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If your parents divorced when you were a child, and you consider yourself a happy and well-balanced adult, what do you think your parents did/didn't do to help in the circumstances?

(37 Posts)
larlieandchola Wed 10-Jun-09 07:06:23

Exactly that.

I am separated from DS's dad, and want to do the absolute best by DS in the circumstances. I suspect that 'the best' conflicts with my not-infrequent instinct to throttle his dad cry/rant/bad-mouth his dad - which, other than the odd cry, I don't do in front of DS.

I have a feeling I need to co-operate with generous access arrangements, be jolly and friendly and talk positively about DS's dad, and simply smile when he says, "I love Daddy just a little bit more than you, Mummy," and, "I had such a lovely time with Daddy's new girlfriend, Mummy."

Please tell me if I'm on track here. If your parents split up when you were fairly young, especially if you now know that infidelity or similarly hurtful behaviour was involved, what about the situation/the way your parents handled it helped you grow up to be fairly content and well-balanced? How is your relationship with both parents now (if they're around)?

I am finding this painful and would love to hear some 'success' stories to keep me focused. Thank you.

travellingwilbury Wed 10-Jun-09 07:14:50

It sounds like you are doing exactly the right thing . My parents divorced when I was 8 and I don't think it has scarred me in any way . They are now both with different partners and have been for a long time . When I see my parents with the "right" partner and not each other it all makes sense .

You are right not to bitch about the dad , my mum did have a couple of slip ups over the years but on the whole she managed to bite her tongue .

Good luck with it all , I know from my mum how hard a path it is but well worth it in the end .

maria1665 Wed 10-Jun-09 07:30:52

My parents dealt with their divorce atrociously BUT my mum always seemed to be able to laugh at the ridiculous awfulness of it. That and admitting when you've cocked up I think is good advice - my sister came off a lot worse than I did and I think it was in part because she wasn't spoken to honestly. There will be a time when life with husband and new partner won't be quite so shiny and new - he'll need more than ever then.

Good luck.

PavlovtheCat Wed 10-Jun-09 07:36:13

What did my mum do to make me well balanced? She divorced my dad. Was the best, and probably only thing she could have done to ensure family harmony. In any capacity.

Unfortunately, it took until she had me and wanted no more damaged children to finally get the courage to leave him and while I am well balanced (or at least consider myself to be) my two eldest siblings are very damaged by the harm done through alcohol and violence.

I thank my mother for leaving that man.

kitbit Wed 10-Jun-09 07:38:56

I was lucky, my parents were amicable. However, they still split up, and it was hard but in hindsight the best thing was that I didn't hear any mention of any of their issues at all. No bitching (even when dad paid a paltry maintenance sum), no tight smiles at mention of dad's new wife which must have been HARD, but Mum's magnanimousness made a huge impact on me. And even at 10 I was able to see how she was trying to be a big person and be happy for Dad now that he was happy again, and I had great respect for her for it. I have tried to be as magnanimous in various situations and hopefully have managed it, but Mum's early examply was really influential.

tribpot Wed 10-Jun-09 07:39:46

Very important not to diss the other parent, and to maintain an amicable relationship with them. I remember when I graduated being very sad at the number of peers whose parents had said "I'm not going if your dad's going" and equally petty statements. My parents divorced when I was very young and I was glad to have both of them there along with my step-parents.

My dad has always made a point of telling me what a great guy my step-dad is (which is true). In hindsight probably quite a difficult thing to do.

I think it's important that your ds feels secure in the arrangements, knows it isn't his fault, and knows when he'll see his dad.

I know that I am a more balanced adult because my parents separated than I would have been if they had stayed together.

Incidentally, although my step-dad is like a second dad to me, my step-mum, much as I like her, is not like a second mum. No-one is going to supplant you in ds' affections.

Sorry you are going through this, btw.

PavlovtheCat Wed 10-Jun-09 07:39:53

Sorry my post was quite irrelevant to your circumstances. In yours, I feel you are doing exactly the right thing. You have to demonstrate civility towards and regarding your ex-p whatever you feel, at least in front of your son. Well done for being so brave. It is not easy.

One thing my mother never did as I grew up, was discuss my father in any bitter tones, or try to stop me from seeing him. I made my own decisions in that manner. All she did was make sure she would never be present if he wanted to see me, someone else would be. He never did. But she did not slag him off, or talk about him like the devil. I made my own conclusions as I grew older as we got to talk more honestly.

supagirl Wed 10-Jun-09 09:23:07

My parents handled their separation very badly. The WORST thing for me was the bitching and moaning about each other - even NOW all these years later each will take the opportunity to have a dig about the other.

My Dad was not always the most relaible but to hear my Mum saying "it's because he doesn't love you but it's ok because I do" was not very nice at all angry
To hear my Dad saying my Mum was a slapper who had been with loads of men was also not very nice angry

They both slated the others new partner as well, even having nicknames for them and seemed to relish every time I said I did not like/get on with them. I fact, I even used to say it to get away with things as I knew my parents would forget what I had done in order to take the opportunity to have a dig - not on.

