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Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFTSally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT
A blog about mental and emotional health

Troubled Marriages and the Holidays

Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT Updated: Dec 8th 2010

Being in a troubled marriage is hard at any time. Over the holidays it is even harder. There is such a spotlight on relationships and the myth that everyone is happy pervades society.

fighting couple with child in the middleI specialize in work with couples and find many of my sessions during the month of December involve survival skills for the holidays.

Whether the couple is facing a high level of conflict, infidelity and betrayal, or feeling distant and unconnected, the sadness, pain and loneliness are intensified.

Here are some of the survival skills that I have suggested as well as ones that my clients have shared with me for ways to piece together some peace during the holidays.

* Remember that you are in charge of your own buttons, your mouth and your behavior. You don’t have to be part of an escalating argument. You can choose to be more peaceful, maybe detaching with love.

It really does take two to have an argument and you can choose to tell your spouse that you are “taking a bye” over the holidays. You will be glad to spend time together when things are easy but this is not a time to fight or disagree about issues.

That can come later and, maybe with the new year, a new perspective.


Sandy found ways to quietly say to Stan that she knew that they had a lot of things to talk about. She knew that he was unhappy about her lack of interest in sex and how busy that she was with the children and her friends.

She reminded him that she also had concerns; however, until Christmas was over, she was going to take a moratorium on those discussions and look for peace in the family.

Sandy told Stan that she planned to write down her thoughts about both of their concerns when she was upset or thought about things, but would wait to address them until after the holidays were over. She hoped that he could do the same and could accept that she was not going to talk about problems until January 2.


* You must be good to yourself. Treat yourself with love and tenderness. Love and tenderness may not be coming your way from your spouse, so you might have to be extra loving to yourself. Gift yourself with long baths, interesting and soothing music, warm tea, time with close friends.

* Think somewhat objectively about this time in your marriage. It may be a really rough spot, and yet, not unlike others you have been through. Take comfort if that is the case. Remember what helped you get through those times and then out of them. See if some of those same things might work this time around.


Bill remembered that he and Clare had been in this lonely and distant place before in their marriage. He remembered how hard it had been for both of them. They were not talking about anything important and felt more like strangers passing in the night. When they did talk, both were so hurt by their partner’s behavior that they sounded more critical and angry than sad, which only added to their pain.

Bill also remembered that the ice seemed to break when they worried a bit together about their oldest son. They were able to talk and worry together about what was going on with him and the focus was off of their relationship. As they slowly got their son back on track, Bill noticed that their friendship was also returning.


* Create a safe spot for your children. Your children did not ask for, nor did they cause, the problems that you two are experiencing. Find ways to keep their holidays from being tainted or spoiled by what is going on between the two of you. Ask your spouse to do the same.

* Focus on the present. Do what you can to keep from catastrophizing and moving farther down the road than is healthy. Take it one day at a time. There is always a tomorrow. These will be the only holidays this year. Do what you can to enjoy them, even if it is only in small doses.


Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT

Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT has been a therapist for over 30 years, specializing in work with couples, families and relationships. She has expertise with clients both present in the room as well as online through email, phone and chat therapy. She has written numerous articles about solving couple and relationship dilemmas. Many of them can be found on her website, Counseling Relationships Online, or her blog, Relationship Dilemmas.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

marriage troubles and holiday stress - lisa - Dec 20th 2010

This is my first time posting. I have been married some time now. My husband and I (children) live in different stats, due to his job. I recently found out that he has paid for many porn movies, while he lived alone in an apartment. I honestly did not even think of him watching porn.The titles were Barely Legal. He did this many times. Then when we moved in our new home, I found more bills where he'd rented them. I was living in the same house! We are married! I am so hurt. I feel ugly, betrayed etc. He says its in the past and he shouldn't have done it.He's watched it online also and lied about it. I donot want to be around him, it makes me physically ill to think about him watching these movies, the girls look so young. Its disgusting to me.I have asked him why he kept watching them. His reply is, "I don't know."

How am I suppose to get over this.I cray all the time, I cannot sleep,I am consumed with wondering what he's doing. How can I stop? Christmas is nearly here, I have not done the shopping, decorating etc. I feel like staying in bed. I have tried talking to him, he blames me,he says some people can't forgive cause a divorce. He gets very angry when I try to talk about it.All I keep saying to myself is I am not to blame. He chose to rent those movies, all of them, he chose to waste money on them. He fusses at me for buying a pair of eyeglasses. It hurts. How can I not allow him to hurt me? How can I be secure and happy with him when he knows how bad he's hurt me and doesn't seem to care, he just becomes so angry and doesn't want to be around me. And that is just another slap in the face to me. How can I deal with this?I want the pain to go away.

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