My boys went to visit their mother over the just-passed holidays. They see her infrequently and this visit also included the first visit with their grandmother in about eight years. I got regular texts from each boy expressing different reactions of discomfort about the visit and tension between each other. As with much in life, things don’t go away and the emotions that were raised by this visit for them – and indirectly for me – were powerful. And, not easy. No one ever said life would be easy!
The wounds of childhood are hard to heal. My boys suffered some meaningful hurt from their mom and our divorce. It informed their childhood and will impact their lives for a long time, if not forever. What apparently took place on this visit was a reversal to habits and behavior a decade old – survival behavior. I received so many texts, at one point simultaneously from them, that it was hard to juggle.
I thought I had gotten over the pain of my divorce and all those emotions but, soon into this “visit,” though I was not present, it was clear to me that my feelings were equally raw. For me, it was mostly feelings of anger.
My divorce was hard. I often refer to those days as The Dark Days of Divorce. I was scared about how the custody would “work” out and I was worried about the cost of the divorce in fees (they ended up well into the six-figure range), and the final settlement costs. They all turned out to be extreme, so those worries were sadly well founded.
I have a VERY powerful memory of those days when, after I’d taken the boys to school, I came back to a big, empty, and quiet home and sat at the kitchen counter to eat breakfast. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and ended up staring at it, knowing I had to eat food to literally sustain myself, but having NO appetite. I literally force fed myself each bite of that bowl of cereal. During this period, I lost so much weight that I was about the same weight I was at 16 – 165 pounds (I’m now 195).
There’s a reason I call Family Law and Family Court – ANTI Family Law and ANTI Family Court! The best people will likely be corrupted, somewhere along the process, during a divorce and it’s especially bad in California.
So, if all this emotion still resides in me, how is it for my boys whose formative years were often consumed by the effects of their mom leaving, the lengthy divorce, and all the fallout that followed? And, to be bluntly clear, I don’t believe I was a saint throughout it all, though I tried my very best to NOT put the boys in the middle.
This visit made the answer clear. These “things” do NOT go away and the boys resorted to old behavior and old wounds were ripped open.
The Ex NEVER goes away.
To be clear, I am not blaming my ex for this particular episode. I have lots that I blame her for and my anger toward the wasted and lost money will likely never go away. Thankfully, I haven’t allowed it to make me bitter. I don’t believe in forgiveness for grievous hurts, though I do believe in letting them go since they can hurt YOU inside and out. Thankfully, I lose no sleep over any of this anymore and I’ve also gotten my appetite back, as evidenced by my substantial gut and insatiable hunger.
Unlike most men, I like to talk about my feelings and I was eager to discuss what my boys were “feeling” upon their return. But it was instantly very clear that they were not the least bit interested in having that discussion. I gave them the opening but respected their choice to not engage in that discussion. They have rarely been put in the position of having to choose a side (dad or mom), though I’m sure I have been guilty of occasionally propagandizing my viewpoint. That is why I used “rarely” in the previous sentence instead of my first choice of “never.”
It’s naïve to think an ex will go away, even one that is so uninvolved in their kid’s lives. I truly thought my now adult (at least chronologically) kids would have less issues from this visit. Their texts belied that (naïve) hope and their reluctance to address their feelings after the fact just confirms that this is far from a done issue. BUT, they are old enough to choose how they will deal with these feelings, their mom, and their perhaps over-attentive (and interested) dad.
Ex’s don’t go away. Emotions and hurts don’t simply fade away with time. But, we always have one clear choice and that is the attitude we choose to have about anything that has happened or happens to us. How do you deal with these kind of ongoing emotions? Is your attitude something you control?