Why Staying Together for the Kids is a Bad Idea

200226883-001

Why Staying Together for the Kids is a Bad Idea

Trying to stick together for the children, even after you’ve done everything possible to resurrect your marriage, usually just makes things worse. Even when the children are shielded from the arguments, they can sense the hostility like a tense fog over the house. Some kids even report feeling relieved when hearing of their parent’s divorce, the opposite of what we picture would happen, begging them to stay together. But having things appear to be working and having them actually working are two different things. You can’t hide the truth from them. They live there, too. And they know, already. Kids have an incredible beat on what’s happening with their parents. It’s some sort of natural inclination. But to deny it is to insult their intelligence. Children also model their romantic relationships after their parents. If you stay together without any longer feeling love, commitment or any tender feelings at all towards one another, what kind of message are you sending them? Will they do the same in their future marriages or relationships? Don’t you want them to be happy and follow that happiness, wherever it may lead? If you stick together, your sacrifice is wasted. In fact, it is doing more harm than good.

There are lots of considerations when getting a divorce. There is the financial burden, which everyone will endure, including the children. It can be hard in a variety of ways. There is telling them, the possibility of moving and putting them in a new school, custody battles, and fights over asset allocation, child support and alimony. The average divorce lasts somewhere in the vicinity of six months. The most hotly debated and contentious can take years. For those in no financial condition to divorce, a separation until the means for a simple divorce can be arranged may be the best answer.  Some worry about the stigma. But today, divorce is so common the stigma has virtually evaporated. What generally happens when it is all over, or at least when a new pattern settles in, is things get better. Without living in a contentious household, the kids feel more secure. They will relax and be themselves. More focus will now be placed on them instead of on the elephant in the room. Parents can also feel that they are being upfront with their children, and the kids won’t feel lied to. There are also lots of life lessons being portrayed that can carry over into their love lives, once they grow up. Children learn to have realistic expectations for relationships, love and marriage. Too many people today have some sort of Disneyesque vision, skewing their expectations. They just are not realistic when it comes to love and relationships in the real world. But children of divorce see past all that. They are also less likely to jump into a committed relationship without thinking about it, and who with.

A divorce helps children see their parents as people. They see their parents in many different roles; sometimes as a worker, of course as a parent, a friend, child, and a sibling and when they start dating again, as a partner to someone else. In other words, the kids don’t take their vision of their parents for granted. They also recognize more closely that their parents are flawed, or to put it a better way, human. But children who see their parent’s marriage as an ideal to be lived up to, suddenly cannot choose what their heart wants. They keep chasing an ideal that they will never catch instead of the reality of love that is before them. Everyone has to find someone right for them. And those two people have to develop a relationship that works for their particular personalities. But when we try to bend a relationship to match some unrealistic ideal, things are bound to run in to trouble.

Children can see their parents more as people who have hopes, dreams, flaws and regrets. They also gather insight into how bad relationships operate and how good relationships work. Usually, parents get into other long-term relationships after divorce, or get remarried. So instead of focusing on having children coming from a “broken home,” realize that if your house is full of contention, either explicit or implicit, it is affecting the children far more negatively than you think. It’s best instead to have the courage to move on with your life, embrace who you are and after you heal, allow yourself to love again. These are great lessons to pass onto your children. They will learn to be brave, and go forth in the world to find the love that they deserve, the kind that is right for them. To learn how to operate and move forward when you have kids and a separation is looming read, The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive by Robert Emery.

The Things You Learn after a Bad Relationship

Young couple on a sofa after a row argument

The Things You Learn after a Bad Relationship

Everyone has been in a bad relationship at least once in their life. For some it lasts a short time, for others years or even decades can roll by while their relationship is stuck in limbo, or gets worse and worse. Certainly you shouldn’t stay in a bad relationship or a bad marriage. That’s not helping anyone. Lots of people are staying separated long-term nowadays if they can’t afford a divorce. If you are staying together for the children’s sake, know a recent study out of the UK showed that children from single and step-parent households were just as happy as those from dual parent households. Really, the contention and tension in the house is far worse in the long-run. Still, after breaking it off a lot of people bury it or put it out of their mind. They grieve and then move on. But every relationship whether it was good, bad or just crumbled is something you can learn from. You do learn far more from a bad relationship however after the dust has settled, the pain has subsided and you can look objectively into the matter. Here are common lessons people learn after a bad relationship. See if any of these ring true for you. One thing you usually learn after dating someone who is jealous, possessive, controlling, critical, clingy or needy is to set boundaries and stick to them. Every relationship needs boundaries to remain healthy. It’s important that you communicate them to your partner, stick to them and not allow them to be run over.

