One of my clients recently asked me if it was weird for her to want to be friends with her ex-husband's sister. I asked her for a few more details about the relationship to see if I could figure out why she was asking this question. She started squirming in her chair as she gave me the details. It turns out she was feeling weird about wanting to remain friends with her former sister-in-law because she thought she wasn't supposed to.
The first special occasion I attended with my husband's family was weird for me because his ex-wife was there and each of his siblings referred to her as their sister-in-law. I had all these thoughts about them sending me a message that I wasn't welcome.
My client and I had both bought into the common belief that once you divorce, you're expected to divorce the entire family and might even declare them enemies.
What I've come to realize and teach is that this common belief is wrong. Each relationship you have is unique. Each relationship can grow, wither, and transform. Each relationship can do this independently of the others if you're both willing to let it.
What all this means is that family occasions can still be special occasions with the entire family present. Sure, you might not choose to hang with your ex or their new partner, but there's no reason why you can't continue to enjoy having large birthday parties for your kids or huge Thanksgiving celebrations with the extended family.
What all this also means is that family occasions don't have to be like they were before the divorce either. Maybe your former in-laws aren't willing to continue to have you be a part of their lives right now and that's OK.
Basically, it comes down to choices, how do you want to celebrate special occasions now that you're divorced? You might want to continue celebrating as you have in the past or you might want to start new traditions.
What I want you to know is that it's all good. There aren't any rules about how things have to be (unless of course rules were created as part of your divorce agreement). Now I know I just told you there aren't any rules, but let me give you a couple ideas to think about to help you keep or make your special occasions special after divorce.
When most people divorce, they tend to feel a bit lost or lonely. These feelings can often make it difficult to want to celebrate special occasions. I want to encourage you to be aware of this and celebrate any way. You deserve to have a good time. If you have kids, they deserve to have a good time. And the added bonus is that if you have something to look forward to, then you just might help yourself get through the lost and lonely feelings more quickly.
You might also want to consider celebrating occasions you didn't celebrate before. Maybe you want to start making the anniversary of the first moon walk a special occasion and have a wine and cheese party to celebrate.
Maybe you want to start celebrating obscure holidays like Ground Hog's Day or National Pizza Day. Again, the idea is to add some fun and something to look forward to because it will help you work through the worst of your divorce more quickly.
Special occasions can still be special after divorce. They may or may not include your in-laws, but the most important things is that they include you —you feeling wonderful as you celebrate whatever occasion it is.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment
Evaluate the special occasions you have in your calendar. Which make sense to continue celebrating? Which need to be eliminated? What new occasions need to be added?
If you don't have any special occasions in your calendar because your ex always took care of that for you, make a list of the special occasions you want to celebrate and get them in your calendar ASAP.
Having special occasions to look forward to will help you continue to feel connected with others and combat the loneliness most people experience with divorce.
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