At some point during separation and divorce, your feelings can boil over. You may be feel a sense of betrayal—that your spouse failed you in some deep and important ways. You might feel, a deep sadness at the loss of a partner or at the loss of a future you had envisioned. You might be anxious even fearful about the future, trying to living arrangements, finances, and parenting plans. Often, when these feelings well up, you simply can’t hold them back. You might shout at your spouse, cry to yourself, talk with friends or family members, seek counseling.
You blame your spouse for everything you’re going through. If he or she had been more loving, responsible, truthful, then…. If your spouse had spent more time with you and with the children….If she or he hadn’t gambled away the family’s money…. If weren’t for the drinking, there would still be enough money… If he or she hadn’t had affairs and betrayed you… It’s all her/his fault.
Divorce brings up all these messy, angry, bitter feelings and you need to talk to someone about what happened, the impact on you, and your concern for the future. At these times, good friends and family members can provide a sounding board, listening to you and offering advice. As adults, they can hear your troubles without taking on responsibility for fixing them.
But, your children can’t do that. They have no power to influence what you and your spouse do any more than they had the power to influence your behavior during the marriage. Telling your children that their other parent is horrible person creates a terrible dilemma for your kids. They desperately want to make things better—for themselves and for you. They may want to do something, show you how much they care. But, what can they really do? They certainly can’t change the past, and they can’t affect the decisions that you and your spouse will make. Putting them in this position by sharing your feelings about your spouse, their mother or father, is confusing, scary and can make them feel anxious or stressed.
And, to show loyalty to you means they have to reject their other parent. You are asking them to take sides. You are asking them to limit or even abandon their relationship with the other parent. You are asking them to do this because you are bitter, anxious, frustrated and angry.
Your feelings for the other parent have no place in a conversation with your children. You should NEVER tell them why you and your spouse are divorcing—that’s got nothing to do with them. They were not involved, and they sure can’t fix anything. So, talking with them about conflict with your spouse is just selfish. And, it’s hurting your kids.
This is what your children need to hear:
– We are not happy together anymore and have decided to live apart.
– The separation is permanent.
– We are still your mom and dad and will take care of you.
– What happened between us is not your fault.
– Nothing will ever change the fact that we both love you.
– We are still your parents and will decide a future plan for our family.
– You can tell us what you think and make suggestions, but your dad/mom and I will make the decisions about the future for our family.