This post has been cooking in my brain for the past two months now. Between finishing our dossier for the adoption, running three businesses, homeschooling, and caring for a toddler all day, I haven’t had much time to update this blog. Every time I think about doing it though, this is the only one I’m motivated to write. When I try to write it, however, I have a hard time being kind in my delivery. When I brought that up to my husband, his response was, “Why bother being kind about it at all?”.
You know what? He’s totally right. There is a certain amount of legitimacy to the term “righteous anger”, and that’s exactly what this subject matter stirs up in me. I think righteous anger is justifiable in this scenario. Also – I’ve got no time for fluff, so I’m just going to tell it to you straight. If you’re in a particularly vulnerable state right now and you can’t handle me getting worked up, you may want to read this at a later date.
If you’re a divorced parent, you need to GROW UP and stop talking smack about your former spouse. ESPECIALLY to or around your children.
Whew. It feels really good to get that off of my chest. Sorry for yelling, but you guys – we are better than this.
Divorce, even carried out in the healthiest and most stable way possible, still runs a huge risk of being traumatic to our children. But what happens when you add the additional difficulty of subjecting your kids to the hatred and vitriol spewing from your mouth about their parent? Because at the end of the day, that person may be your former spouse, but he or she is STILL your child’s parent.
And always will be.
You may have divorced your ex, but your children do not divorce their parents. Are you really that self-centered that you care more about pacifying your own pain than protecting your own children? Because if you’re talking negatively about your spouse to or around your kids, that’s exactly what you’re doing. That’s hardly fair to the innocent child that had nothing to do with the demise of your relationship.
But you don’t know how bad I’m hurting!
Before you go making assumptions about how I don’t understand your situation, let me lay it out for you.
I’ve been divorced twice.
I’ve been lied to. Manipulated. Physically, emotionally, and mentally abused. Cheated on. Abandoned.
I get it. I understand your pain. If it’s painful and can be inflicted, then I’ve endured it from a husband. If anyone is “justified” in talking trash about an ex, it’s me. So don’t tell me that your hatred is valid. That’s a cowardly excuse. You may be justified in feeling pain, and even anger (because, hello – you aren’t a robot), but it is NEVER okay to tell your kids about it. I am disgusted every time I hear a parent air their dirty laundry to their kids.
If your plan is to turn your child against your former spouse, well that’s just plain evil. There’s really no other way to describe that. Seriously, I can’t even believe that people do this. It’s child abuse, plain and simple. Emotional and mental child abuse. There is never an instance when this is okay, unless your spouse has been abusive to the child. If that’s the case, you need to get to safety and then spend time actually trying to help your child heal. (Hint: talking trash about that parent does not help an abused child heal).
If your plan is to take comfort by using your child as a therapist, that’s foolish. I’ve fallen into this trap before, so no judgment here. It’s especially common for single moms to do this, but I caution you – it will make your child feel the burden of protecting you and that should not be their role in this situation. Again – been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I’ve only just begun to unravel the layers of issues I created by crying on my son’s shoulder a few too many times.
I’ve also been the CHILD in this scenario.
I am a product of divorce, so I know what it feels like to hear one parent bash the other. Thankfully, in my situation, it was never all that extreme. But it was enough to make me lose some respect and has fortified my determination to do things very differently with my own kids.
But how do you navigate the murky, painful waters of divorce without succumbing to trash talking your ex? I have a very dear friend who is a social worker and sees the fallout of this issue on a daily basis. As she so eloquently puts it: “Grow the hell up and stop vomiting your emotional baggage all over your kids”.
Ha! I couldn’t have put it better myself. But how does one actually DO that?
My strategies have worked well for me so far, so I’ll share them with you:
1. Jesus. Plain and simple, I cannot survive life without Jesus. Life is painful, and messy, and full of disappointment, but Jesus never fails me. His love for me has helped me withstand some of the most dizzying messes that I’ve landed in. He doesn’t promise pain-free, but He does promise possible. And if you’ve ever been through a difficult divorce, it’s easy to feel like taking another breath is impossible. With Jesus, it’s not only possible, but He’s in the business of restoration. I am a perfect example of how Christ restores.
2. A network of support. This can mean a handful of girlfriends on speed dial for those moments when you absolutely HAVE to vent. Y’all – I’m not above venting. Call my sister and ask her, because she has heard every rant I’ve spewed about my ex-husbands. It’s absolutely ok to be angry – just don’t do it in front of your kids.
3. Research. And by research, I mean reading from professionals and others who have gone before you that can help you flesh out how to navigate divorce gracefully. My social-worker friend highly recommends the book Second Chances by Judith Wallerstein. Get over your pre-conceived notions about “self help” books and arm yourself with knowledge from people who know best.
Guys – I know I’ve been brash, but I love you. I really do.
But I really love your kids too, and it grieves my heart like you can’t imagine when I think of the countless friends and family members who have severed ties with parents because of divorce. They were forced to take a side, so they took one. It happens all the time, and it’s so unfair. Please don’t do this to your kids. There is a better way to heal and move past the pain of divorce without subjecting your children to a lifetime of bitterness over your own fallen marriage. Because ultimately, that’s what a lifetime of unforgiveness produces – a bitter person.