If you have reached the end of a relationship ~ and particularly, if you have children ~ please read this article carefully.
As someone who has been through an acrimonious divorce, I want to detail the impact it has had upon my kiddos and me. Divorce is difficult, even in the best of situations, but when one spouse contaminates the process, every step of the way, there are casualties. It is important to be mindful of one’s behavior toward each other throughout the process.
You may believe that your marriage is worth saving and that divorce is not the answer, but if your spouse doesn’t agree, you must respect that. It takes the effort of two to make a marriage work. Don’t make your spouse out to be your enemy, especially if s/he is the co-parent of your children. Now, more than ever, your children need to see the united front and understand that despite the marriage falling apart, you’re still allies in the new dynamic of co-parenting. Your children need to know that you still have the utmost respect and regard for their other parent. They must not feel as though they’re being disloyal by loving both of you; that is not betrayal, but their right to have a strong relationship with both of you. They will need each of you for different things, to maintain the stability. They will need plenty of assurance that the divorce is not their fault and that it doesn’t mean their world is going to fall apart just because their parents aren’t together anymore. It is all a matter of how a family handles the divorce that determines whether or not everyone can move forward in a healthy way.
Don’t vow to “fight dirty” in the legal arena. Don’t bring dig up dirt to use as ammo against your soon-to-be ex-spouse. If there is abuse, document everything and let the facts speak for themselves. Resist the urge to be accusatory in any of your statements; use statements beginning with “I think” “I believe” and “I feel” to convey your standpoint. Resist name calling. Resist “embellishing” the truth to gain the upper hand. Agree to mediation, if it’s recommended. Cooperate with the legal process. Any awkwardness jacks up the cost of the process and, if you can’t agree on anything, a judge will make the final decisions. Ask yourself if you really want someone else to decide how things will turn out for your family. The judge doesn’t have to live with the decision s/he makes. You and your family do, whether you like it or not.
Do what you can to reduce the stress for everybody involved, including yourself. You and your spouse are adults and better equipped to deal with what’s going on. Don’t assume that your children will take everything in stride. Children are resilient, but that’s no reason to dismiss potentially stressful situations as something they’ll “get over.” You must still watch for signs that they’re not handling things very well. The stress that children feel manifests itself in many ways, particularly if the changes are recent. They lack the capacity to understand what’s happening in the adult arena. The key is to make them feel as secure as possible and constantly reassured that you and your spouse are striving to keep things as calm as possible.
Parental alienation is a serious issue. I have seen, firsthand, what it can do to a child. Resist any and all urges to poison your children’s mind against their other parent. PLEASE. You are not competing with your co-parent for your children’s love or approval. You can’t make your house more appealing than your co-parent’s house so that your children will want to live with you or visit you more. The most important thing you need to do is to make sure the rules and boundaries are consistent in BOTH houses so that your children always know where they stand. Keep the lines of communication open and the mutual respect going. If parental alienation happens, children get confused and caught in the middle. They become riddled with guilt about their feelings for the other parent because it’s like they’re betraying someone for feeling the way they do. They don’t deserve to be torn. Don’t believe that it won’t affect your relationship with them in the future because it will come back and bite you in the ass. As your children become older and more aware of what you did to affect their relationship with their other parent, they will feel resentment for the damage caused and the time lost. It’s a hollow, temporary victory, which will cost you greatly later on.
My ex poisoned my daughter’s mind against me, and to a point where she wouldn’t talk to me for weeks on end. She carried on his abuse of me by repeating everything he told her about me. Hearing his words in her voice just about tore my heart out. She had to choose between her father and me; she chose him because he made it more enticing by being so permissive in his parenting role. She’s older now, and more aware of what he did, but she didn’t escape without serious issues. She was diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorder and she self-harms. With my ex now deceased, I am the one who is dealing with the aftermath of the divorce and my ex’s constant need to exact his revenge on me. He didn’t care about our daughter’s well-being as much as making sure he made my life hell. My daughter now views her father less favorably; she is currently working through the anger she feels towards him for the impact he had on her relationship with me. I have told her that she needs to forgive him so that she can heal and move on, but she’s still a teen and it’ll take a while. The bottom line is, she doesn’t see him in a positive light anymore because of the things he did to damage our family. It surely isn’t the best way to be remembered, after one passes, but if he were still alive, he most likely wouldn’t like what she would have to tell him.
By the time we received the final divorce papers, 3 years and 2 months had elapsed since the day I filed. Far too much money made our legal teams richer. Eleven court dates took place. We both had health issues from the stress…only, his were more serious and turned out to be fatal (he had undiagnosed cancer). We wasted too much time, sitting in offices, planning for those 11 court dates. He refused mediation to help us come to some sort of agreement on our own. He appealed a decision to prolong the process another several months. He spent all that time fighting to make sure our daughter didn’t wind up with me. Guess what? She wound up with me anyway. His efforts to ruin her relationship with me failed because we are healing and regaining the closeness we had when she was growing up.
I’m telling you our story because I want you to know that nasty divorces are never worth it. There are too many casualties when it happens and it really is best, all around, to keep things civil. The kids deserve 2 loving parents, regardless of the changes in any situation.
As always, we’re here to help.