When I talk to couples at National meetings it is not uncommon for them to come up to me after the talk and tell me their divorce experience. What is also quite common is for them to tell me that if they knew then what they know now, they would have tried to work it out. Apparently, what couples sometimes experience is their belief that if they had known to give each other space, if both had gone to counseling apart and together, and worked through the things that were causing distance, resentment, and sexless days, months and later years they would still be together. What also becomes apparent when talking to them is the distance and hurt felt years after the divorce. The hurt isn’t always correlated with the divorce, but rather being under the influence of another woman who wants the ex all to herself. The majority of men will go to a great extent to live in harmony, and if their new love convinces them that her harmony means totally cutting off the ex, then most likely the man will do that. His apparent cruelty cuts extra deep to the ex who was once intimate with him, a mother to his children, and his life partner with a spoken vow.
To stop loving someone is much more difficult than to begin loving someone. With kids and financial obligations, it is never clear when or if a relationship is over. One aspect we do understand is the difficulty in making good decisions if you have another person involved who is making decisions on your behalf, not always in your or your children’s best interest (but more likely theirs). The new partner may feel as though they are in an insecure position when they date someone or become involved with someone with children and a recent ex. To secure their position they begin trying to “help” by handling some of the details. This is usually a mistake, not only on the new love’s part, but on the parent’s part that allows it. If you are the one going through a divorce, and they are your children, it behooves you to handle your relationship with your ex and other parent of your children.
When a divorce or breakup happens, if you have children, it is incremental that you handle what each parent’s involvement will be in their life. Divorce is tough for a couple, but especially so for the children. Having a parent leave and hook up with someone new makes it doubling difficult for children. They don’t understand why a parent is leaving, and they cannot understand how a parent could leave their other parent as well as them behind (most kids do feel as though they are being left when a parent leaves, no matter how the parents try to rationalize the situation). These suggestions may help the children feel more secure in the process of a divorce, but unless there is abuse in your marriage, it is wise to try and make the marriage work.
1. Just as important as hiring a lawyer is sitting down with your partner and discussing the plans regarding your children. If there is a new person involved in one of your lives, this person should not be part of the discussion.
2. The children should be able to talk to both parents about the plan, and what will happen at least two weeks before it happens. Give them time to cry, ask questions, and show them what their new rooms will look like. Kids do much better when they have a plan.
3. Both parents should make an agreement on a phone number, email, or text contact that is secure and will be answered in a timely manner. This contact access will be set up in a way where any and all matters with the children will be handled only by the two of you.
4. Both exes should protect the other parent from the new person in their life. Talking to your new partner about how bad your ex was makes you look bad. After all, we attract what we put out there. If you got someone crazy, what vibes were you putting out?
5. Divorce hurts, and it continues to hurt both people for a long time. No child wants to believe their mom or dad was a bad person. When a marriage is sick, it makes everyone look and behave badly. Much of the time the anxiety kids manifest with a divorce is the acting out of the parents while divorcing.
When you say, “I Do,” you believe in all of your heart you know this person standing at the altar with you. The truth is, you know only one side of this person, and that is what is great about a marriage, it grows and evolves to reveal many parts. If you quit talking, sharing, and being intimate, you close down essential parts. When those parts are revealed with someone new, the person you loved or were married to was who you wished they were. –Mary Jo Rapini
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