Yes, it is possible to have a positive and empowering divorce. The most common thing that gets in the way of a positive divorce is anger. Sometimes it’s obvious, overt anger and sometimes it’s hidden under other emotions and gets expressed in more passive aggressive ways. Either way you are sending messages to your children about how adults are supposed to deal with conflict and hurt feelings.
Anger toward others usually has to do with thwarted expectations. They didn’t live up to our idea of how they should be. But often our expectations are unexpressed so our mate may not have even been aware of what our expectations were. In fact, our mate may have had expectations of their own that we didn’t live up to. The truth about expectations is that they are ours. We and we alone, are responsible for them.
So if you’re struggling through a divorce, take a look right now. What are you angry at? What expectations did you have of your partner that weren’t met? Now imagine your partner’s perspective. What expectations did your partner have of you that weren’t met? How much do these expectations have to do with your present anger with each other?
Expectations usually stem from our past experiences: What our parent’s marriage was like; how our siblings’ marriages are; our cultural, religious and social experience of marriage. All of these experiences generate our beliefs about how marriage should look. And even though our experience may change over time, our beliefs often remain the same even when they no longer fit our present circumstances.
Once again it’s up to you to examine your beliefs and make sure they are not creating unreasonable expectations of your partner, your children and yourself. Ask yourself, what old beliefs have I brought into the present moment which are now affecting what I expect from others? Are these expectations reasonable given the present circumstances? How are my expectations of others affecting my children?
Sometimes when there is a betrayal of trust; an affair or something equally destructive in our eyes, we believe we have a “right” to be angry and carry a grudge. But who then is really losing? If you are the one holding on to the pain and the anger, what are you getting out of it? How you choose to deal with the situation is completely up to you. Some people forgive their mates and some don’t. Neither choice is right nor wrong; they are simply choices we make. Usually it’s the anger and resentment over what happened that causes the destruction in the family, more so than the actual divorce. Recognize that you have the power to choose to forgive and move on; to live your life without regrets or recrimination. Otherwise, if you stay angry and bitter, where do you think you will end up? What will your kids learn from you about how to deal with being hurt? If someone hurts them, do you want them to learn to hold on to that pain and be “right” or do you want them to move on and be happy?
Perhaps you’re the one who acted out of integrity; you are the one who broke the bond of trust. Then why not own up to your mistakes. Take responsibility for your actions and demonstrate to your child that it’s human to make mistakes, and that you can clean up your mess and learn from the experience not to make the same mistake again. Apologize to the people you hurt, and be sincere.
Maybe you believe the divorce is your fault. It was you who fell out of love with your partner? You can clean that up too. Be honest. Apologize for not keeping your promise to love them always. Sometimes it is how it is, and the best thing to do is come clean. It won’t serve anyone to live in deceit, least of all your children. That only teaches them that it’s better to stay in a loveless marriage than be honest and allow both partners to find the love they desire and deserve.
Often in a breakup the kids get the brunt of our anger, especially if we can’t or won’t communicate our anger directly with our partner. Keep in mind always that your child is made up of both of you. They carry the DNA of both parents, so when you openly criticize your mate, you are negating half of who your child is; you are also making them wrong. You may think you are just getting even with the mate you are angry with by bad mouthing them to your children, but instead you are directly impacting your child’s self esteem. If they have to shut down or hide some part of themselves because you don’t like that part, they will never learn to love and accept themselves for who they really are.
Take time to remember why you were originally drawn to your partner. What was it that you were so attracted to at the beginning; their smile, their sense of humour, that little quirk you found so adorable? They probably still have those same qualities that once drew you to them even though your perception of them may have changed. Your child may also have some of those traits and those traits need to be cherished in your child. No matter what your partner has done, or how your feelings towards them have changed, your feelings toward your child must not be affected. Your most important work as a parent going through a divorce is to let your children know that you love them exactly as they are, no matter what.
By taking responsibility for your feelings, expectations and actions during this emotional transition, you create an opportunity to have an amazing relationship with your children and your ex-partner. From your example your child will learn how to deal with conflict and hurt in an empowering way. They will learn to love all aspects of themselves; the ones they get from both their parents. It is possible to have a positive and empowering divorce, and it’s really all up to you.
Marilyn Foreman continues to inspire parents to be the best they can be so they can then inspire their children to be their best. She coaches parents through “Inspired Parenting Groups”, where you can work in small close groups with Marilyn directly building a strong support system of friends. Marilyn also teaches by way of regular recorded classes you can download and listen to on your own time. She is a speaker and author of KidBits: Inspiration for Parents as well as a number of booklets on different topics of interest to parents. Download a free teleseminar right now “7 Tips for Being The Best Parent You Can Be” at http://www.inspiringparentsandkids.com or join an”Inspired Parents Group”
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