Screwing Your Kids In The Divorce, Part 3

by Bill Brenner on June 27, 2011

This is one of those things that is technically none of my business. But when I see a beautiful little girl suffering the consequences of someone else’s stupidity, it’s hard to stand there and say nothing.

Mood music:

There’s a guy I know who is staring divorce in the face. This is a message for him.

When a marriage falls apart it’s never a one-way street. Husband and wife are both guilty of falling short in this union. But it happens. We’re all human.

Here’s the problem: When divorce is imminent, both parties tend to find ways to hurt each other, even when they don’t mean to. It’s simple, really: You hurt like hell because it didn’t work out. It’s easy to focus on your future ex’s role in the failure but hard to look at where you fell short.

And so, seething with anger and eager to land a few crushers, you do little spiteful things to get back at her.

Exhibit A: You both have a little girl and need to share custody. Who gets her three days a week? Who gets her for four? What works best for each work schedule?

You’re not working, so you can have her any time you want. So you pick your days and leave your ex with the days you know she has to work.

This forces your ex to find daycare for your daughter and it ensures mother and daughter will hardly get to see each other on what is supposed to be their time together.

Now, in the best of circumstances people work and family time often suffers due to crazy schedules. That’s life. But when you can prevent such a situation from happening, why wouldn’t you?

Because you’re a wounded animal, and you want to maul the person you feel put you there.

Your own faults are too big to face right now. In fact, you probably can’t even see them. Your faults are like the sky — so vast it’s hard to focus on every bird or plane that crosses it.

So fuck her, you say. Let her deal with it.

Here’s the problem: You’re not just hurting your ex. You’re hurting your daughter.

I’ve seen it for myself. She bounces from one relative’s house to the next. She gets all the love a little girl can get, but she misses her mom. And because her mom has to drop her and run, she’s upset and confused a lot.

I remember when my parents divorced 31 years ago. I was 10 years old — in a much better position to process things than your little girl is now. And I was still confused and angry when they shipped me off to summer camp. I felt unwanted, lonely and isolated. The scars burn me to this day. Then the custody battles intensified and I felt like a piece of paper tugged at from both sides. Grab at something fragile that way and you tear it down the middle.

And my parents’ intentions were good — they wanted to shield me from the court proceedings and ugliness that goes with it.

Your intentions are crap. You just want to stick it to your ex.

You love your daughter and want to protect her. I’ve seen that. Your feelings as a Dad are not in question.

But you’re hurting her anyway. She’s collateral damage in your little dance with stupidity.

Nobody can make you do things differently. It comes down to the future you want for your daughter and whether you want peaceful co-existence with your ex in the years to come.

People can help you with a lot of things, but nobody can make your decisions for you.

So here’s a little advice from someone who was burned by divorce as a kid and just spent the last few years facing down a bunch of personal demons:

–First of all, start dealing with your issues. You have serious depression going on. I’ve lived with depression for much of my adult life and I know it when I see it. Find a good therapist who can help bring it out of you.

–Try harder to find a job. Sitting on your brains all day is fueling your depression. You have talent. I’ve seen it. You can never feel whole if your abilities are stifled. Besides, as a dad you have financial responsibilities. That includes helping to pay for repairs around the house. You may not live there anymore, but your daughter does. Refusing to help pay for things because you were kicked out hurts your little girl. That is unacceptable.

–As you approach future divorce proceedings, think about what’s best for your daughter — not about what’s worse for your ex.

You didn’t help bring a kid into the world to kick her around and leave her adrift. That’s certainly not what you want, is it?

I’m also sure you want her to love you the way you love her. Trust me: If you don’t stop this bullshit, she will learn to hate you.

She’s a smart little firecracker and she catches on quick.

Once she sees your role in all of this, she will hurt you back. Trust me: I’ve been down this road. The names, faces, finances and geography were different, but the hurt and the effect it had on me as an adult is the same.

Don’t let it happen.



OCD Diaries

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin June 27, 2011 at 5:58 am

Now if you could only get the dumbass to listen.. Good article Bill.

Jennifer Leggio June 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

Amen. This hits so close to home. If only I could force someone to read it…

Bert Knabe June 28, 2011 at 9:09 am

I pray he listens. And if he doesn’t, I pray for you the strength and thick skin to handle the anger he’ll direct at you for making him look in the mirror.

Practical Whimsy December 6, 2011 at 8:51 am

You’ve written a lot about kids and divorce, and it’s unfortunate that so many of the interactions have been so negative. I thought you might be cheered in hearing our story:

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