems between my Dom and I. If anything, I'm more thankful to have him and the holidays really made me aware of how reliant on him I could become if I let myself.

Yes, the holidays are stressful for all of us for different reasons. Family, money, travel, packed schedules, etc. For me, they are stressful because my parents are divorced. Nine years later, they cannot seem to find a way to split the holidays in a way that makes both of them happy. They don't communicate with each other about who's doing what when, and then they both get mad and upset at the plans the other one has made, and then I invariably take sides and get upset and it causes fights between me and my father and sometimes my mother.

This year, I invited them both to my house to see the baby's first Christmas. Then I suggested my Dom, the baby, and I head to Mom's for lunch and Dad's for dinner. Everyone was agreeable to this plan and both seemed to think it was fair that neither should miss the baby's first Christmas morning. I thought I had avoided a big fight over Christmas plans for the first time.

I should have known better.

We have close family friends who live in another state. When my parents got divorced, these friends got caught in the middle. So we ended up having a huge fight about who could be with them when.

My mom planned to go have Christmas with them this weekend, Friday through Sunday. My dad also planned to go have Christmas with them.

A huge fight ensued, which was very upsetting for me as I felt caught in the middle.

My dad's side is this:




  • he wants to do Christmas with the family friends AND my mom and her husband


  • he says she needs to "get over" hating him after 9 years divorced


  • he thinks it's not fair to ask him to miss Christmas dinner and presents with them


  • he also thinks my mom is "dictating" everyone else's Christmas since she's the only person who does not want to be together and everyone else would be fine with it, so she should just suck it up and live with him and his girlfriend being there


  • if we do Christmas celebrations with them separately, he says he will miss getting to see the baby open her presents from them and it is awkward to just have him exchange one gift with them, rather than watch 10 people all opening many gifts


  • he thinks he should get to spend New Year's weekend with them since he has to travel there anyway to see his side of the family, who has their reunion that weekend


  • he thinks it would be simpler for everyone and less awkward for our family friends if they don't have to "choose" which parent to celebrate with (my brother, my husband, the baby, and I are only there long enough to do one celebration, so that ends up being the "official" one)

My mom's side is this:




  • she says my dad should not expect to spend Christmas celebrations together when they are divorced


  • she hates him and being around him makes her miserable, anxious, and sick to her stomach. She says she can handle it on occasions (like sharing the baby's first Christmas morning) but not often


  • she says his "get over it" attitude is belittling of her feelings and he treats her feelings as though they don't matter at all


  • she says he sees these family friends more than she does and should be willing to let her have Christmas since he sees them several times more a year


  • she says his presence there ruins her time with her friends, or if she decides to go away when we have our celebration, she has traveled 4 hours to spend a weekend with them and then gets forced to either put up with him for Christmas dinner or has to go sit by herself for an evening and miss time with them


Ideally the family friends would just decide and put an end to it, but they are all so passive. They tell my mom they agree with her, and then turn around and tell my dad they agree with him. They refuse to take a stand either way and just wait silently for my parents to both arrive there and fight it out between themselves.


This has been terrible for me. It makes me feel anxious and I've been having nightmares.



I try not to get in the middle of it and just let them handle it, but they NEVER DO. They just realized yesterday that they both plan to be there this weekend. Now they are both mad at each other and blaming the other one for not making plans and communicating with each other. Dad is mad at Mom for being selfish and wanting to exclude him, and she says he should just go visit his other family and leave her time with them uninterrupted.



I end up having to play the go-between. I end up relaying messages back and forth, not because they ask me to, but because if I don't bring it up, no one will. And it upsets me and makes me anxious to know this huge fight is coming, so I prefer to just talk to them myself and get it over with for my own sanity.



This season, I have had one big fight with my father when he told me my mom was "silly" for not wanting to share our family friends with him and she should "get over it" and not be upset. I started yelling at him that he can't belittle her feelings and that it's selfish of him to be willing to ruin her Christmas just so he can have his way and pretend everyone is happy and ignore the fact that it makes her anxious, sick to her stomach, and stay up feeling sick and anxious when she knows she has to be around him. He denies that it bothers her at all and just thinks she exaggerates so she can exclude him from our friends.



Then I had to deal with my mother when she flipped out that he was coming and started panicking and yelling about how he never cared about them before, why can't he just leave her alone to see her friends, and why did he never plan anything with her, and she only sees them 3 times a year and he goes down once every month or two so can't he just let her spend Christmas with them alone?! And then I was trying to explain where he's coming from and telling her it's not fair to expect him to not see them for Christmas and it almost started a fight between us. And then she went off crying and upset, which made me miserable and feel just sick.