Yes, it's affected me a lot, mainly in my relationship with my parents - I see them but would not say I was especially close to either of them. It affected my own take on relationships - I have 2 failed omnes behind me and at long last have figured out how things should be and am happy.

I have a child from a pr and I have step children, and it has made me determined not to put them through it. I NEVER badmouth the other parent to any of the kids, even though I know they do not have the same courtesy. I bed over backwards to encourage a good relationship and agreed to meet my DS new step Mum.

You are doing the right thing, it is exactly what your DC's need imo


thirtysomething Wed 10-Jun-09 09:42:28

mine divorced when I was 5-6; dealt with it atrociously - mum badmouthed Dad constantly, openly despised him and made me feel horrendously guilty every time I went on an obligatory access visit (which I hated as of course I blamed my dad for making my Mum so unhappy....) It was horrendous, has left me with very low self-esteem, an overexaggerated sense of guilt over the slightest thing and a lot of anger. For a long time relationships were very hard and i seemed to attract abusive types (have realised now I didn't think i deserved any better/to be happy). Am ok now but all of this ruined my childhood - my advice would be to never badmouth the other parent to your child and to encourage access and a relationship with the other parent, then all should be fine. It was the guilt that was piled on me that really destroyed me (especially as I was only 5 when dad left...)

LupusinaLlamasuit Wed 10-Jun-09 09:48:00

From my experience of parents who did separation/divorce reasonably well (I don't think you can ever mitigate completely the loss of a parent though):

Live nearby each other
Absolute civility and politeness
Non-resident parent needs to find ways of fully involving children in new house/family life
Don't expect children to bear emotional burden of your/his loss
Don't lie to them
Allow them (the kids) even expect them to be pissed off, without judgement from either parent

larlieandchola Wed 10-Jun-09 10:07:15

Thank you all for your posts. Magnanimous. I like it - I'm going to put that word and its meaning on a few post-its around the house for when I need reminding!

It is incredibly tough, I think because, in any other situation where someone is treated badly, they can, and often do walk away and wash their hands of that person - out of self-respect, self-preservation. Trying (having) to maintain not only contact but a convincingly friendly relationship feels counter-intuitive and quite a mental/emotional strain at times. You have to override your own boundaries and, to some degree, let that person 'in' when your gut is saying "Nooo!", IYSWIM.

tribpot, that is sad. I can understand it though, even if I think it isn't right. Even in the early days, DS's dad and I are able to attend parents' evenings, sports days and the like fairly comfortably - necessities for DS. But when mutual friends invite us to a get-together, my preference is that just one of us goes. It hinders the moving on process, I think, to keep on bumping into each other at jolly meet-ups. And I definitely don't feel ready to meet his new partner, let alone share DS with her. Maybe it's a matter of time.

It isn't easy going through this. I can understand why divorce is up there with life's most stressful experiences. Depending upon the day and how I'm handling it, I feel as though the situation will make or break me.

I'm going to bookmark this thread. It will hopefully help keep me on track when my instincts are driving me in a less magnanimous direction.

poshsinglemum Wed 10-Jun-09 12:26:33

This is a really good thread op. I am dreading doing all of this if and when dd's dad gets back in touch.
It takes a very brave woman to be amicable if she has been treated badly but do take the moral high ground and put on a brave face. If he has cheated on you then if you are sweet as pie it will make him squirm. Do it for your daughter. Also, try and be extra sweet to his misses even if you can't stand her. It will benefit your daughter in the long run.
Just keep thinking ''poor new woman - ex dp can have her.'' If your dd loves her then try not to worry- it will be good for her to form affections with other adults and you will always be mum.
I hope taht I can practice what I preach.

lal123 Wed 10-Jun-09 12:51:10

my Mum and Dad divorced when my brother and I were very young - about 2 I think. We lived with my Mum and have had no contact at all with my Dad since then. I have no idea why they split up, where he is or who he is (I have a half an idea of his first name).

My Mum never spoke about him to us and if we asked about him she'd make some remark about how if he cared about us he's make an effort to see us.

We used to get cards from our paternal grandparents at birthdays and Xmas - but nothing from him and no direct contact with them that I can remember.

Despite all that I think my Mum did a wonderful job bringing us up, and guess she had her reasons for not wanting him to be involved with us. She loved (loves!) us both very much, was a great role model for me as a stong working woman.

I don't think that not having contact with my father had an adverse affect on me - but who knows?? Maybe in years to come I'll need counselling!

bohemianbint Wed 10-Jun-09 19:12:06

My parents did a shit job, and only now am I starting to think I might be vaguely well balanced.

It sounds like you have a fantastic attitude towards it, even though it is really hard. So long as you avoid telling your son he is "exactly like his fucking father", making access virtually impossible and punishing him every time he gets back from seeing him, you'll probably do alright.

sarah293 Wed 10-Jun-09 19:22:45

Message withdrawn

vonsudenfed Wed 10-Jun-09 19:27:18

My parents divorced when I was seven, and any balancedness I now have is due to counselling.

