One of the questions that comes up more than any other after parents separate is, what do I do if I don’t like the person my parent is dating? You can find some ideas here, here and here if you find yourself in that situation.
But, what if that person your Mom or Dad is still with is the person that caused the break up of your parents in the first place. Maybe the guy your Mom is with is the guy she cheated on your Dad with. Maybe your Dad’s new girlfriend is the woman he left your mom for in the first place. Maybe both of your parents are dating (or remarried to) the person they left your other parent for. How do you deal with that?
Let’s start by acknowledging the pain and the hurt that this situation causes. When your parents split up, it hurts! When you’re left to pick up the pieces and trying to figure out how to move on with life, it causes pain, confusion, stress and so much more. The loss of your family (as you knew it) hurts, and it is a loss that must be grieved.
When one (or both) of your parents cheats on the other and then leaves to be with the person they cheated with, the hurt and the pain can be that much worse. It is natural to feel betrayed, angry, confused or even abandoned. And, when your parent has a new person in their life, it oftentimes feels like they’re spending all of their time with that person and ignoring you when you need them the most. When that person is the one who “caused” the split, that feeling of being ignored or abandoned is even more intense. On top of all that, many times your parent will expect or pressure you to accept the new person in their life when that is the last thing on earth you want to do! So, what can you do about all that and how do you handle the situation? Here are a couple of suggestions:
Talk to your mom or dad about how you are feeling. Let them know that while you understand they want you to accept this new person, you are having trouble forgiving them or making peace with them because of the role they played. Be respectful and understand that this conversation will be difficult for your parent (as well as you). That said, getting things out in the open may help you both of you to understand better where the other one is coming from. If your conversations always end in yelling and screaming, consider writing your parent a letter. Remember, this is about sharing what you’re going through not bad mouthing or attacking anybody.
Find a trusted adult that you can talk to about what is going on and your feelings about this new person in your parent’s life. The worse thing you can do is to keep those feelings bottled up inside and/or act out in destructive ways instead of dealing with those emotions.
Accept the fact that you are not required to hate the new person in your parents’ life. It may feel like betraying your other parent to give this person a chance, but it’s not. Chances are there was more to your parents splitting up than just this person. How would you feel about them if you had met under different circumstances?
Practice forgiveness. It’s not always easy to forgive, and it might take you some time, but try to forgive your parent (and this new person) for what they’ve done and the pain they’ve caused you. Holding on to anger and hatred has little impact on them, but it will eat you up inside. Make the decision to forgive even if you don’t feel like it then work at it until the feelings match the decision (this may take a while, but it’s worth the journey).
Start a journal. Write down all those things you want to say but know that you can’t (or shouldn’t). Something about writing those things out helps to smooth the pain a little bit.
Look for the good, and choose to focus on that. There is generally some good in people who make bad choices and even in people that you can’t stand. What is good about this new person that you don’t like? Do you share any common interests or hobbies? Focus on those things rather than dwelling on the bad things. You don’t have to forget, and you don’t have to be buddy buddy, but choose to focus on the positive things for your own sake.
Avoid conflict. Where possible, try to avoid unnecessary conflict with your parent and with their new partner. Discussion is good because it seeks resolution. Conflict only seeks to impose one another’s views on each other. As much as you might like to, you can’t change your parent and you can’t change your parent’s new partner. You can change how you choose to respond. Respond in such a way that chooses to avoid conflict rather than pouring fuel on the fire.
Guard your heart. It’s easy to take on all of the pain, frustration, hatred and anger your parents are experiencing (or one parent is experiencing) as the result of a separation. You can be there for your parents without taking all of that on yourself. It’s not your responsibility, and frankly it’s not your place. Refuse to be a party to your parents’ conversations if they’re bad-mouthing one another, sharing details that you don’t really want or bad-mouthing your other parent’s new partner. Remind them that they are both your parents and you still love them both.
Finally, remember that just because one person lied to you or violated your trust, it doesn’t mean that all people will. Don’t let your current circumstances color your view of all people. This will be particularly important as you start to develop new relationships and move forward with your life.
If your parents are separated or divorced, you may have a lot of spiritual questions about God and faith and the church. Many times when parents get divorced, kids begin to wonder about why they even exist and sometimes that leads to tough questions about God and faith. Here at I Am A Child of Divorce, we want to help you as you search through and struggle with many of those questions. So, we have created a section for “Questions About Spiritual Stuff” that will address these question.
We recognize that discussions about God can be very polarizing and controversial, but the fact of the matter is that God can help you heal after your parents divorce and provide hope. To ignore that may avoid some controversy, but it would not be fair to you (as someone whose parents divorced) to ignore the issue all together.