I know I should let them be adults and handle this themselves, but the problem is they DON'T handle this and never have. Every year, we go through this same fight! And it puts me in the middle and I end up getting mad at one of them and it makes me feel anxious and start dreading going, so it affects me too.



I have suggested they just alternate holidays, every other year, so that way one of them misses the big Christmas celebration every year, but neither of them wants to miss it. And my dad says my mother is welcome so why can't she just get over it? And my mom says it isn't fair to make her miss Christmas with people when she planned this months ago with them.



It is very stressful for me.



Mostly, my Dom has tried to stay out of it because they are my parents. He has been very supportive of me and nice, holding me and giving me advice. The one thing I wish is that he would get involved so I don't have to fight both my parents' battles for them. I know he has opinions about this but he never tells them.



Last night we were having a discussion with my dad about this, and my Dom just sat there. It was so infuriating! I want him to be my knight in shining armor and I've told him several times that I hate it when he stands back and makes me deal with all the conflict. I understand he may feel reluctant to get into my family drama, but we are married now and it is our family. He is very very close to both my parents and they respect him and understand that he has a stake in these decisions too, and I think he has a right to voice his opinion. I wish he would because conflict with them stresses me out so much more than it does him, and one of the benefits of me giving up more control was supposed to be that he would deal more with conflict and handle our lives more, taking more responsibility for making sure that I am emotionally safe and happy.



So I asked him what he thought and he shrugged and said nothing. I wanted to throttle him!!!!



He is so strong and confident with conflict with me or work or his own friends. But with my family he just checks out and makes me deal with it myself. I want him to step in and protect me and help me deal with the problems as they come.



I know some husbands aren't close to their wives' families but we live in the same tiny town as them, see them all the time, and he calls them Mom and Dad. I think he is close enough to them that it would not be overstepping his bounds to get involved.



Every holiday season, I have to deal with my parents' inability to see eye to eye. They just want such different things and they seem to have no regard for what the other one wants. I believe they are both trying to be "fair" but Mom's idea of fair is that Dad go down another weekend, and Dad's idea of fair is that everyone celebrate together.



It is driving me crazy.



I would just not go but that is punishing me and my husband and our family friends, and we are not the ones whose problem this is.



I am just not sure what to do.



Ohhhh, the holidays.


d

10 comments:

Grace said...

Sounds like a very frustrating situation. But, by allowing them to put you in the middle of things, I think you're enabling their behavior. It's not your job to solve this strife between your parents. And, frankly, if it's affecting your Christmas celebration, in that they're arguing when over at your house on Christmas morning, I would tell them flat out that if they want to continue to spend Christmas morning with their grandchild that they both need to suck it up and get along at least for that time period. What they do beyond that is up to them, but I would let them know in no uncertain terms that you're not going to be a part of their war anymore. That may sound harsh and I realize it's your parents whom you love, but they seem to have no regard for how this is affecting you and your family or your family friends. It seems to me that they're both acting quite selfishly. Sorry if I'm totally off base, all I have to go on is your post, obviously I may have read you wrong.

Sexperts said...

No, Grace, I agree. It is enabling but I'm not sure how to just let them fight it out because they never TALK to each other and they talk to me and the family friends, putting us in the middle. They do talk sometimes but they can never agree and they decide things 24 or 48 hours before, by which point I'm so anxious about it that I go ahead and stick my nose in and try to get a plan worked out.

They did get along fine at Christmas morning at my house, it is splitting the New Year's weekend with family friends that is always such a pain.

Grace said...

Well, I'm glad that things went well Christmas morning at least. :) I suggest when they start to talk to you about this, you tell them that you'd rather not hear about it or discuss it as you no longer wish to be put in the middle of the situation. Tell them that's not fair to you and that they need to learn how to work it out on their own. They may not even realize that they're putting so much stress on you. Realistically, it's just not your problem, it's theirs. And if you don't put your foot down at some point then this is going to just continue.

SBF said...

I didn't think it was possible to feel good about my family holiday drama but you did, OMG Yikes!
Sorry it was so difficult to relax and enjoy the holidays. At least it's over till next year (groan).
Happy New Year, may you find some peace.
smiles
butterfly

Sarah said...

