There Is Nothing Loving In Living A Lie: Telling Children The Truth About Divorce

Posted at 02:37am on 20th April 2009

Dear Mel,

My husband and I are getting divorced. There’s no one else on either side. We just shouldn’t ever have got married in the first place. And I don’t think we would have been married as long as we have except that I’ve put up with everything that wrong without saying anything about it.

The thing is, our teenage children are beginning to blame me – even though they’ve seen some of the things that have gone wrong in the past and seen how their dad was at fault. One of my daughter’s says her dad is finding it very painful and that I’m being cruel – even though he was the one who moved out. Frankly, I’m finding this more upsetting than separating from my husband.

I don’t want to say anything against their dad, but I’m wondering now if he’s saying things against me and turning them against me. I’m not sure what I should do. If anything?

Lorraine

Mel's Comment:

Dear Lorraine,

I’m so sorry to hear about the breakdown of your marriage. It’s always a painful business, especially where there are children concerned. With divorce more commonplace these days, there is a school of thought that seems to believe that familiarity makes it easier. It doesn’t! Because how ever many divorces there are occurring around you, there is only one that’s yours. The experience is unique to each one of you, and each of you will handle it differently, depending upon your personality.

LOVE, HOPE & CHARITY

The thing that strikes me about your letter is that you appear to be about to repeat the same error you’ve been making all along i.e. saying nothing. Perhaps, like me, you were brought up to believe the old axiom ‘least said, soonest mended.’ Yet love, hope and charity (i.e. mercy / compassion) are supposed to be the three mainstays of life. And there’s nothing loving about allowing an untruth to go unchallenged.

Clearly, from what you say, you have not been happy. And neither, if your husband has moved out, has he. Had you both been able to be truthful in a loving way – and I don’t mean using that phrase as a feeble excuse for retaliation and blame, as some people are inclined to do – then hope and charity would have had a chance to work through your relationship.

Care For The Family may be able to put you and your husband in touch with a support group in your area; people who could help you both to work through the issues of what you perceive to be your incompatibility. They would help you to find common ground; mutual interests; the attraction that first brought you together. That would give you hope that you could still work out a future together. They would also help you to move towards forgiveness (i.e. charity) for each other where necessary.

Is it too late for this to happen? Could you suggest it to your husband? Perhaps even, in humility, suggest that it would help you?

TELLING CHILDREN THE TRUTH

If this is out of the question and the marriage really is over, then CFF are able to help there, too. Be sure not to miss the opportunity to live in love, hope and charity with your children. With or without the help of counsellors, they deserve to know the truth. Not the nasty, sordid details of squabbles between your husband and yourself, nor any wounding behaviour that’s occurred between you. But they do need to hear the facts in a non-condemnatory way.

Tell them that the breakdown of any relationship is never entirely one-sided and that you’ve both been unhappy. Tell them that somehow you and Dad have lost your way; that you’d be prepared to try to find a way back (if that’s true) and that you’d like Dad to do so, too. Tell them that you’re not superhuman, but that you want to get to a place where you can forgive him, and that you hope he can do likewise.

Allow them to see that you’re not simply the strong silent parent they’ve seen so far. Let them see your vulnerability.

But above all, tell them that you love them. And that because you love them, you never want them to feel that they have to take sides. And then – let them go!

Yes! Allow them to make their own minds up about whether they want to visit Dad; whether they’d like to live with him (if that’s practical); and what - and whom - they believe.

This is the hardest aspect of parenting: letting go. If you’re a believer, put your trust in God. Pray as if it all depends on you. Believe as if it all depends on Him. And in between, let love (which includes truth) hope and charity permeate all your relationships. God bless. Mel

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