All but one of the adults at our Thanksgiving dinner were either divorced or remarried; and almost all the young adults were children of divorced parents… yet another modern American family.
But that’s not what I want to talk about.
What I do want to talk about is the unnecessary pain and complication imposed on our children after divorce – the very children we profess to love.
Despite this love, we divorced parents continue to revisit our bitterness when we “divide the holidays”. And, while we’re revisiting our bitterness, our children are along for the ride.
Why do we create a situation where our children have to choose which parent they will be with during the holiday?
Why do we teach them that it is OK to ignore the loneliness of one parent during a holiday?
How did we create this situation for them, and for ourselves?
It looks like our ego is managing the show. I know that all you therapists reading this would probably think, “Duh, Rachel, don’t you know that?” Yes, I do! And, still…
I don’t like the fact that we cannot put our ego aside for several days of the year.
I don’t like the fact that we keep on revisiting resentment to the detriment of our offspring.
I don’t like that we managed to live with this person for years and years – most likely beyond what was comfortable, and yet today it is all about one’s convenience during the holidays.
A young man told me once that he would be very uncomfortable being with both his divorced parents during a holiday. My thought was that he felt this way because he was not introduced to any other possibility.
Why can’t we manage to be polite and cordial a few days a year? To be polite and cordial doesn’t mean to hug and kiss, or to pretend. But it does mean that you take part in ONE celebration, all of you – without introducing the painful subject of choice.
Moreover, if children don’t feel the pain of choosing anymore; it’s an outcome of our having taught them how to desensitize themselves to their parent’s, and to their own pain and guilt.
Perhaps we forgot about teaching them kindness, because we forget about kindness when it comes to the ‘ex’.
Now I know that some experienced genuine abuse at the hands of an ex. If this was your situation, then you are justified when insisting on complete separation. But, for most of us, we divorced because we simply couldn’t get along.
I come from an “intact” family, but my parents fought non-stop.
I remember asking my father to get a divorce. He didn’t, which was just as well, because one way or the other – whether choosing one parent to be with during a holiday, or to celebrate a holiday twice –they still would have subjected me to their fights; their unresolved issues; but mostly their prideful ego.
Here’s my bottom line: If many years ago, you loved each other enough to have children, then man-up and be responsible for the outcome, which includes being inclusive. We have caused plenty of pain already because of our mistakes during our married life.
Not to be entirely negative, it happens the mix of people around our table this year included at least two re-married couples whose ex-spouses were at the table, as were their children; and two single ex-spouses, and their children. For the most part, we got it right.
Still, can’t we manage divorce better?