Perhaps I'm missing something, but I don't think there's ANYthing selfish about what your dad wants. I'm completely on his side. It sounds like he's trying to put all past animosity aside and celebrate the holidays with everyone (as should be expected). However, your mom seems completely incapable of doing so. In fact, it's rather manipulative of her to say he's belittling her feelings. Why? Because he won't engage in further drama? I guess I don't see how he's doing that at all. It sounds like she wants things HER way and is going to ensure that everyone is miserable if they don't go HER way. It strikes me as fairly ridiculous. You mention that your family friends are passive and opt to stand back and let them duke it out. But you're doing the same thing. And you're in a much better position to step in and take control of the situation. My parents don't get along either. But they are both selfless enough to put their differences on hold during special occasions so that no one else suffers. And when they DO fight, I have no problem stepping in and mediating. You sound as though you're too afraid to pick a side. But if someone is going to act like a spoiled child, they need to be dealt with as such. Unfortunately, kids are ALWAYS put in the middle. It sucks and it's not fair. But it's reality. Get over it. Step up to the plate and stop expecting them to work it out (they're not going to) or expecting other people to do your dirty work for you (it's not their place).

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but this is how I see it. There's too much passive aggressive behavior going on and if there's to be any peace and amicable behavior going on in the future holidays, going about things the same way isn't going to cut it.

With that said, I hope despite it all you still managed to have a lovely Christmas. :)

Alynia said...

But remember, in the end you CANNOT fight it out for them. They have to. Don't put yourself in the middle, when they don't come out, they don't - harshly said, it's not your problem, it's theirs. They are your parents, you are not their parent, and so you are not responsible for them! Harshly said, when half of this is true I think they're lousy parents anyway...
I'd say: take the good example of your D and stay out of it.

Sexperts said...

Thanks all for the advice.

@Sarah, I guess my main question is, how is my mom being manipulative? I don't see it... doesn't mean it's not there, but I think it's pretty NORMAL of her to expect her and my dad to arrange separate Christmas celebrations with mutual friends. To me, it seems really odd that my dad thinks it's NORMAL to celebrate holidays with your ex and her husband. If people manage to do that after an amicable divorce, find, but my parents' was NOT an amicable divorce at all! They agree to be together for events that only happen once (like my brother's graduation party or the baby's baptism) but for Christmas celebrations it seems they should not be together when they can easily schedule separate celebrations around the holidays.

And I don't think I'm staying out of it. I do step in and get involved, but it just upsets both of them and then I feel guilty for getting emotionally involved in their problems when I should just step back.

@Alynia: (I like your name!) I would love to stay out of it. My problem is ... HOW? If I do nothing, they both get upset and they end up fighting and sending nasty texts back and forth, and then of course I get upset because I feel one or the other of them is being unfair and I get defensive of that parents, blah blah blah. I guess I just haven't mastered the ability to stay emotionally distant from the situation. Instead, I end up feeling angry and worried and anxious about the whole thing.

Sarah said...

You might construe your mothers expectations to have separate holidays to be "normal" and you're certainly entitled to feel that way. But when it means a.) you and your family are caught in the middle b.) your father is expected to miss out on the big festivities with family friends and c.) it causes unnecessary stress on everyone, this isn't normal. More importantly, it's not healthy! I would be less inclined to have such a strong opinion on this matter if all parties were in agreement that having a segregated Christmas was ideal. But this clearly isn't the case. Both your parents have two differing opinions. But I don't think it's right to "punish" your father by forcing him to miss out when he's attempting to be the bigger person by putting the past aside so that everyone can celebrate together.

Most divorces are unfortunately NOT amicable. But it's been nine years now. Your mom has remarried and should have long moved on with her life. She should possess the maturity and personal growth to have rid herself of any animosity she felt about your father and their marriage at this point. It's not healthy for her or for any of you to hold onto all this anger and resentment.

You state that your holidays were stressful. Well, the source of that stress was not with your Dom. Not with your friends. Not with your family members. (And this is said from an unbiased perspective) it's not with your father either. His request was not an unreasonable one. He's absolutely justified in feeling like it's not fair to miss out on watching his granddaughter open her gifts in the morning, then get to enjoy Christmas dinner and presents with all your closest family friends. I would feel the same way if I were in his shoes. Any of us would. And he's absolutely correct that your mom is dictating everyone else's Christmas. You guys shouldn't have to choose sides. But it doesn't sound like anyone else has a problem with an inclusive family get-together but HER. So where's the problem? It's not with him. It's with your mom. She's the one who can't put her negative emotions about him to the side for one day... or for good.

