Two Kids And a Fish’s marriage ended over two years ago now. It’s been a period of coming to accept she was being abused, of having to fight for child custody, protecting her daughters to break the cycle of violence and feeling guilty about divorce. I asked her to reflect on what has been the hardest part about divorce for her. Here’s Two Kids And a Fish:
[contemplate1] The most difficult part of divorce has to be the emotional roller coaster that the girls have gone through. Now, it’s been almost two years since we split up and just when I think everyone’s adjusted, something happens. For example, last night the little one came at me crying and such screams that she hasn’t adjusted, that she feels lonely, that she feels like we’re not a family. The shuffling back and forth between mom and dad it’s still taking a toll on her and I hadn’t seen that part of her. She hadn’t shared her feelings.
I thought everyone had adjusted and then you have a night like that. It kicks your feet from under you.
I thought everyone was OK. I thought everyone was fine. So I just listen and I talked to her about it the best I could. I asked her if she wanted to go back to therapy. She said, “No, I know what she’s gonna say, I know what she’s gonna tell me. I don’t need her to tell me what I already know. I’ll feel better tomorrow when I wake up. I just need to cry to let it out, I need to tell you how I feel.”
She also said, “I can’t do this with dad. I can’t cry, I can’t tell him how I feel. I can do it with you!”
So, unfortunately, I’m gonna get it all. He’s not gonna get any of that because she doesn’t feel comfortable expressing herself that way. He never has to deal with it and that does make me angry.
I feel a lot of guilt that I have to deal with. It’s why didn’t I see it? Why didn’t I take action? Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I do that? But I was just as scared as my daughter was. He bullied me… he bullied both of us.
I feel I didn’t fight for my daughter. I feel I didn’t protect her. I feel I should’ve been a better mother and I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t even strong enough to protect myself.
He was not always like that. I don’t know what happened. I don‘t know what happened in his mind that made him become this person. He was always a hard-worker. When I was pregnant with our first one he had three jobs and he went to school full-time. He supported me and my career. We moved across the country so I could take this great job and further myself in my career. He was always supportive and then one day, he just wasn’t.
I thought, OK he’s in a funk, he’s gonna get out of this. And then before you know it one, two, three, four, five years go by and he’s still in that funk. Not only is he in that funk, but he’s mean, and he’s disrespectful and he’s aggressive and he’s verbally abusive and you’re terrified of this person. He’s not the man you married.
I remember very clearly being in my bathroom crying my eyes out, just looking in the mirror and telling myself, “He doesn’t love you.” It was like my head was telling my heart and I had to accept it. And I had to tell myself repeatedly. I was trying to find the strength to leave him. It was like my head knew, but I had to see it with my heart.
I would say the last two years of my marriage was basically grieving the loss of my marriage. So by the time I left, there was no turning back for me. I told myself I’m not going to be one of those women that leaves and then comes back to him. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to do that.
Wow! Some important themes in this segment. Guilt and regret will eat away at you and are destructive emotions. What is constructive about Two Kids And a Fish’s reflection here is the recognition she’s come to that she wasn’t strong enough to leave sooner. Seeing that and understanding what lead to that behavior is what helps you grow and learn from the experience and that’s vital to avoiding similar mistakes in the future.
The grief that Two Kids And a Fish experienced BEFORE her divorce is not unusual. While both partners will grieve the loss of the marriage, the timing of grief will differ. For the person initiating the divorce that sense of loss may be experienced often as part of the decision-making process. You grieve as you realize your marriage is over and by the time you come to tell your spouse of your decision you are well into the grieving process.
I hear Two Kids And a Fish’s frustration at being the parent that shoulders the burden of her daughter’s emotions. I’ve felt a similar frustration at times at being the parent that orchestrates all the daily logistics—the permission slips, the clothes, the doctor’s visits, the gifts, the school work monitoring and so on. Yet, I’ve learned that’s also part of who I am—I am the organizer, I am the planner and I like it that way and it was that way when we were married. I know that some women I’ve interviewed have seen their ex become a better parent after divorce, more involved, more engaged with parenting, some of the women say they’ve become a better parent after divorce but I wonder if the fundamental parenting roles you adopt early on set the pattern for parenting after divorce.
What has helped you overcome any feelings of guilt about your divorce? When did you experience grief? What did you grief look like? How has divorce changed your parenting roles?
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