I’ve made no secret about the fact that I’ve been divorced twice. It’s not something that I’m proud of because I do take marriage seriously and, for the most part, divorce is something that’s still very stigmatized in our society- something that I hope to do my part to combat. Divorce stigma is a subject for another day. Today’s topic is about what your relationship with your ex becomes after divorce.
In divorce #1, I was literally able to walk out of the courthouse and never have to lay eyes on him or talk to him again. I have no idea where he is, what he has done with life, or even if he’s still alive. In this situation I achieved the full divorce experience (as in “We are done. I want you out of my life. Goodbye.”) because we had nothing connecting us. We had dealt with splitting the debts and assets of our marriage and we did not have children together. See ya!
Divorce #2 was infinitely more complicated because we did have children together. I don’t have much of what you might call a “relationship” with him, but we do still have to text, call, and see one another in person on at least a weekly basis. Our exchanges are largely very to-the-point, dry, civil, and entirely kid-focused. Divorce with husband #2 did not succeed in forever ridding me of his presence, and that will likely never be achieved because of the kids.
Knowing the difference between divorcing a husband and the father of your child is of critical importance if you are contemplating this massive life decision.
Why? Because when you combine your DNA with another human being to create a child, you will be forevermore connected to that other person. For better or worse. For as long as you or your children are alive.
We understand that parenting doesn’t end upon a kid’s eighteenth birthday- correct? The scope of the parenting job changes as this now adult offspring is (hopefully) able to care for and support him or herself independently. You may not be packing a lunch for a field trip, washing a baseball uniform, or dispensing medicine to a sick child once the 18 barrier has been crossed; but, you will always serve as a guide, companion, counselor, and in other capacities once your child’s age of majority has been reached. Hopefully there will still be holidays and other special occasions shared, deep conversations, and many meaningful interactions for decades to come.
As much as you may wish to wave a wand and make an ex-husband disappear, you can never completely erase the man who is your child’s other parent, nor should you.
I have had my days, especially early in my divorce experience, when I cursed my ex’s name and the fact that my divorce didn’t succeed in obliterating him from my life. I hated this person, he made me cry, he was mean, he made me angry…and no matter what I did, he was still there! But, he had to be there. Thank God in many ways that he is still there. My kids are fortunate enough to have a dad who didn’t abandon them or wash his hands of them when the going got rough. My ex was not a good husband, but he is a decent father. In these ways, I did succeed in choosing someone appropriate to procreate with.
In an ideal world, the person we make babies with would also be the one we wish to grow old with. Just from a practical standpoint, it would be so much nicer to share the growing up of my children with not only the man who helped create them, but the man who stole my heart. I chose poorly in that department, but at least I managed to select a dad for my kids who would love, support, and stand by them all of their lives.
This sentiment harkens back to the days when my mother tried to instill relationship wisdom in me when I was a teenager. I recall a cheesy, yet, very wise saying that she shared with me “choose only a date who would make a good mate.” The thought behind this fluffy tidbit of advice is that when you date someone (or let’s be honest, get serious about them and/or have sex with them), you run the risk of pregnancy, and then you will find yourself forever stuck to that person. So, do you really want to give it up to the “bad boy” who’s making the rounds with all the girls and would probably make a lousy dad, or if you’re going to do it, wouldn’t it be better to roll those dice with a guy who has parent potential?
That’s the way I interpreted this little saying, anyways. I can almost picture it needlepointed on a pillow sitting next to some granny’s cat on her floral couch.
Simply stated: don’t have kids with a person you wouldn’t want to have to sit next to at a graduation ceremony 17 years from now or who you don’t think possesses qualities you would want passed down to your offspring! It doesn’t matter if you stay married to the guy or not because you will not escape the clutches of some level of relationship with him even if you divorce! Hopefully both of you made wise selections in the person you created children with. If not, you will have to live with the consequences of that decision forever!
Divorce allowed me to at least escape from living under the same roof as my ex. I can go literally days without having contact with him, and he no longer has any control over how I live my daily life. I do have a life very much separate from his, yet the two most important things in my life are not entirely mine. I once wished he could disappear, just as my first ex had; but, that wish was for me as an individual and as a woman, not as a mother whose children still needed and wanted their father.
My divorce succeeded in delivering me the divide from my then husband as the man I married. As an adult and a mother, I have to suck it up and think and act as a parent would do by keeping things that are important to my children in their lives. My children did not divorce their mom or dad, and we did not divorce them. My children did not ask for their lives to be disrupted by their parents severing their home.
Divorce is a completely different scenario when children are involved because the bonds between parent and child, and even between parents who made children together surpass even the bonds of matrimony. Taking off our rings couldn’t also finalize our relationship with one another as parents. Just as a parent’s role doesn’t end at 18, the connection between parents doesn’t end at divorce. I made a conscious choice to have his children, and whether I realized it at the time or not, that was also an eternal contract between our souls to forevermore watch over our children- together!
“You Can Divorce A Man, But You’ll Never Really Divorce A Father“— except if they are a narcissist and lacks any empathy and remorse. I was married to my husband for 36 years until he walked out 3 years ago. He will not recongnize nor have anything to do with either one of our sons, and our youngest is 25 years old, mentally disabled and on SSI. Diovored now from my husband and the boys father and must say, I married the wrong man and stayed eons too long with him. Being a father doesn;t mean squaat if they are sub-human beings.
Audrey Cade says
Well, unfortunately (and especially) if they are a horrible human being and father, you’re stuck with them in more ways than one! This is part of the point I was trying to make in this article. Whether we made (or thought we made) a good choice or not in a mate, once we have children with that person, it’s not as easy to get away from them as we might hope! In a divorce without kids you might be lucky enough to walk away from a divorce and never have to deal with them again, then again if they are a true narcissist, even that may not succeed in getting rid of them! Even if the man disappears (as it sounds like happened in your case), their shadow lingers over everything because of the damage and disruption their actions cause to kids who can’t quite get on with their lives because of the role that man plays.
I disagree. If your children are adults you can totally remove the ex. Adult children can make their own decisions about their realtionship with both parents. Once I divorced their father and no longer faciliated their relationship with their father, their father disappeared. He wanted a complete do over in his life, forgetting all family ties with everyone.
Audrey Cade says
I do agree that the relationship with the ex should change quite drastically once kids become adults because there’s no more visitation, seeing one another at school events, or discussions about the kids; however, there will always be something! What about graduations, weddings, grandchildren? What about major holidays when both parents would like time with the kids? I certainly look forward to the day when my interactions with my ex will step down a notch from where they’re at now. I don’t really expect that I will have to talk directly to him very much at all once my kids are adults, but we will both continue to be a part of our children’s lives for as long as we live, and there are bound to be overlaps. He will always be the “dad”, the “grandpa” of my grandchildren, and my kids will always have strong ties to this whole other group of people because of him. Adult children should make their own decisions, and we should allow them to feel free to spend time with whomever they want with no guilt strings attached. I don’t plan to be involved at all in my kids’ relationship with their father as they grow older, but I think a piece of him will always be “there” just because of who he is in their life.
Thank you for this. I agree with your article. Sometimes it’s nice to just hear it from someone else. I have a 17 year old from my first marriage. We can tolerate eachother now (took about 5 years). My current marriage that just ended in separation, we have a 9 and 10 year old. It has been ugly and he is not speaking to me. He does call the kids each night before bed. I guess that is all that matters is that he talks to them. We really have nothing nice to say to eachother, sadly. I am really not mad. Kind of relieved actually that he is gone. Not sure why he is so angry when he is the one who chose to leave.