When Will The Marriage End, After Divorce?
When a chapter closes in our lives, we must grieve the loss and let it go. This is true with divorce. It's the finality of mourning "what could have been" that is painful. Nevertheless, the work of processing the reality of divorce, with all of its implications and consequences, must be confronted with courage and integrity.
Completing our grieving, letting go of our partner and moving on becomes even more important if there are children involved. It is difficult to save our children from the ravages of divorce if we are unwilling to complete the work of ending our marriage after the divorce.
Many divorced people, unknowingly, remain bonded to each other through the use of anger, manipulation, and the refusal to negotiate with one another. One might ask, if a couple could not promote understanding during the marriage, why should they try after the divorce?
A marriage never ends until the individuals involved are no longer bound together by animosity, stubbornness and unwillingness to promote understanding, particularly if children are involved. Any couple who chooses to end a marriage must recognize the overriding need to place the well-being of their children above their own needs. This means that both divorced parents must put the desire to protect their children above their need to put forth "their story" as to why the divorce occurred.
Recently, I met with a child who was trapped in a horrible custodial battle. His response to me was, "My parents continue to act like babies. The fussing and feuding never stops!" Here was an eight year old caught in the middle of a "drama" perpetuated by his parents. How needless and unfortunate for this child.
In fairness to some divorcees, one individual in the partnership may have let go and moved on, while the other individual may still be clinging to an illusion of a relationship. Especially when children are involved, it is imperative that both partners end the marriage and move on. If the "relationship" continues after it has ended due to the refusal of one or both parties to grieve it, there can be emotional scarring experienced by the children. Here are some examples of how divorced adults can make life miserable for their children:
- Many children internalize as anxiety the on-going feuding of their parents.
- Many children become frustrated, angry and feel trapped when a parent talks negatively about the other parent and tries to influence the child's loyalty.
- Many children become confused when one or both parents try to "buy" their children's approval.
- Many children resent a divorced parent who plays the victim role and forces the child to "parent" the parent.
- Many children resent manipulative tactics that a parent uses to foster a sense of power and control over the other parent.
- Many children despise being "caught up" in battles over visitation rights and other custodial issues.
- Many children experiences a sense of abandonment when one or the other parent creates distance toward the child.
- Many children become discouraged and depressed when parents choose to use legal means to solve many custodial issues.
Children, many whom I have counseled, want the drama to end. In so many words, they share Rodney King's sentiments when he said, "Can't we all just get along!" It is never too late to change the "dance." Divorced parents need to forgive themselves and their partners for their relationship shortcomings and do what is necessary to protect the well-being of their children.
After the divorce, parents need to ask themselves, "Am I still married? Hopefully, if you are still connected to your former partner in a negative way, you will do what is in the best interest of your children and forgive your partner for being less than perfect.
James P. Krehbiel is a licensed professional counselor and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist in private practice in Scottsdale. He can be reached at (480) 664-6665 or firstname.lastname@example.org.