Lots of good advice on here already, but one thing that is important is to allow your DS to express his feelings, whatever they are. I spent years pretending that everything was OK, because that's what my father (with whom I lived) needed to hear to make him feel he had done the right things. I nearly went mad. So if he's angry, upset, sad or whatever, he needs to feel that it is alright to say so, and to feel those things.

weegiemum Wed 10-Jun-09 19:30:51

My parents divorced when I was 12.

I am NOT a well balanced adult. I have had some psychotherapy, but am currently on a waiting list for a lot more, given a recent serious psych diagnosis.

I'm not giving you a success story. But know I will get there in the end!

kingfix Wed 10-Jun-09 19:41:36

Although I did not see my father after he left, my mother made sure I saw his parents and having 4 loving grandparents throughout my childhood was a great thing, for my mum as well as me. So I'd say if you can maintain a civil relationship with him, that sounds ideal, but if not, don't cut out his family if they care about your dc

digitalgirl Wed 10-Jun-09 19:48:47

OP I think the fact that you're aware of how this will affect your DS and that you want to do your absolute best to protect him means you've already gone a lot further than those with parents who divorced badly.

My parents seperated when I was 19, my sister was only 13. I consider myself to be a well adjusted adult, despite growing up for years in a really unhappy house. My sister ended up living with my dad, and isn't quite so well adjusted as me - but we're very different people anyway.

I don't know how old you're DS is, but I would try to ensure that you answer all of his questions about the divorce and the new life ahead honestly but don't go into too much detail. Once he figures out that he can play you and your Ex against each other (all children do) try to work with your ex to make sure that your joint parenting can still remain consistent.

Lizzylou Wed 10-Jun-09 19:50:16

My Parents divorced when I was 10, my complete No NO's would be:

No bad mouthing of absent parent/new partner

No discussing break up intricacies in front of DC

No stand up rows with ex's new partner in public (mortifying, especially when witnessed by your friends).

Make sure your DS feels loved and secure and comfortable at both homes.

Attend parents evenings etc together, I had to go with each parent sepearately, same with school concerts plays.

Try and be civil, it is so confusing as a child for the two people you love most in the world to hate/ignore each other.

So do the opposite of what my parents did really.

I know you probably feel really hurt and down right now, but the fact that you are even asking about this shows how much you love your son and want to do right by him.

CherryChoc Wed 10-Jun-09 19:51:44

My parents divorced when I was 6. My Mum's always been polite about my Dad and made sure to tell us he loved us, etc, even when he wasn't making much effort to show us himself. It was only when I was about 16 and she felt she could say things that she started to be more honest about him, but it was always either prompted by me, or if she had got drunk and upset about something (not that she drinks much, generally). I don't know about introducing potential step-parents because she still hasn't met anybody else.

I think I am well-adjusted because of it You are doing the right thing, and when your son is older he'll be able to form his own opinion about his Dad, and believe me he'll only get back what he puts in. (the Dad that is)

mololoko Wed 10-Jun-09 20:00:51

my mum does not help by flirting embarrassingly with my dad at every family gathering, in front of my stepdad of 25 years. it's excruciating.

other than that, she handled it as well as she possibly could and I really respect her for that.

dad was, and is, a bit rubbish. but i still love him too.

i really feel for you, you sound like you're doing great, hope it all works out for you.

BeehiveBaby Wed 10-Jun-09 20:01:15

IME the absolute most important thing you can do is live close by, whatever sacrifices that involves. Also, don't get DC, even when quite old to organise access over the phone, or mediate anything....the stress of that used to make me vomit.

You sound like you are doing great BTW.

bladders Wed 10-Jun-09 20:14:19

My parents divorced when I was 9, and I agree with lots already stated, I lived with my mum and even though my dad left her for one of her friends she never slagged him off or made us feel guilty. She just got on with her life and I admire her for that, although she was devastated at the time. She introduced my stepdad really slowly, and always put us first. Eg, he didnt stay over to start off with when we were there, and then when he did start staying he stayed on the sofa until we were fine with it all. They handled it pretty well, he was just someone nice and friendly who took us out and had fun with us. My mum and dad actually get on quite well now, and have new partners ( not the one he originally left her for) and they hosted my wedding together etc and it meant the absolute world to me to have them all there chatting away and being friendly.
Your kid will be fine, scarring for life occurs when kids are forced to grow up too quick and be emotional props for parents that have been hurt. You sound really nice and kind and you sound like you are dealing with it really well. Your kid will thank you for it, believe me. I have nothing but huge respect for my mum and a decent relationship with my dad as a result.

mrswill Wed 10-Jun-09 21:41:08

My parents divorced when i was 9, and i also had younger siblings.TBH my parents did all the wrong things - we would spend hours in my fathers car listening to him bad mouth my mother, and then go in the house and listen to my mother do the same. Although my mother did have a point. They also put their next partners before us children quite obviously. My brothers seem to be affected by it, but me and my sister have come out unscathed even though we were the eldest, and had the brunt. If i found myself in the same position as my mother i would make sure i put my children before any partners and keep as neutral as possible when on the subject on my father wink

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