By Dr. Carlos Gonzalez,
Medical Director at CCGC
I thought that title might catch your eye. It’s one of those statements that sound simplistic and too easy, but it is also a statement of truth.
There are some of us who, despite everything and anything, might marry the same person we divorced, but I don’t think that’s a common enough occurrence to be the rule. Most divorces have enough bad feelings connected to them that there’s no way THOSE planets will align again.
So, for many of us at least, divorce is forever. It’s forever for so many of the people being divorced – that’s easy to see. Some people are able to move on from a divorce, by coming to terms with it, trying to learn from it, discovering or rediscovering a new life, new possibilities….at least that’s what Lifetime movies would have us believe. By the end of the movie, everyone is getting along fine, everyone understands the others’ point of view, everything has been worked out. The rest of us, watching that movie, know the reality is often very different.
After a divorce, too many people get stuck in exactly the same spot they were when their marriage was at its worst. Angry about the same things. Even using the same voices, the same language of that particular time. They do not feel able to move on. Maybe because the future looks scary. Maybe because they still hold on to hope that things would be different if only…
Maybe because they are so angry, and feel so wronged, that it feels impossible to stop going back to it and feeling wronged and angry again. And again. And one more time, just for old times’ sake.
It’s forgivable to get stuck in that swamp. You spent a lot of time, effort, emotion – a lot of life – in that relationship. It’s hard to let go. And if you have kids, then it’s really impossible to let go altogether.
But please bear in mind, no matter how hard it is, that how you choose to handle your divorce will be witnessed by your child, and no matter what you might think, they will remember it. Probably forever.
Whatever you say to your spouse in anger, or in sarcasm, or in whatever other frame of mind you happen to be in, it will be witnessed by your children, will be recorded by them and remembered by them, and used as a model for their own behavior and for their own way of looking at things. Whatever you say to your child about their mother, or their father will also be remembered. And, as often as humanly possible, you have to make a conscious decision to try to be remembered as who you are not as how angry you were during this difficult time.
People have many different beliefs about what happens after you die. But whatever your belief, one thing is for sure: part of you will be alive in your children’s memories. They won’t remember how much money you had, or the things you owned. But they will remember (fondly, we all hope) the kind of person you showed them you were. Will they remember you as a spiteful, angry, pitiful person? Or will they have witnessed you going through a difficult time and remaining true to the things that are important to you (and to them too)? That much is your choice. Not an easy choice, because it’s a choice you have to make when you are not at your best. But then, that’s what makes the choice so important – to you and to them. Because if your child eventually gets into a situation like this, when everything they know is being challenged, you would want them to carry themselves in an honorable manner and to remain a good, kind, caring person.
When parents get divorced, parent education programs are now mandated by the courts in order to complete the process. But these programs are really only the beginning, because in so many ways divorce IS forever, and your needs, and your children’s needs will continue to change as the years go on. And you owe it to yourself, and to the little ones who are looking to you for clues as to how to deal with adversity.
So pay attention. Remember who you are, no matter how angry you may be. Keep in mind what your ideals are and always have been. Remember the kind of parent you have always wanted to be. Remember how one of your parents was hit with adversity and how they handled it, and that memory may help you. And pay that forward, because our kids deserve those good memories of us, ones that can last forever.
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