My current guest is Sarah, who is a child of divorce. Her parents divorced when she was twelve which was twenty-five years ago. Given that passage of time, I asked Sarah if there was anything she wished her parents had done differently. Here’s Sarah:
I know my mom really wanted to move back to Oregon which is where she was from. I’m glad that she waited. If I had to wish that they had done something differently…I wish that I had brothers and sisters.
But after the divorce they were very good communicating with each other, and with me, so I think that really, really helped.
They didn’t try to compete for my attention. I know that my mom had some anger that would sometimes come out. If I was frustrated with my dad for any reason, I would talk to my mom about it, and then she would kind of flare up with her issues. She’d think, “Oh, that reminds me of this one time your father was unreliable!” That kind of thing. We’ve created some healing around that now and we don’t go there anymore.
I was the one who went to therapy after college and I gained a lot from that experience. Working through a lot of that stuff meant I was able to model to my parents more of what I wanted as far as dealing with the problems, the frustrations that I might fester with. And rather than festering, I would get them out on the table and not be afraid to talk about that and be honest about it.
I think when I started to do that, it really changed the dynamic of my relationship with both my parents from that mid-to-late 20s on to now. It’s like I don’t trigger their issues. They might trigger my issues, but I don’t trigger their issues. When they trigger my issues now I try to separate it and say, “Well OK, that’s really not me right now, that’s about something else.” So I really had to do my own personal work around some of that, which feels pretty good.
The Divorce Coach Says
I can understand an only child wishing for siblings and Sarah also accepts that given the state of her parents’ marriage, having another child would not have been a good decision. From a parent’s perspective, another of my guests, Kristen knew her marriage was in trouble and she and her husband thought that having a child would bring them closer. It did temporarily and then despite the problems, Kristen wanted a second child so her daughter would have a sibling. It didn’t resolve the deep underlying issues and within weeks of the birth of her second child, Kristen consulted a divorce attorney.
Does it go without saying, don’t get pregnant if your marriage is in trouble?
I think it is to be expected that any divorce could create issues that a child might seek therapy for later. However, some of those issues would exist regardless of divorce and may even be contributory factors to the end of a marriage. The value in considering the impact of these lies in making conscious decisions about how to behave post-divorce to minimize rather than compound the issues.
I love Sarah’s observation about how she could say something that would trigger an emotional reaction from her mother. I learned last year that I could overreact to my daughter and blow something out of proportion because she was behaving the same way my spouse had done and she was unintentionally triggering all that associated emotional history. Being able to identify those hot buttons, was key to changing my reactions and now I know about these connections, when I do overact to the kids I spend some time thinking about what nerve they’ve just hit and why I’m so sensitive.
Have you recognized any hot buttons your child pushes? Is there anything about your divorce you think you could have handled better for your child?
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