April 28, 2011
4/14/2011 – Response to “Stop Putting Your Kids First” by Vicki Larson, HuffPost
I agree that parents shouldn’t sacrifice their needs for the sake of their kids – and I think this includes deciding whether or not to separate.
When the possibility of divorce is raised, someone usually comments, “Aren’t you worried that this will ruin your kids?” Many people still believe that staying together for the sake of the children makes sense. I question this long-held wisdom.
My son loves me and he loves his dad. He would not like to learn that his parents are separating, if that’s the route we ultimately choose. But I wonder how parents who stay in a troubled marriage are behaving in a way that benefits their children. Does it make sense to sacrifice one’s happiness hoping that it will save our kids pain and discomfort? Or is there already pain and discomfort living in a home when parents aren’t in synch? I believe in the guiding principle that what’s good for me is good for everyone, and conversely what’s bad for me is bad for everyone. It means that families actually function as a unit. When you take care of yourself and your own needs, are you also taking care of your kids?
Link to this comment on Huffington Post
April 26, 2011
4/12/11: Response to Diagnosis… Divorce?: Why Does Divorce Rank Up There with Death of a Spouse? (Rachel Clark on Psychology Today)
I think Crimson’s right. It’s interesting… I sometimes wonder if the fact that I never really threw myself full-force into marriage in this “all-American way” was a primary reason that mine failed. But I know FOR SURE that my unwillingness to do so is one thing that’s making its failure easier to handle.
I never thought of my marriage as a merging of two people. I didn’t want to give up my friends, or my ex-boyfriends, or my interests, or my “me time”. And, not surprisingly, my marriage lacked intimacy – maybe because of my hesitation to merge with my husband in the way I was “supposed to”, or maybe for other reasons, or maybe a little of both. But I did feel that I was able to hold on to who I was, at least until we had kids, then it started to become more difficult.
All of this means that my new, post-marriage life is not a huge departure from my married life. Old friends have become busy with other things while my attention has been on my family, but for the most part they’re not too far gone to call back. And like my marriage, I’m not doing my “divorce” in the typical way – we’re still sharing our home and not pursuing an official dissolution of our marriage. This means the financial aspects of divorce are, at least for the time being, not impacting me greatly. Even more importantly, living together with our kids means I’m not feeling the loss of my family in quite the same way that many divorced people do.
Maybe if we could change BOTH how we do marriage AND how we do divorce, with neither being quite so extreme, this whole thing would be a lot easier for all of us?
Link to this comment on Psychology Today
April 25, 2011
Comment on New York Times magazine article “Ellen Barkin is No Uptown Girl” by Alex Witchel, April 22, 2011
As I see the writing on the wall, the fact that my husband and I are heading toward separation, I take particular solace any time I come across someone describing an amicable split — especially when kids are involved. In this weekend’s NY Times magazine, actress Ellen Barkin talks about how she and her ex-husband, actor Gabriel Byrne, continued to celebrate their kids’ birthdays together — even their own birthdays together –long after their marriage ended. “Any time I cook a holiday meal, Gabriel comes here, and Christmas is usually his holiday, so then I go there,” Barkin said. “I don’t think a marriage has to last forever to be successful, and I think we had a good marriage and we managed to keep what was good about it alive for 25 years.” Every marriage does have some positives, things you shared, a spark that brought you together, and in some cases, kids you created whom you hope will thrive even when your marriage could not. That is my hope as I face uncertainty and concern about how my family will reconfigure after we separate. It’s a dream of mine that my son will have both parents at his birthday parties, at his important school events, and even at holiday meals. Parents don’t need to live together to share special occasions and provide their kids with as much love as they can on special occasions. That’s an act of selflessness that I hope we both can manage. Have you been able to have family meals or birthdays together with your ex for the sake of the kids? How has this worked for you?
April 23, 2011
4/14/11: Response to Divorce is Not Your Average Opportunity for Growth (OFG) (Susan Pease Gadoua on Huffington Post)
I agree that divorce can be an opportunity for growth and also that it’s not just your average opportunity – it’s a monster-sized one. And thank god that something good can come out of an experience that’s so difficult for so many people. But I question whether some of these other negative things HAVE to be true? Or are we so set on carrying out some traditional script of “how divorce goes” that we don’t see all the options that could be open to us? For example, my (ex)husband and I split up about 7 months ago. We have two young children and we still consider ourselves to be a family – more than just co-parents. I imagine that our family will flex and change over time, and that new members might be included. But I don’t see any reason that the original four members of our family should not always see ourselves in that way. I wonder, might we be able to grow even more from the opportunity divorce offers if we broadened our views of how we could go about it and what it can mean for our lives? www.rearrangingatoms.com
Link to this comment on Huffington Post
April 21, 2011
4/9/11: Response to Would You Introduce Your Ex to Your New Love? (Karen Buscemi on Huffington Post)
I can speak to this from the other side of the fence – I found it extraordinarily helpful to meet my ex’s girlfriend.
