Dear Barb: My husband and I have recently separated. The circumstances surrounding the separation were very painful for me. I thought we were happily married, until I discovered my husband was having an affair with a coworker. We have a 10-year-old daughter who loves her father very much. I have a problem relating to her warm loving feelings toward her father. On an intellectual level, I realize I should not let my feelings toward my ex-husband interfere with my daughter’s relationship with him. However, my emotions are becoming very difficult to contain. What can I do to overcome these angry, bitter feelings and do what is best for my daughter?
Carmen in N.B.
Hi Carmen, what a difficult situation for you. As I’m sure you know, you are not alone. Divorce is all too common in today’s society; unfortunately, the children of divorce seem to suffer the most. Don’t lose hope. There are ways you can help your daughter to adjust to the situation and grow up with a healthy outlook on marriage.
The most important thing you can do for your daughter (and probably yourself as well) is to talk about what has happened. Prepare her for the changes that will occur in her life, as well as yours and her father’s. Discuss your new living situation, while assuring her that she will continue to have a mom and dad that she will see regularly. Most importantly, assure her that she is in no way responsible for the break-up of your marriage. Children of divorce often feel if they had been better children their parents would have stayed together. A totally illogical thought, but when your world is falling apart you want to find someone to blame and sometimes it is easier to blame yourself. You don’t need to get into details with your daughter as to why your marriage ended. She is too young to completely understand. Although I’m sure at times when she is telling you how wonderful her father is you feel like blurting out what happened. That would accomplish nothing and only hurt her.
Children identify with both parents. If she begins to believe her father is bad, then she may start to believe that a part of her is also bad. On the other hand, you need to make sure that your daughter realizes that the divorce is final. Sometimes when parents are too friendly, or try to convince their children everything is okay, the children develop a false belief that their parents are getting back together. It’s a good thing to be cordial with your ex-husband, but limit your conversations to items pertaining to your daughter. Try not to talk about the past, or what is going on in each other’s private lives. Your daughter needs to see you both, not only as her parents, but also as two people with their own separate lives.
One of the horrible injustices children of divorce often experience is having to choose between their parents. This is something that children of intact families do not usually do. They live with both parents, so they don’t have to deal with the guilt of living with one parent instead of the other.
At times, for one spouse, the hurt and betrayal is so devastating, that the other spouse is not able to maintain their objectivity. If this is the case in your situation Carmen, I would suggest you seek counselling. There are all kinds of support groups for divorced people. Many churches offer groups for their parishioners who are going through divorce. Also, your daughter may benefit from a support group for children whose parents are divorcing. It would definitely be of benefit to you and your daughter to pursue this avenue.
An excellent web site to check out is www.divorcemagazine.com. It offers valuable resources for divorced individuals. Good luck in the future, Carmen.
Next week’s column is entitled “Diabetes is affecting millions of Canadians, learn things you can do to prevent or delay its onset.”
E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.