Divorce sucks. Raising kids with someone who makes going to the dentist sound like an all-inclusive vacation sucks. Seeing someone you spent your life with move on and be happy sucks. We can agree however that there is a right way to handle this and a wrong way to handle this.
Here’s some of the wrong ways:
- “Adele” your children every time they see your former partner. Stop calling thousands of times. Stop texting obsessively. Let them enjoy their time together. Stop interrupting. Nobody is obligated to respond to you immediately. Review the definition of ’emergency’ and adjust your expectations accordingly.
- Make it all about you. When you object to something, ask yourself, “Is this a legitimate safety concern or am I just pissed my former partner looks like he isn’t as miserable as he was with me?”
- Cherrypick from your legal agreement. Some parts of legal orders are unpleasant. We can’t just opt out of them based on what is convenient at the time. If we are audacious enough to believe we are above a legal document and consistently flout it, it’s poor form to then refuse to compromise if other parties ask for an exception. This also applies to removing your children from the country without consent, which might be construed as kidnapping.
- Badmouth your former partner’s new person to the kids. This includes things like “Daddy’s new girlfriend is a stripper.” Maybe she is. It really doesn’t matter. If it turns out she has a really kick ass job by even your narrow-minded standards, you will look like a nut bar (you might already look like a nut bar). Maybe she’s a nice lady who really loves your kids and is doing her best to be gracious when being forced to listen to terrorist negotiations every time you call (see point 1).
- Badmouth your former partner to your kids. It’s emotionally abusive. It’s triangulating. Why would you want your kids to feel bad about the part of themselves that comes from their other parent? In the words of a very precocious little boy, “It’s like telling someone their favourite song is stupid.” Keep your Koolaid to yourself. Nobody wants your Haterade.
- Lie to your kids about your former partner. If you decide to cancel a visit, maybe don’t tell them your partner cancelled and doesn’t want to see them. It’s twisted as fuck and hurtful. Own your inconsiderate decisions and take responsibility under the header of “try new things”. It’s like broccoli, maybe it doesn’t taste all that great but it’s good for you. It also sets an example of how not to be a sociopath, which your kids may or may not need based on a casual review of your historical behaviour.
- Put your kids in the middle. If a sentence starts with “Don’t tell Mom” or “Don’t tell Dad”, go wash your mouth out with soap. Encouraging children to keep secrets from their parents to suit your “needs” might backfire when it comes to their needs (like reporting abuse they don’t feel comfortable discussing with you). It sets a precedent that you believe the other person can’t be trusted (see point 5). Exception: Awesome christmas present you pick out together, because you have decided to be mature and cool like that. “Don’t tell Mom I bought her an awesome new piece of jewellery from you, I want her to be surprised on Christmas morning.” Or “Don’t tell Dad I helped you buy a cool advent calendar of his favourite craft beer, he’s going to be so stoked when he opens this!” Conspire only to be joyful.
- Don’t guilt trip your kids for visiting their other parent. Consider not referring to it as visiting, as where their parent resides is also their home. Don’t make them feel like a transient with your language and like they don’t normally belong there and are a weekend tourist. Pull yourself together and alternately, don’t send them to be dropped off by relatives who sob as if by allowing them to see their parent they are being sent off to war as child soldiers. They aren’t “cheating” on you and shouldn’t be left to feel like they are.
Congratulations on your new life! With these handy tips you might stand a chance of your kids wanting to hang out with you when they are old enough not to be sucked in by Svengali tactics and other nefarious methods of brainwashing and mind control. Remember you are raising critical thinkers and this skill may later be used to evaluate your shitty behaviour. You have a chance to be an awesome co-parent, so take it. Otherwise you’re going to end up opening packages of big girl panties every year in hopes you avail yourself of them, because you will have done your part to raise people as passive-aggressive as yourself. Divorce sucks, BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO.