How your children will react to your divorce is a common and valid concern. Many of us hope for some indication that they understand the situation, even if the specific details behind the breakup are not shared. That acknowledgement can lessen any guilt about the end of your marriage and can also be reassuring that it was the right decision. But don’t expect that understanding to be immediate. Sometimes, maybe even often, it can take years.
My current guest, Carol Round was married for twenty-eight years and her two sons were both young adults when she divorced. Their reactions were quite different. Here’s Carol:
The fall before I left his dad, I was talking to my eldest son on the phone. He would have been 24 or 25 years old. I don’t remember what the conversation was about, but I was aggravated at his dad about something and my oldest son said, “I don’t know why you don’t leave him.” That just nearly knocked me for a loop—when your son says that.
He thinks it would have been better if I had left their dad earlier. The youngest one, he would not agree with that. My oldest son has said, “Mom you did what you did, because you thought it was for the best.” And I did. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would do it again.
The youngest one was 21 years old, I think. Now, he was very upset. He got mad at me one day. He’s a lot like his dad, but thank goodness he maturing a lot.
He and I were driving. We were going out to the college for his second year and he wanted me to look at this rental property with him. He was driving and he was driving too fast and I got on to him about driving too fast. He pulled it over on the side road and he said something about, “I have a fuzz buster.”
I said, “I don’t care if you have a fuzz buster,”—radar or whatever you call it. I said, “You’re still driving too fast.” And then he goes, “I hope you’re happy, since you left dad.” I said, “You know what? I am.” I said, “If you think I’m going back to him to make you happy, you’re as crazy as you look.”
That’s how I had to deal with my youngest son, but actually I’m closer now to my younger son than my oldest. He told me—this was about four years after the divorce—one of his roommates said that he thought his parents were getting a divorce and my son told to him, said, “I knows how it feels, but I have to tell you my parents are happier now.” He recognized that we were both happier.
His dad and I do get along.
It took a while. I didn’t want to be around my ex. I don’t wish anything bad to happen to him. But after our first grandchild came along in 2004, my oldest son did say, “Mom, I want you and dad to get along so we can all be together on holidays with the grandkids.”
Neither one of us has remarried so, on holidays we’re usually at my house. One big happy family, my ex is here. But I couldn’t have done that without the Lord, without keeping the daily prayers and learning about forgiveness and letting go, because it wasn’t hurting anyone but me to hang onto the past.
But I could never go back. People would suggest it, because he and I get along. I’m only around him with the kids and grandkids. If we’re all together as a family and go out somewhere to eat, he pays for my meal. I let him.
Several of my friends suggested, “Well, do you think you could ever go back to him?” I said, “No. That’s the past. I’m a different person.”
The Divorce Coach Says
It’s been seven years since my divorce and both my kids, now aged 21 and 18 have told me they understand why their dad and I couldn’t stay married and I did find that reassuring or reaffirming. But a word of caution … just because they understand, doesn’t mean they like having to shuttle between two homes. My son still tells me that he thinks we got divorced and he has to do all the work.
Staying together for the children is another decision that is hard for children to understand. I think that’s partly because it causes them to reassess their childhood – those memories of happy family vacations change when they realize that mom and dad weren’t as in love as they thought. They’re not sure what’s real and what was fake and that takes processing. But Carol’s son has the right answer … you made what you believed to be the right decision at the time and when you start to question your choices it’s always helpful to remember the reasons you had at the time.
Carol Round has been a writer her whole life and now writes the A Matter Of Faith blog where she shares inspiration thoughts for daily living. She is the author of Journaling With Jesus.