Children and Divorce

In Florida, you don’t get a “divorce,” you get a “dissolution of marriage.” I’m not certain how the legalities work, but the two are different. In order for the “dissolution” to be final, my then husband and I had to both attend a parenting class.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of a 4-hour parenting class taught from a secular worldview, but I had no option if I wanted my marriage legally over. And, because of my husband’s personality and his typical inability to follow through with things, I picked him up and drove him to make sure he took the class, too.

In the end, it was rather painless. We sat together, watched the films, did the worksheets, and received our participation certificates. Immediately, he gave me his and the next day I took them to the courthouse and we were given the date for the final hearing with the judge.

But while I resented the entire forced attending of this class, I’m actually happy we had to attend. We learned two extremely valuable lessons that I might never have learned otherwise.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
-1 Corinthians 13:11

divorce(1)  In the video we had to watch for the class, the subject hit on parents NOT assuring children that the divorce isn’t their fault. The speaker explained that children aren’t going to naturally think that they have anything at all to do with their parents or their parents’ relationship, or any kind of dissolution thereof. But, once a parent says, “It’s nothing you’ve done. It’s not your fault. Mommy and daddy just –” suddenly, that thought is put into their mind! They think, Maybe it IS my fault, otherwise, why would she be assuring me it’s not?

It made perfect sense. How often have we witnessed Hollywood portrayals of separating parents assuring their children that the separation has nothing to do with them? It is done so often that it almost seems like the natural conversation to have once the finality of the marriage is put into play. But, when put into such a simple explanation as that which I watched in that video, I realized the folly so many of us have made.

Each of you must respect your mother and father… Leviticus 19:3

(2) Despite the negative feelings we might have for our spouses, the other party is still our child’s parent. Period. Unless there is some child abuse (which is an entirely different dynamic and subject), then there’s absolutely no reason to try to bring that person into a negative light in our child’s eyes. The speaker included referring to your spouse as your “EX-husband” in your child’s presence instead of “Kaylee’s dad”. In  a child’s mind, that “ex” has negative, hurtful connotations.

I’m going to get real with you for a moment. I told you in my last post that my first emotion was relief when my husband told me about his affair. I was relieved. I was so relieved that a week later, as I was coming home after signing a lease for my new house and making moving arrangements, I found out my husband had moved his girlfriend into our guest room. Apparently, due to repercussions from their affair, she had no other place to go. And, I was so D-O-N-E, I didn’t care that he moved her into our guest room. I just wanted to be out of there and all the way done with our marriage.

divorce fightingSo, not only did I have negative feelings about my husband, I had lots of ammunition to use against him with our daughter. I could have annihilated him – probably with righteous indignation – and most people would have had my back and rah-rah’ed me while I did it. While that isn’t my personality, while annihilating him has never been my agenda, hearing it laid out in the class made me conscientious every time I spoke about him if my daughter was around. Because, quite frankly, she was 5 the day our divorce was final. Nothing about our personal issues had anything to do with her. The times she thought to ask, she was told it wasn’t any of her business, that it was grown-up business. By the time she was well old enough to truly understand and possibly even empathize with me, the habit of respecting her father had already been well established.

It gave my (now ex) husband something to talk about after the class on the way to our respective homes. Neither one of us, thankfully, had talked to our daughter in a way that would imply that she might possibly have something to do with our separation or his affair. Neither one of us had blasted the other to her.

The end of our marriage signified the end of us. What each felt might be good for our individual selves, no longer had any bearing on our mutual decisions. With the dissolution of our marriage, our entire relationship became what was best for her. After hearing the psychology discussed in that class, both of us determined that we had to set aside all of the “stuff” that gets stirred up during separation and divorce. We agreed that intentional respect and friendliness toward each other would be what would be best for her.

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! -Psalm 141:3

Our wedding days are supposed to be some of the happiest days of our lives. We look forward to the promise of a bright future together, of loving, of cherishing another person forever. All of the things that lead to the destruction of such bright and beautiful promises are painful, hurtful, and oftentimes, devastating. We have a tendency to want to lash out and hurt back which creates a vicious cycle of terribleness that runs into all facets of our lives.

To let all that go, to forgive and move forward with your newfound freedom from that relationship is not easy. God knows that I know that. But, when children are involved, it’s what’s best. My encouragement is this: save the tirades for your counselor, or friends, or brother, or sister. Don’t hold it in. Let it out in a healthy way to someone who has and interest in your heart. And in the meantime, guard your children’s hearts.

In Christ,

Hallee Bridgeman

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