Holidays with Abusers Suck – Ways to Deal with Their Crap

December 23, 2012 Kellie Jo Holly

Holidays with abusers suck because there is no real peace during the holidays. You're either being abused or waiting for the abuse to begin. Here's how to deal.

Has your co-worker or loved one ever given you a beautiful gift, but then acted

  • offended that you didn't appreciate it enough,
  • claimed that you were lying about how much you liked it,
  • snatched it back saying you didn't deserve it at all,
  • or any other action that changed your happiness into some other feeling?

If so, you've experienced an abusive incident aimed at destroying your sense of reality. How could your lovely, heart-felt reaction be interpreted in some other way? Did you react to the gift "wrong"? Should you have felt more appreciative, more grateful, less selfish? Suddenly your reality, the truth as you know it, doesn't make sense. What is going on?

If you do not see this episode as an abusive event, you're likely to waste your time blaming yourself for your "inappropriate" reaction and tending to the abusive person's emotional distress. Your good mood ruined, you do everything within your power to bring the abuser's mood "up".

holiday grinchYour gift-giver gets the pleasure of doing the socially acceptable thing (giving you a gift) and destroying your happiness in a way that does not make them look like a monster. After all, if you buy into their idea that their emotions are your fault, and their emotions consist of sadness or anger, then they are not abusive but instead deserve to be comforted!

If you recognize their negative reaction as an abuse tactic, you can respond more appropriately. Of course you may be taken aback for an instant at their insane reaction to your expression of gratitude. That is natural. Who isn't taken aback by nonsense?

Reacting to Abuse from Extended Family and Co-Workers

Reacting to this type of abuse from extended family and work partners can be quick and easy. Try these reactions:

  • Catch your breath and collect yourself, then say something like, "I'm sorry you feel that way! It isn't my intention to hurt you," and then walk away, leaving the gift with its giver.
  • Or, if you're sitting by the tree and there are gifts for others to open, hand someone else a gift and say, "Your turn! What's in this one?" instead of walking out if that feels more appropriate.

The key is to deny further interaction with the abuser about the gift. Leave the abuser's inappropriate words and actions with them. Don't accept blame for something you did not cause or create. Accept that you are the wounded party, not the attacker.

Those reactions work well parties when the abuser does not go home with you! But what happens when your lover mistreats you in this way? What can you do then?

Reacting to Abuse from Your Partner

Sigh. Yes, I really did just sigh. I remember this crap all too well. In addition to "not accepting right", I remember giving my husband gifts from my heart that he belittled or ignored. It hurts. It hurt the most after remembering his hurtful reactions during past Christmases and trying so hard to not make the same "mistakes" this year, only to face his anger or rejection again. And he wondered why I focused on our boys during the holidays! They are happy to receive anything and do not despise me for giving or accepting.

But, I digressed a bit there. I experienced two Christmases with my husband after I recognized his behavior as abusive. The first one fell during a honeymoon period after he'd physically assaulted me. The second one fell during a period of couples' counseling when he was faking "doing better". I didn't rock the boat either of those Christmases with my "ignorant abuse bull$(*t" as he called my complaints.

The best advice I can give you, the live-in or married partner of an abuser, is to follow your own instincts. If your gut tells you to run, then run. If your gut tells you to appease, then appease. Maintain your emotional distance from your partner. This doesn't mean you have to be hostile; simply keep your guard up knowing that any given moment you may have to react to abuse or (pretend) love with whatever your instincts tell you to do.

If you want the appearance of peace, you already know the "appropriate" responses as best you can. Play your role and keep your mouth shut. This will make it appear as if you are "okay" to others, although I doubt you will feel peaceful on the inside. If you're "fortunate" enough to be cycling through a honeymoon period this Christmas, try to enjoy the moments. But don't count on them to last, and don't deceive yourself into believing your partner has changed.

If you find yourself embroiled in active abuse, don't kid yourself. People will know things at home are not peaceful, even if they don't know your partner abuses you. Behind closed doors, your relationship is likely to be heated and ugly no matter what you do. Keep your safety plan in mind and vow to yourself that you will act to keep your children and yourself safe even though it is the holiday season!

Holidays with abusers suck because there is no real peace. Any truce is temporary and leaves you anxiously waiting for the abuse to begin again. Active abuse leaves no room for thinking let alone feeling at peace. In fact, peace is hard to come by in an abusive relationship, holiday or not. It's only because targets of abuse must make appearances at family or company events that domestic abuse becomes less transparent at this time of year.