Shortly after we separated my ex started dating someone he was quite serious about and wanted me to meet her. Since we’ve got two kids together and continue to share our home, it seemed important that we find a way for the girlfriend and I to have a positive relationship. There were some misunderstandings in the beginning, before she and I met, and my ex felt that getting to know her would reassure me there was no ill-intent.
We decided to meet without my ex present — just the girlfriend and I, having a drink in the local bar. I was a bit nervous, but game. She was there when I arrived and her tremendously friendly greeting disarmed me immediately. We spent a couple of hours chatting about the things women chat about, and I discovered that I like her very much. In fact, I’m sure we could be very good friends, if only I didn’t have to share her with my ex!
In my experience, this kind of meeting, planned, on neutral turf, without the kids or even the ex as an audience, really allowed us to become comfortable with each other very quickly. And a bit of vodka probably didn’t hurt either! I’d definitely recommend such a meeting as a way to start off this kind of relationship on the right foot. www.rearrangingatoms.com
Link to this comment on Huffington Post.
April 17, 2011
4/7/11: Response to Talking to Kids about Divorce (Lisa Belkin on NYT)
My (ex)husband and I just had a conversation with our 4-year-old and 6-year-old about the end of our marriage. Although we’ve been separated for more than 6 months, the children weren’t aware because we still share our home and we plan to continue doing so. We let them know we aren’t married anymore and tried to reassure them by telling them it had been this way for some time already, and haven’t we all been having a good time together? Wasn’t Christmas nice? We already weren’t married then. Wasn’t our trip to Six Flags last August nice? We already weren’t married then.
Our six-year-old was very upset none-the-less. I was a bit surprised, because I wasn’t sure what the concept of marriage meant to him — I thought the most important thing would be that we’re all still living together. But he surprised me in another way as well. Later that night he asked me “Why didn’t you tell me when we went to Six Flags last summer? If you had I’d be happy by now.” Somehow, at the tender age of six, he already understands that when something hurts us the pain fades with time. Sometimes I think we (and I’m at the front of that line) do not give kids enough credit for being able to handle tough situations and understand complex concepts and relationships. It breaks my heart to know we’re hurting our kids at all, but I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to continue to talk openly about what’s happening, and that we’ll all come out ok on the other side. www.rearrangingatoms.com
Link to this comment on NYT
April 6, 2011
Chemistry. It’s a word we associate with great relationships, usually used to describe a really strong connection between two people. There’s even a dating website called chemistry.com, because it’s what so many of us are looking for. In describing relationships chemistry metaphors extend even beyond the word chemistry. When people talk about fireworks, a common way to describe what people with an intense connection feel when they’re together, they’re talking about chemistry too; in fact, the sounds, colors, and heat produced by fireworks are all a result of chemical reactions. Chemistry can also characterize the failure of two people to connect. Saying that two people mix like oil and water, in other words don’t mix at all, is a chemistry reference as well.
Chemistry metaphors can even represent divorce. For many of us it’s difficult to imagine dividing our families even if we’re unhappy. It was once similarly believed that the nucleus of an atom could not be divided, but nuclear fission – the splitting of atoms – was eventually achieved. And so too, do many of us reach the conclusion that the nucleus of our families can, in fact, be split.
But this blog is about the space between fireworks and nuclear fission – when a marriage isn’t meeting the needs of both partners but they don’t want to see their family go up in flames. It’s about the creative solutions people are finding to the stay-or-go dilemma and the positive outcomes they’re realizing. It’s about rearranging atoms, because theoretically, if you rearrange the atoms of coal you can create a diamond. Realizing that a marriage isn’t what you hoped it would be may be difficult and disappointing, but it doesn’t need to be a tragedy. In fact, people everywhere are finding new arrangements more rewarding than the original one, turning what began to feel like a lump of coal into something with a brilliant sparkle.
There’s a quiet revolution going on. Let’s talk about it…
(More soon to come.)