You state that she hates him being around because he makes her miserable, anxious, physically ill. No. She's making HERSELF feel that way. Unless he's standing around verbally assaulting her in some way, SHE'S the one getting herself worked up into an emotional and physical state. She says his "get over it" attitude is belittling of her feelings. But the truth is, she SHOULD be over it. It's been nine years post divorce. She has a new husband. I guess what concerns me is why everything is still so raw and hurtful to her. I would be more sympathetic if this was a brand new divorce, but she's had a near decade to sort out her feelings. Now it's time to move onto new beginnings. If she's unable to remove herself from the past, then I would really encourage her to seek counseling!

(to be cont.)

Sarah said...

(cont.)

Keeping score of how many times who sees who throughout the year is completely irrelevant. It's Christmas. It's a time for peace, joy, forgiveness and togetherness. It's a time to spend with your family and cherish all your blessings. It's not a time of resentment and bitterness. And yet no one else is holding onto all this anger and hurt feelings but HER. The rest of you are just trying to have a merry Christmas. But she's preventing you all from doing so. It's like she wants it her way or she'll see to it that everyone else suffers. And that's why I feel like she's manipulative.

I'm sorry that you're caught in the middle. I'm sorry you were left feeling upset and anxious. I've been there. It's not fun - to say the least. But I will say this. Half of my family is divorced (parents included) and you may think we're crazy, but every year we all have ONE big family Christmas together. No, it wasn't always like that. It took 2-3 years after certain couples split to work out their differences enough to willingly remain in the same room with their ex spouse. But they eventually worked it out. It should show you that it's not an unrealistic goal. Situations like this are only awkward and distressing if we make them be.

It sounds like for your own personal reasons you've chosen to side with your mother. But try and see things from your fathers perspective too. There's nothing selfish about his desires to make peace with everyone. There's nothing selfish in wanting to have everyone there for Christmas. There's nothing selfish in attempting to call a truce. Nothing selfish at all. And in calling him such and telling him he's wrong, you're actually belittling HIS feelings. Aren't his just as important as hers?

If your mom is the one who wants to isolate herself from him because she can't get over her anger, then SHE needs to be the one to remove herself from the big family Christmas and have a more intimate one with you. It's just not okay to force your dad to miss out. And funnily enough, my own divorced (and generally over-emotional) mother adamantly agreed with me when I told her about this particular post.

Oh, and one more thing. These are your Dom's in-laws. That makes his involvement with this whole situation far more precarious. You'll always have love and loyalty as their daughter, but their love and loyalty to your Dom is much more uncertain. If he intervenes and causes hurt feelings, that's going to cause a whole new type of friction and tension among everyone that he may never live down. I know you want a knight in shining armor to rescue you. But to put it simply, this isn't your Dom's battle to fight. So don't be angry with him. He's actually doing the right thing by staying out of it.

Anyway, I'm hoping I didn't put you on the defensive. I just wanted to give you something to think about since my opinion is completely unbiased. I hope your next Christmas is a happier time for you!

Sexperts said...

Sarah, you haven't put me on the defensive. I'm really trying to see all sides and your comments helped.

I have told my dad that I want them both to be happy and it makes me sad he has to miss the festivities. I wish they could both do a separate Christmas with these friends so everyone was happy. And I did tell my mom it wasn't fair for her to begrudge him 1 day of dinner with all of us, since she got most of the weekend. She wasn't happy but she was gracious and told them merry Christmas and was friendly toward them.

I guess I do side with my mom, because I saw when they got divorced how she begged him to get help and go to counseling with her, and he refused and said "Everything is fine" and kept denying there was a problem and just ignoring her feelings right up to their divorce. His MO is to ignore problems and so he ignored her and neglected her til she finally left. She has since apologized to him for her part of the divorce but he still maintains he dud nothing wrong. And she hates him bc they fought bitterly over money for the last 8-9 years and still do, because if my brother's child support. So I guess their grievances are not really a decade old but keep piling up. They fight a lot.

She is very emotional and gets worked up but I don't think it's in her control. She had tried to pray for forgiveness but I think she struggles with anxiety and she also just hates him and never wants to see him again. Whereas my dad still ignores what she wants and maintains there is no problem. I see how this hurts her, and it would hurt me too to be do blatantly disregarded. However I do think she sees this from a very emotionally skewed perspective at times, but being overly emotional myself I can empathize.

At any rate, thanks for your ideas; it gives me food for thought!