It is tough to accept that your loved one(s) want nothing less than to destroy your holiday cheer. But from your abusive loved one's position, people who look happy are strong people, and strong people threaten their sense of control. When you threaten an abusive person's sense of control, even for an instant, you become their target, and their favorite gift to give to people like you is destruction.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2012, December 23). Holidays with Abusers Suck – Ways to Deal with Their Crap, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

A wife who is abused
December, 23 2012 at 7:28 am

I was with him only for last Chirstmas and had not identified his behavior then. I looked forward to holidays and spending some lovely time ...and those expectations disappointed me the most! Holidays with abusive partners are tough and can turn horrible.

December, 23 2012 at 9:39 pm

I used to go to my parents for Christmas because at least I knew the emotional abuse would be limited and he would be try to be charming, but still again there would be all the rows of "I'm not going" before we went and he would also be bad about getting a present almost telling me off because he had too! Then it would be I was going to get you this but didn't and that I should be grateful for a present he didn't get! I've realised that this year is the first Christmas down with my dad that he hasn't been here!

December, 26 2012 at 6:52 am

Very powerful narrative. I think one of the hardest things to accept is that some people closest to you, the ones who are supposed to love and support you, cannot, because of their own unhappiness, that they will never admit. The sooner you recognize these dynamics and make boundaries, the better your life will be. You may have to walk your path alone a lot, but you will allow yourself to grow into who you were meant to be. You might be called "crazy" because you can see these dynamics when no one else can. But learn some coping skills and protect yourself, so you can move on and have your sanity. No one deserves the right to make you unhappy; you have to protect it and love yourself. That's what "loving yourself" means, and you have to do that first and teach other people how you deserve to be loved. They won't give it to you, even though they should. A book by Nancy Friday called, "Jealousy", is a general good book to read about peoples' insecurities.

December, 30 2012 at 12:01 pm

We were hit with financial disaster 2 months ago, I discovered my husband hasn't paid the mortgage in 5 months, our business was bankrupt and there was no money. I had to ask my family to help me, because I didn't want to lose my home. I did everything I could to clean up the mess he had made. We didn't have quite enough money to cover the mortgage for December and it was Dec 22. My husband was stressed out and angry. He has heavy footsteps... My heart beats faster when I think he is going to blow up... so I said to him, are you going to let this ruin your whole night? He replied "yes" so he goes out to the garage and I can hear him freak out on the dog, yelling at her. (She is 16). Then he calls our son on his cell and starts swearing at him to get home and change the f-ing cat litter ... And unloads on him. 1/2 an hour later my three adult children are standing at the foot of my bed (the place I go when I feel like I can't breathe) and I am making excuses for his rage.. Again. I was thinking, it's all These months of stress. Dec 23, 2012, 8 am... I woke up in the morning and had another one of my 'talks' with him about yelling and swearing at the kids.. That's when he started to cry and said ... "I don't have enough money to buy you a Christmas present". That's why I am so stressed. Of course I replied with, I don't need a gift, lets just focus on the mortgage payment. I felt awful now that I knew the TRUE reason for his outburst. Dec 23, 2012, 11am... My daughter and I went out and checked the mail on the way back home. There was an unexpected check for $17000.00 in the mail. My daughter and I were so happy we did the dance of joy!! I gve the cheque to my husband and we were thrilled. NOW I could breathe because the 'cause of his stress' and rage outburst had been eliminated!! December 25, 2012 - Christmas morning...
We are all sitting around the tree opening presents... I had managed to scrounge up some money to make sure I have something to each of my kids and also had them pick eachothers names for secret Santa. I bought my husband a few things, to make sure he had something to open. Remember, he took that entire check and cashed it on Christmas Eve. My youngest son, who was handing out gifts from under the tree, said "Mom, where are your presents? Who had mom's name? Why isn't there anything under the tree for mom?" My husband bought me nothing. I sat there and watched everyone open their gifts... I had to leave the room because I started to cry. I was prepared to have nothing, when we had no money... But this was sick. Who does that to their wife? He was so thoughtless... I still can't believe it. Not even a lottery ticket. He said to me. " we said we weren't going to buy eachother gifts." My heart is so heavy and sad with the realization that I have to get away from this sick and twisted man, who justifies everything and makes me feel worthless because he is the one who has brought home the money. I have no education, I haven't worked for 21years, and I am miserable all the time when he is around. I need to get out.
It's the same thing every Christmas, he lets me know how much he hates Christmas and when he does get me a gift, he talks about how much he hates that he has to buy gifts just because its Christmas.
I think I am venting. Thanks for listening.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Rose Anonymous
December, 15 2021 at 11:40 am

Hi, it’s 2021 and I’m wondering what happened. Did you get out? How did you do it?
I am in a very similar situation with a very hurtful man. We have been married for 26 years and I don’t think I can bare another Christmas of being called names and blamed and treated horribly. He has total control of our money. I can’t spend a penny. If I do find a way to buy gifts I know I’m in for it. For years he didn’t buy me any gifts at all. Now he’ll talk about it and what a pain in the ass it is to buy me a present. It never means anything. Everything is always my fault. I’m the idiot, too stupid to even talk to. I ruin Christmas. He’s just a miserable man where I am concerned.
But I also haven’t really worked for 20 years. On top of that I have cancer, so I don’t even know if working is possible. There is no way out.

