We usually get divorced to leave our Ex behind. We want them permanently out of our lives. We want to be free to get on with our own lives.
If we are divorced with children, the problem is obvious — children are forever. They can never become the “ex-child” of either partner. So your Ex is never really your Ex. This is because your Ex is not and probably never will be your child’s Ex! Your children love and need your Ex just as much as they did before you were divorced.
This means that if you love your children and think things through, you come to realize that it is important to follow some rules:
- Do not talk down about someone your children love — in this case your Ex.
- Do not make you child feel bad for loving their own parent.
- Above all, do not force your children to choose which parent to love and which to leave behind. Children who are alienated from one parent by the other are forced to leave the alienated parent behind buried in a heap of unresolved emotion they can’t really understand.
- Remember, it is your divorce. You made the decision, not your children. They did not choose this. Choose your kids well being first and let them do what all children must do — love both parents.
These are great rules — they even carry the ring of sobriety and responsibility. Unfortunately, we are fallible human beings. We strive in all things for progress knowing we can never achieve perfection.
The rules are simple — put human fallibility makes them difficult to follow. Part of the difficulty is that we got divorced because we wanted or needed to leave our “ex” behind, or our “”Ex” wanted or needed to leave us behind. The goal of divorce, from the parents point of view, is to get their spouse permanently out their lives so they can get on with rebuilding of their own lives.
The problem here is obvious — children are forever. They can never become the “ex-children” of either partner. If we love our children, we will strive to never force them to make a choice between their parents unless their physical safety or life is at risk.
If we love our kids we deal with visitation schedules, shared holidays, staying silent when we want to scream at our “ex” in front them. We do it all for them, not for our Ex.
What’s even worse is when “our children” are away from us “visiting” with our Ex we must deal with our fears. Ask almost any divorced parents and they will tell you the truth as they see it: “I am a better parent than my Ex and I have “serious concerns” about my Ex’s parenting style.
So, at some point, we must deal with the reality that we are divorced from our Ex, yet our lives are forever connected to our Ex through our children.
For the love of our children we try our best to make “joint parenting” as normal as possible for them. We do our best to rebuild our lives within limits — the primary limit being that children love and need both parents. Therefore, if we love our children, total disconnection from our Ex is usually not an option.
Divorced with children means we almost get free from the problems of our marriage — almost, but not quite.
We try to follow the simple rules spelled out above. But being a fallible human being we at times fail miserably. Fortunately, most children forgive their parents because children tend to love their parents in spite of their human fallibility.
GORSKI BOOKS: www.relapse.org
Check out the book: Getting Love Right – Learning The Choices of Healthy Intimacy