"This divorce will ruin our kids." Will it? Or is it a myth? Divorce with at least one mindful parent willing to dig deep and do the work entrenched in the pain of divorce is an opportunity. When parents use adversity to fuel growth, they became healthier and more present which gives rise to stronger, more grounded children.
Recently, my oldest daughter was telling me about something she was reading about a teenager whose parents' divorce ruined her life. And I asked her, was my divorce from her father difficult for her. Her answer blew me away -- "No. Not really." And then I asked her if she ever wished that her father and I were still married and she said "No." I think she was being honest about it because her behavior has backed it up. She has never tried to get her dad and me to spend time together and the biggest losses of our divorce for her have seemed to be the material ones (the house with a giant yard by her school we once lived it that the new owners just built a pool in... ouch, yeah that hurt.)
I share this deeply personal quip with you for a reason. While I have many clients worry that a divorce would ruin their kids, I think our fear and our projection that it will ruin our kids is more damaging than divorce. I have never had a client who made me believe divorces ruin children. Yes, I have seen clients who's parents got divorced and then stopped living and the whole family suffered. Parents suffering from anxiety and depression bouncing from one unhealthy relationship or addiction to another after coming through a divorce create chaotic lives for children that can be extremely painful. But that's not about the divorce -- it's about the choices that come after. Surprisingly, I have had teens sit on my sofa and tell me that they wish their parents would divorce while their parents suffer through their marriage trying to make it work for the sake of the kids. And I have had those clients too -- parents in painful marriages sticking their head in the sand, wanting to not see how bad it actually is because they believe that divorce might destroy them or worse, destroy their kids.
Of course, doing the work and reconnecting in a crumbling marriage can be an opportunity for incredible transformation and growth. I help couples with that too. But that's not always possible especially when one partner isn't willing to do the work. Divorce can be an opportunity for growth too . When people examine their pain and their choices and stay present with their children and themselves, they have more to offer their children than when they disconnect from their family in an effort to keep it "in tact." The distinction is doing the work and tackling the difficult emotions, relationship patterns, trauma, and pain that resulted from or contributed to the divorce. Those who do the work create healthier and happier lives. Those who don't address those issues continue to create chaos.
"Broken homes" can be happy homes. I really enjoy working with parents going through the process of divorce who want to do the work to co-parent as amicably as possible, and go on to have fulfilling lives with their children post-divorce. It's not an easy journey but it's a powerful one.
What better lesson is there to teach your children than that they can survive even the hardest of times and go on to have happy lives?
My daughter's elementary school overlooked our old house. She literally watched them build the pool in the backyard. And I know it was painful for her. But I also see an appreciation for all that we have now that wasn't there before. Luckily, she moved on to middle school and so we don't have to pour salt in that wound anymore but as painful as that was, she made it through and grew right alongside me as I ached watching her stare down the construction trucks in the driveway as the pool was being built.
Please don't misunderstand this blog. I am not pro-divorce and I enjoy working with couples wanting to use adversity to fortify their marriage too. I believe in that (and wrote a blog about that on here too). But sometimes, that's not possible. And many people in excruciating relationships stay together because they think it's what's best for the kids having no idea that their kids feel as crushed as they do by the misery of their relationship.
If you want to retrieve the pieces of yourself from the wreckage of your marriage so you can heal and move forward in your life, I am here to help you get there.