December, 31 2012 at 9:58 pm

dear kellie i've had my e-mail account hacked,wonndered why all holiday messages to friends/families/loved ones were ignored,he'd asked people on my e-mail account for money,was abusive to male members of my family,they all believed it was me,he changed my mobile phone plan & number without telling me,saying it was his xmas gift to me,he also gave me a very expensive mobile phone- great yeah? it needs a pin number to be used & he'll unlock the phone if he wants me to use it for him.holidays suck cos there's really no where to go,right now he's sweet & i kind of feel guilty that i'm in the midst of furnishing a seperate place for our daughter & i,how do i fight the guilt that is gnawing at me for not telling him i'm leaving,he always tells me to leave but i know when i do he'll cry,be angry & i want to maintain my anger so i'm strong enough to stay out

Kellie Holly
December, 31 2012 at 10:32 pm

Rachel! Finally. I was wondering what happened to you! Yes, I believe I received one of those emails from him.
In a normal relationship, you would tell your partner you were leaving as soon as you were sure. In an abusive relationship, you must wait until you're already gone before you tell them.
I know it seems heartless, but you must value your safety over everything else. We often come across moral dilemmas. In your case, the fight is between being honest and being safe.
To make the right choice, think about the past results of being honest with your man. How did it work for you? My experience with vulnerability and honesty in my marriage wasn't any better than hardening my heart and lying. He "punished" me even when I told the truth.
The "punishment" for telling him you are leaving holds possibly dire consequences. Although you feel guilty for not telling the truth, I advise you to sit with the guilt until you go. Sitting with the guilt is uncomfortable, but at least you're sitting with it ALIVE and WELL.

Cynthia Barela
January, 1 2013 at 8:03 am

This was very helpful to know that i am not alone.And I am not going crazy.It seems I have a challenge in concentration and self esteem issues.I am glad I left.In the process i found out who my true friends are.That really hurts.But now i have time to heal. Thank you

January, 1 2013 at 7:01 pm

oh Kellie i'm so sorry that he e-mailed you,i'm sure it was an unpleasant pice of crap- he asked why i called him abusive & said if he saw any traits in the list of verbal abusive tactics he'd change & modify his behaviours so i'd stop calling him abusive,i showed him your site & told him you could advise him on where he could get help to change if he should choose however no matter the changes he makes i now can't stay,he knows i'm planning on leaving he doesn't know i've managed to secure a place & am slowly moving,i can't apologise enough for allowing him to come here,he agreed that he had some abusive traits but felt i was initiating abuse by not being enough-or doing enough,enough of what he didn't specify just that i brought the abuse upon myself by being myself.i'm just appalled & so humiliated that he no longer confines this shit to me but to anyone who i may be in contact with

Beth Lundquist
January, 1 2013 at 10:03 pm

UNBELIEVABLE to think I spent 23 years thinking I was all alone. A gift, if any, was "anything bought for the household" ... Yes, I "got to open" toilet seat covers, what an ass!! Then it was as if he purposely ruined the entire day and got this weird enjoyment out if it! Now for the past three years I have received the most beautiful and thoughtful gifts and cards from a truly wonderful man

May, 28 2014 at 1:14 pm

This is all so familiar. The first Christmas in our first home my ex would not get out of bed...he slept until noon that day. I opened the presents from my family with my puppy, as I knew they would be calling to check in early in the morning as was our family custom. I lived away from them then and my ex made Christmas day, and the days leading up to it, a miserable time. I didn't realize it then that he was trying to steal my joy...he told me once that his mother had forgotten to get presents for him and his brothers one year (and she was not nice so I could believe she would do that)...then he denied ever having said that when I asked him about it a few days later. I see now from the stories shared on this posting that it is common for abusive men to ruin holidays. Over time his abuse worsened, escalating from verbal and emotional to financial and sexual... He beat me violently after I miscarried my first baby - he waited until the day our child would have been born and attacked me, holding me down on the floor and beating my head into the hardwood. I ran next door to his brother and wife (who was my friend) and he called the house telling his brother that I had battered myself......Then he went on his annual 4 day golf vacation. Scares me now to look back and see that he was cruel early on but I thought it was my fault and tried to make it ok.....glad I got out.

December, 25 2017 at 7:22 am

Thank you so much. I will never cry through another sad Holiday 30 years of tears ? and now it is finally over!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 26 2017 at 8:16 pm

Happiness, I'm so sorry you've been through 30 years of struggling with the holidays! Best of luck to you, you certainly deserve to be loved and cared for! -Emily

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