Divorce is an ugly word, a bad word. Even though it is quite prevalent in our current world – it continues to be distasteful. In most divorces, the theme is winner and loser. In reality, both parties lose no matter the outcome. And if there are children – they are the spoils of war and the biggest losers.
Even in the worst of times, we like to believe that when push comes to shove, the children will be the priority. Unfortunately for a large percentage of divorced couples, that isn’t the case. The children become pawns and whether you want to do battle or not, the struggle begins early in negotiations and can last until the children are grown – depending on the parties involved.
Counseling can help but, again, depends on the parties involved. You have to be open and willing to make necessary changes.
In many divorces, the grim reality is that the marital situation was difficult enough for one party to call it quits. Getting a divorce will not change the circumstances of the difficulty, it will exacerbate it. Not only was it challenging to live WITH that person, now living without them is going to be extremely contentious. Every condition or event becomes a means of retaliation or a display of power. Frankly, it is exhausting. For the person who is trying to make their “escape”, it can be daunting and you constantly wonder if you should have stayed in a miserable marriage just to have avoided the turmoil. Many people do stay, for that reason.
In my own situation, by the time I actually separated from my first husband, I was already “divorced” in my own mind. Ours was a short marriage but, early in the relationship, I knew we were not a good match. I thought I could just “suck it up” and play along but, in the end, I just couldn’t. I made the decision to find a way out months before it actually happened. Because I was mentally prepared for the break, I had already grieved for the relationship. I could easily have left on friendly terms and fully expected he would also reach that level of acceptance. We didn’t have any real property and I was very lucky to be the wage earner of our little family unit. I thought we would separate, split the proceeds and find an equitable visitation plan for the kids and a reasonable child support amount – and both be on our merry way. I was quite naive.
During our marriage, my ex-husband and I had talked about his parents’ divorce. It had been a bitter situation and left him feeling very neglected and angry. He talked about how important it was to make sure the kids were the first priority in any situation. I believed him. I thought that was going to be the case. It was one point of view we actually agreed on and I had every intention of working with him to make sure the kids were left out of any dispute. I really did think we could do this, we could work together for the good of our children. But that was before the divorce actually became a possibility in our own lives.
Every issue became a conflict often having a core issue involving money. In some ways, I was lucky because he moved away that first year. We didn’t have to deal with each other very often except through letters and we had some scathing mail battles over the years. In other ways, him moving away was hell because that meant that when the kids went for a visit, they were very far away. I still get an awful feeling in my stomach when I think about it. I would cry for days – and worry about their care. It was horrible.
We had multiple disputes – about the kids visits, about splitting the cost of braces, about splitting the cost of band instruments, about things that should or shouldn’t be said to the kids. Again, I was lucky that the visits were only a few times a year but the damage was done just the same. In hindsight, I constantly wonder what I should have done differently to make it easier for the kids but I’ve long since realized that you do what you can do. You can’t control that other person, you just do your best to counter the things that are said and done in your absence. And you hope the kids will be okay.
Fast forward thirty some years and I still feel animosity towards my ex-husband. I am still angry over the things he has done and I find it difficult to be in the same room with him. Listening to him talk is like a flashback into the past and I feel the echo of the helplessness I felt back then. For our children’s sake, we have to be together on occasions; birthdays, weddings, any life celebration. We are congenial. And when the celebration is over and we go our separate ways, I feel the same old relief. I am not sorry we divorced. It was the right thing to do for all of us. Divorce may seem like a bad word but it really isn’t. It is about freedom, growth, strength and wisdom – or it can be if you let it.