You should have a better understanding of red flags and knowing when someone isn’t suitable for you right away. Lies, even little ones, changing plans all the time last minute, having a full blown argument in public and others are definite red flags. Carry on this relationship to your own peril. It’s like that Maya Angelou quote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Lots of people ignore problems in the beginning of a relationship because they are so caught up in how the relationship makes them feel, or because they are happy and just don’t want to be bothered with anything that might undermine that happiness. It’s great to have those feelings but ignoring these warning signs will only make things much more painful down the road. It’s best to nip it in the bud or let this one go right in the beginning and save yourself a lot of heartache. Though it may sound silly, it’s true. You do come to understand the value and appreciate healthy relationships once you have been through a bad one. You can also recognize it better. A bad relationship shows you how not to act towards a partner, things not to do and the consequences of those negative actions. Being through a bad relationship actually makes us a better partner, though it may not feel that way at the time. Being in a bad relationship makes you more compassionate and understanding, not only to yourself but also to the plight of others. We are more likely to reflect on and pivot away from our own bad behavior once we’ve experienced a relationship such as this.

Lots of times we have a gut feeling that something isn’t right with the person we are dating or worse are married to. But we ignore it and in hindsight we see that if we had just listened to that little voice in the back of our head, we wouldn’t have gotten into the situation that we did. A negative relationship can help you trust your instincts more, trust yourself more and become more integrated as a person. If you are the type to rationalize too many things away, chances are a learning experience like this will help you to trust yourself more and rationalize less. Some people can’t stand being single. They’d rather have a relationship, even a subpar one than be alone. But this stems from insecurity. A good relationship should be the meeting of two confident individuals who don’t need each other but feel their life experience is significantly enhanced by being together. A bad relationship may help someone who is insecure to understand that there are worse things than being alone, and in being alone start to work through issues that they’ve been blanketing over, such as insecurity. Finally, when you can’t trust your partner, when things fall apart you learn to trust in yourself, one of the greatest lessons any of us can learn, though some learn this lesson in far more grueling circumstances than others. For more, check out the book Love Is a Choice: The Definitive Book on Letting Go of Unhealthy Relationships by Dr. Robert Hemfelt, Dr. Frank Minirth and Paul Meier M.D.

Tips for Successful Co-parenting

divorcekids

Co-parenting well can give your children the closeness they desire with both parents and the stability they need to feel comfortable and confident. But it certainly isn’t easy by any means. It can be really stressful to set aside the relationship issues that pulled you apart to begin with in order to co-parent effectively. Trying to co-parent particularly in the beginning can be wrought with anxiety, frustration and stress. Don’t give up hope and remember that the welfare of the children is at stake. That should be all the motivation that you need. You can experience an effective co-parenting relationship with your ex. Here are some tips for successful co-parenting so you can remain cool, resolve conflicts, maintain consistency and create an environment where joint custody not only exists but is a healthy situation for the children. It can be difficult to make it work, especially after a bitter divorce.  It may seem unimaginably hard to put aside the anger and resentment and speak to this person you’d rather not ever see again. You’ll also find that setting a tone of mature responsibility may make your co-parent wake up and begin to take on that tone as well. First, you’ll have to talk about hammering out similar rules and consequences in both houses. This will help create consistency in the children’s life.

