I originally posted this on my personal blog, but feel it is appropriate to share with all of you, so I am posting it here as well. I have discussed guilt and how to overcome it, but this is a more personal look at post divorce guilt.
I think it is important to share pieces of my own story, so you can all see that I have been there and that I know where you are coming from. I have been divorced for almost 6 years. The whys and how of what happened is not pertinent. Let’s just say the marriage was a debacle of the Nth degree, and things needed to be changed, so I changed them.
But, did I create a bigger debacle by changing things? I sometimes think I did.
My children are raised Jewish in both homes, but in such different ways, that it is almost as if they are not even the same religion. Is that where the guilt is from? No. They will learn from him and from me and will have a wealth of information to choose how they will live their lives as adults. And, no matter what they choose, they will be loved by me always and with no judgment.
But, where the guilt does come in, is the solitude they experience when they are not with me. Being anti social is an art form. Being anti parent is an art form. And, if it were a career, then my ex would as rich as King Midas. But, it is not, and it hurts my kids that they have to cease activity and social outlets when they are with their father.
They have learned and accepted this fact. He is who he is. They can’t change him, and believe me, they have asked…
“I have baseball practice, will you take me?”
They know that means no. They hardly ask anymore, but they do complain to me about it…a lot. So, in my guilt, I overindulge; over satisfy, over book and over do for them when they are here. Am I doing them any favors? No. But, I am at a loss. I have this urge to “make up” for the times they are not here and are denied things they want to do.
It’s a vicious circle and a debacle of the highest order. But, it is my life. Divorced parent guilt.
For those of you who experience this same type of guilt, how do you handle it? Do you roll with it or do you overcompensate like I do?
Acknowledge, accept, empower and heal.
When did I Heal
When I sat across the courtroom table facing my ex husband and his shiny new wife, I couldn’t help but think that I felt nothing. I wasn’t angry anymore. I wasn’t scared. I tried to remember what it was like to be married to him, and I drew a blank. I looked hard at him to see if there was any love left, and it was like trying to peer into the depths of an acquaintance.
When did I heal? When did I become okay? I don’t remember a specific incident when it happened. I just looked at him today, the culmination of a very long and very ugly contempt court battle after the divorce, and realized I was fine.
I stood up to him. I didn’t back down, no matter how many times he threatened, cajoled or got mean. I didn’t roll over and play dead. It was the first time. This trial. He was used to stomping all over me and leaving large shoe marks up and down my spine.
I remember when I used to ask him about things I had done, what his thoughts were. He would always reply with, “Why do you always need a pat on the back?” I didn’t want validation or even a “Good Job, Honey”; I just wanted acknowledgment that I existed as more than the babysitter, taxi driver, homework helper, cook, maid and whore.
I spent 5 years married to this man, sharing his bed and helping him raise his children and our children. I spent the two years after divorce in my attorney’s office, counting up the number of offenses he had committed by not following the decree. Recounting things my children had told me that had happened to them while in his care. I was angry. I was fed up. I was done.
Perhaps it was when we met in at my attorney’s offices to sign a change to the temporary orders regarding visitation, when he had given in over coffee at Whole Foods. Perhaps it was when I told him I was sick and the doctors did not know what was wrong with me, and he cried.
I didn’t know. I just knew that sitting in that courtroom, staring at him and his shiny new wife across that table, that I was not only okay, but I was going to be okay. I knew that after being married and subsequently divorced from him, that he had given me three gifts. My son, my daughter and the knowledge that life will never be as hard as it was with him, and if I can make it through all of this, I can make it through anything.
Acknowledge, Accept, Empower and Heal.