Our goal in tackling spiritual issues is to be as honest and as forthright as we know how to be. If you don’t feel like these particular questions or issues apply to you, please just ignore them and continue to utilize the rest of I Am A Child of Divorce to help yourself in whatever way possible. However, if you do have questions about God and Faith, we hope that these answers will help you to sort through those issues.
Even if you do not believe in God, or feel like you don’t need faith, I would encourage you to at least read through these questions and answers. While the principal issues addressed are indeed about God and Faith, they also deal with the broader issues of meaning and existence. Regardless of what you believe, these are issues that we all have to face and divorce sometimes forces us to face them earlier than we would like.
So, stay tuned to this section as we intend to tackle questions like: (more…)
When your parents get divorced, there are plenty of things that can make you feel anxious or afraid. Here are some of things that children of divorce have told us they were afraid of or anxious about:
Moving to a new house or neighborhood
No longer getting to see one parent
Being left all alone
Losing grandparents, aunts & uncles or other family members
That the remaining parent may also leave
Having enough money
Loss of family rituals and traditions
Not knowing where they will live
That their parents will stop loving them too
Parents dating and getting remarried
Loss of family
Being blamed for the divorce
Having to take sides between parents
Disappointing one or both parents
People talking about them or their family
Being put in the middle between parents
Not getting to be a kid anymore
Losing stuff as they move from one place to another
Having to take on additional responsibilities like taking care of younger siblings
Whether or not their own relationships and marriages are doomed to fail
These are just some things that children of divorce may fear or be anxious about. These fears and anxiety can come and go as time passes. Which items from the list apply to you and your situation?
Anxiety and fear are often caused by a lack of information or a plan. In other words, fear often results from gaps – gaps in information, gaps in understanding and gaps in ability. Closing those gaps can help to alleviate some of those fears. One easy to remember method for dealing with your fears and anxieties is known as the “GAP Method.”
The letters in “Gap” spell out the basic steps in the GAP Method which are:
Assess the Odds; and
Play to Your Strengths.
By using this method, you can help yourself to get over those fears and anxieties and focus your efforts and emotions on more positive things. Let’s look at each step a little bit closer.
The biggest thing that feeds many of our fears is the unknown. When we don’t know what is going on or what is going to happen, we don’t feel like we have any control over the situation, and this leads to increased feelings of fear and anxiety. So, the first step in overcoming fears is to gather information. Do some research about the things that scare you. If your biggest fear is having to move to a new neighborhood or school, find out all the information you can about that neighborhood. Where is it? What it is like? Do you have any friends who live in that neighborhood already? What is the new school like? Does it have the same extracurricular activities that you’re currently in? If your biggest fear has to do with not getting to see one of your parents, gather information on that. What visitation schedule has the judge decided on? What is your parents’ plan for making sure that you can see both of them? What other options are available to stay in contact? Talk to your parents about these question. There is an old saying that, “knowledge is power,” and in this case knowledge holds the power to squash your fears.
When your parents divorce, you entire world changes. Many times, you are find out or are given information about one parent or the other which impacts your view of them. Perhaps one of your parents made bad decisions which and betrayed the trust of your other parent causing the divorce. Sometimes, your parents’ actions will cause you pain. You may even feel like between you and your parent, you are the one acting like the adult these days. Given all of that, how can you continue to respect or honor your parents?
It is important to separate the the person from the position in your effort to respect and honor both of your parents. Despite the actions of your parents, they have been put in your life and given the position of parent. You can respect and honor that position regardless of the acts of the individuals in those positions. Put another way, even though you’re your mother’s actions have left your father depressed and despondent, you can still respect her role as mother when it comes to setting rules and boundaries.
Keep in mind that respect is a choice you make. Oftentimes in our society, you will hear that “respect is earned.” This is not true. Respect is given. Respect is a choice. It is a choice to honor and respect a person regardless of your feelings towards them. You choose to treat a person a certain way whether they deserve it or not because you know that it is the right thing to do. Respect is not, and can not, be granted on a “quid pro quo” basis. You don’t choose to respect your parents because they respect you or because they treat you the way you feel you should be treated. You respect them because YOU make the choice to do so regardless of their actions.
Keep in mind that respect does not always mean affirming the actions of, or agreeing with the stance of, your parent. If one of your parents is making destructive choices, or worse yet encouraging you to do the same, the most respectful thing you can sometimes do is turn away for a time or a season. If your father’s house is unsafe, honor and respect does not demand that you stay there. If your mother and father can not get along in the same room, honor does not dictate that you subject yourself to that drama on your graduation or wedding day.
Sometimes, respecting and honoring your parents has to start with forgiveness. Quit holding on to the bitterness that you are feeling, and choose to forgive your parent. You will not be able to honor or respect them so long as you are harboring resentment towards them. It will not be easy, but choosing to honor and respect your parents can free you up emotionally and start you down the road of healing.