Let’s talk about divorce. It isn’t an easy thing – for anyone. I recently spent some time with my ex-husband – which is why divorce is on my mind. If you have ever been through a divorce, you know of the difficulties. Making that decision is one thing, seeing it through with all of the complexities and variables is another. If you have children, struggles are compounded and you have to be prepared for a lifetime of adapting.
In a divorce, the children suffer the most no matter how hard you try to protect them. Even in the most ideal situation where both adult parties are congenial, in their lifetime the kids will have two “homes” and often two step-parents. Unfortunately, in most divorce situations – the adult parties are not congenial. My ex-husband and I were not.
Despite all of my efforts to keep the kids out of the middle, they suffered. They learned at an early age to be mediators – not to say or do things to upset either parent. Now, more than ever, I know how hard it was for them and I can see their scars more clearly. I am sorry for my role in their misery, fears and apprehension. I wish things could have been different. Despite everything, they survived and are amazing, strong adults with families of their own.
Recently, my daughter and I talked about divorce as we walked in the warm sun. She posed a question, “When is the best time to divorce, when there are children involved? When they are really young? Pre-teen? Teenagers?” She named several examples of each and, in all cases, the scenarios for the children were the same – painful, difficult, complicated. The reality is — it isn’t about the “time”, it is about the individuals. If there is a divorce – they have to choose to make it as simple as possible for the kids. There are divorced couples who communicate with each other about the needs of the children, who truly “share” custody. Though it is an adjustment for the children to have to go back and forth between households – the exchanges are not filled with tension and distress. They see two people who no longer love each other but still love the children/child and work together for the sake of the children/child.
My ex-husband and I were the perfect example for how this did not happen. In truth, there was just too much bitterness. Every effort made to keep things on an even keel was met with anger and defiance. But then, that is why we divorced…we were too different. Our parenting styles were worlds apart and our core values were too diverse. Even though we had talked about how important it was to maintain a relationship for the sake of the kids – everything fell apart. Those disparities came full circle and every issue involving the children became a conflict. No wonder they have scars.
The nice divorce is a bit of a fairytale. I don’t personally know very many divorced people who did conduct themselves to the benefit of the children. The biggest reason most women (and some men) stay in miserable marriages is because they KNOW it won’t be the fairytale divorce. The children will become pawns. So many variables would come into play – separate homes and visitation means the possibility of placing their children in an unsafe or unfavorable environment beyond their influence. They suck it up and continue living in an adverse situation because at least in that situation they can control the adversity to some degree.
Not every marriage is made in heaven. In my case, I realized early in the relationship that we were souls apart. At first, I believed I could change to make things work. I could suck it up – make concessions. Let him run the show. For a time, I even believed that he was right – I wasn’t capable of making my own decisions – we had to be a cohesive unit, one that he ruled. I lasted four and a half years thinking in those terms. Then, one day, I realized that I was actually a single mother of two small children, and one very large and demanding child. I decided I would find a way out of a situation that I KNEW I couldn’t survive. I chose to divorce when my children were young because I did NOT want them to see our relationship as an example of how they should live. I did NOT want them to live in a household where their mother was unhappy and unauthentic. I could NOT live my life in fear, sadness, anger and resentment. I loved my children. I loved my job. I disliked my husband very much. It wasn’t enough to have two-thirds of a life anymore. If my only source of unhappiness and misery was him – then it was time for him to go.
It was a very tough decision. It was a very tough time in my life. I was working full-time, with a 3 year old and a 6 month old. I had a house payment and a car payment and all of the other incidentals of life. But honestly, it was easier doing it on my own that having him in the mix. My parents, sisters and friends helped me through the worst of it. I met my current husband during all of this turmoil and he was a ray of light and hope. It was also during this time that I found the most important person in my life. Me.