Learning to talk about or communicate and agree upon policies will send a strong message to the children. They will learn unspoken lessons such as sometimes some things are more important, so it’s better to be mature and compromise. You’ll teach them about working together, professionalism, cooperation and communication through your actions. Those are lessons that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Both parents have to agree to put their personal feelings aside in order to deal with the children. It’s like wearing different masks or hats. You both have to stay focused on the children and what’s best for them. If your co-parent forgets this, tell them to remind you and ask for the privilege of reminding them as well should they step out of bounds. Use positive, non-threatening body language when co-parenting with your ex-spouse. Don’t make them get defensive and don’t approach them defensively if you aim to talk about the children with them. Have the right approach instead. You don’t have to like each other but you have to work together to make sure that you raise the kids right. Don’t say negative things about your ex-spouse in front of the children. Do tell them the truth about why you got divorced, but make sure it’s age appropriate. Don’t blame the other one in front of the children. Agree with your ex that you and they won’t put the children in the middle. Don’t make the child take your side and don’t use them as a messenger. Neither party should use the children to get revenge on one another.

Make sure to keep a professional tone when talking about the children. Be neutral, cordial and respectful. Let any negativity slide off your back. It’s only going to hurt them more than you. Let them get it out of their system and remind them that the children are the most important thing. Don’t make demands, instead request things of them. Requests don’t cause a defensive mode but demands sure do. Don’t fill your head with negative comments about them while they are speaking. Really listen to your co-parent. You should be able to understand their point of view and show them as such, even if you don’t agree. Don’t overreact to things. Show restraint. Make a commitment between the two of you to talk or meet once a week or every two weeks to talk about what’s going on with the children. You need to be a unified front. Though you may not be together you are still their parents. That will mean a lot and on the discipline side it will also help stop the children from using divide and conquer methods or asking the other parent for something when the first has already said no. Make sure your interactions remain always focused on the children. Don’t veer off or you may land in dangerous territory. Make sure the rules, schedule, discipline, the children’s diet, their friends, any medical issues, educational expenses and financial issues are all worked out together and mutually agreed upon in advance. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep talking even if you don’t agree. Compromise. Show respect and expect it in return. For more, look for the book The Co-Parenting Survival Guide: Letting Go of Conflict After a Difficult Divorce by Elizabeth Thayer, Ph.D. and Jeffrey Zimmerman, Ph.D.

Dating Mistakes we make in Our 20’s

Group of people with drinks at nightclub bar

There is something joyous about your twenties. You are young enough to have the freedom you want and hopefully forward thinking enough to really enjoy it. No one is worrying about biological clocks just yet. Everyone seems to still be putting the finishing touches on their identity and are taking them out for a spin. There are those sowing their wild oats while others are seeking and finding what they think to be true love. Certainly a lot of who and how we love is found out by dating in our second decade of life. Many people make similar mistakes when dating at this time in their lives that either make for great stories today or gave you lessons you carry with you to this day. It’s important to reflect on those days. In fact, nostalgia such as this sometimes provides insight into your current romantic state. Here’s the mistakes most people make when dating in their 20’s. In your twenties your friends seem like everything. Sure you have those midterms to study for, and pesky term papers to write, but tonight is half off drink specials at the campus watering hole, and ‘you know who’ is going to be there. That irresponsibility may or may not have crept up on you in the form of pulling all-nighters, being on academic probation or hurting your GPA. You did learn to be more responsible. But spontaneity may have paid off. You probably took part in a sultry romance that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Remember running out of time and racing to get to your date, only to find that you were woefully unprepared for the night ahead? Sometimes you got through it. At other times you bored your date to tears. This is where you learned that a little preparation and consideration goes a long way. We fall way too far, too fast in love in our twenties.  This is the time when opposites attract, relationships are fun, or high drama relationships keep us interested. But they die shortly after. It’s important to realize how valuable peace is in a relationship, and having things in common. Sure an opposites attract relationship can be passionate, but if all you do is fight sooner or later you’ll break up for good. Remember taking that one person back for the second even the third time after they broke your heart? You thought they would change and they didn’t. This is a valuable lesson that people settled into adulthood still sometimes make. If they want a second chance see that they’ve earned it. Some people in their 20’s get stuck in “type” thinking. This person is your type, another is not. But when you get older style gives way to substance and a type just doesn’t seem that important, or even to exist anymore. Love in your twenties can be exciting, frightening, passionate and special. Those memories can last a lifetime. But remember the lessons you learned in those days. They will serve you well throughout the years. To learn more on this topic, read Ten Foolish Dating Mistakes That Men and Women Make and How to Avoid Them by Lila Gruzen.