08 October, 2009

When you trash their father, you trash your children

Divorce and The Monster Under The Bed

This blog post is about parents who hate their ex-spouse or soon to be ex-spouse more than they love their children. It could very well be you.

A very good friend of mine went through a divorce recently. I was very sad to see them divorce, I liked them both very much and was hoping their marriage would last. As far as I can tell, the big issue that ultimately caused their divorce was, of all things, health care. Without getting too caught up in the details, she had complaints about him, and he had complaints about her. Both were convinced that the other was an ass and was being unreasonable. Neither felt that they were at fault and both became increasingly convinced that the other was a really nasty person.

Both of them were right and both were oh-so-very wrong. That is nothing new - divorce is ugly - and couples who once crossed oceans and continents for each other wind up convincing themselves that they married the devil him-/herself. If there are no children involved, make some popcorn and get ready to watch a first-class drama unfold, I say. You will witness the dark side of human nature acted out right before your very eyes as the once loving couple sinks to depths you didn't even know existed.

Pity the children, however, who are forced to join this cast of Misèrables.

When children are involved, it's no longer amusing. If you care at all about your children, you will put your own feelings aside and behave yourself. You will act like an adult. Here are some guidelines in case you are unsure about what that means:
  1. Do not try to get the children to take sides.
  2. Do not say nasty things about the other spouse in front of the children.
  3. Do not withhold child support because your wife is a bitch.
  4. Do not try and prevent your husband from seeing his children - under any circumstances except when there is sexual or physical abuse occurring and you know it for a fact. If this is the case, then a crime is being committed and you need to call the police.
  5. Do not accuse your husband or wife of sexually or physically abusing your children if it is not true. A spanking, a slap or some other past event that you didn't think warranted police intervention at the time, should not be dug up and used as evidence against your spouse now. If you do this, you are a monster and should be ashamed of yourself.
  6. It doesn't matter what your spouse did to you, if he/she didn't do it to the children, keep it out of any discussion of custody or child support.
  7. Let me elaborate: it doesn't matter if your husband had an affair with your sister, your mother and your best friend - this does not give you the right to try to prevent him from seeing his children.
  8. Let me elaborate some more: if your wife decides to bed the entire line-up of your home football team, you will speak of her only with respect when the children are within earshot.
  9. Do not pack up your children and move. Until they are grown, you should make every effort to stay in the same city as your ex. If you have to forgo a great job, relationship or spiffy lifestyle on the beach because of this, tough luck.
  10. Encourage your former spouse to be involved in the lives of his/her children. Do not make it uncomfortable when they do. Even if your ex-husband shows up with his 20 year-old reason he walked out on you.
  11. Don't try and prevent your kids from seeing grandparents or other family members.
I am sure my list has missed some dos and don'ts. If you are ever in doubt as to whether you are acting like a jack-ass and hurting your children, consider this: You will never stop your children from loving the other parent. They will never have an epiphany and realize that you are the wonderful one who was right- and oh what a martyr you are you should be granted sainthood. At least, this will never happen without them killing off a little bit of themselves as well.

That's right. Without killing off a little bit of themselves as well. When you trash their mother, you trash your children. When you trash their father, you trash your children. In fact, you might as well say to them: "You are a horrid person who betrayed me and I hate you" - if that is what you say about the other parent in their presence.

You don't have the right to decide that your children would be better off without the other parent. They won't be.

So, suck it up, behave yourself, and do your complaining to a friend or therapist when your kids aren't there. You married the guy/girl. At the end of the day you are also making a statement about your own judgement and ability to make good decisions.

However you got to where you are, it couldn't have happened without you. So accept responsibility and do what is best for your children. It may be one of the hardest things you ever do, but your children will love you for it.

PS: In my friend's situation, his ex-wife packed up the children and moved back to Germany. He is Chilean and American, but the drama unfolded in Chile, where the Chilean "Tribunal de Familia" granted her full custody and allowed her to leave the country with his kids. She makes it very difficult for him to visit his two boys in Germany, insisting on "supervised visits of no more than an hour or two". Imagine traveling from Chile to Germany to see your kids for an hour. She is punishing her children because of a dispute over the amount of child support. She has also claimed it is harmful for the boys to see their father because they get upset when he has to leave. Her solution is to try and prevent them from seeing him at all.

I know this because I have been helping him communicate with various German social services agencies to try and persuade or force her to allow him to see his kids. I wish she would realize how much she is hurting her boys, and make it easier for them to see their father.