Put your past behind you
Left over conflicts following a divorce often don’t get resolved, and often continue to linger many years after the marriage ends, suggests Aleta Koman, M. Ed, author of My Ex is Driving Me Crazy. The couples who continue to battle it out in court, for one reason or another, even after such issues have been laid out in a court order, are great examples of former spouses who are legally divorced, but still emotionally connected. These post-divorce issues not only affect the ex-spouse, but the new spouses and children as well.
There are many reasons why former spouses might still be emotionally connected. For some, it’s love. They know that they are divorced and could not make the marriage work, but they still love each other. For others, it’s the fear of moving toward a new life which they are unfamiliar with. For the rest, it’s guilt. Whatever the reason, all of them are excuses for remaining emotionally connected to your ex-spouse. And, if you continue to allow these excuses to guide your decisions, you are headed for years of dealing with an angry ex-spouse who can’t let go. The inability to create clear cut boundaries creates the angry ex-spouse.
After reading many books on creating a healthy stepfamily, dealing with an ex-spouse and co-parenting effectively, I have discovered that all of them must have been written by ex-wives (most are) because they are all centered around the ex-wife’s perspective. According to them, we should consider her feelings and understand that she might be threatened by your [her ex-husband's] new family or by your [the current wife's] presence. Imagine how much healthier your relationships and family would be if you took this into consideration, acknowledged her feelings and then acted accordingly. As such, we have created a blended family culture centered around only ONE perspective, and clearly, it’s not working! This perspective puts too much emphasis on what the ex-husband and his current wife need to be doing to make the ex-wife feel better and not enough focus on the children, and the ex-wife being responsible for her own emotions. As a result, I think it’s time for a different, healthier approach in which every adult is responsible for themselves, including their emotions, and the entire collective focus should be on the children.
To all my angry attached ex-wives
You may feel overwhelmed and scared of the new life that’s ahead of you. As a result, most of your reactions to your blended family issues are likely emotionally charged. Your life seems out of control and you’re desperate to hang on to that control. In most cases, you may have spent many years with your ex-husband and established a long-term plan for your life that now has to be changed. Worst of all, you have to do it alone. It’s scary, isn’t it?
Once your ex remarries, these feelings will intensify. You may become jealous, angry and resentful, especially if you weren’t the one who initiated the divorce. And even if you were the one who initiated the divorce, you may still feel intense emotions as a result of your past marriage. Why didn’t he treat me like that? Why wasn’t he willing to make it work with me? Why wasn’t he willing to fight for our children, but he’s there for hers or theirs? I want to assure you that all of these feelings are normal. That being said, you cannot allow these emotions to be the driving force in all of your decisions and continue to carry that baggage of your divorce. It’s not healthy for you or the emotional development of your children.
Remember that you are all grown up now and though you may be scared, hurt or angry, you are an adult who must make adult choices for yourself and your children. So, before you react impulsively to any situation concerning your ex-spouse or his new spouse, ask yourself these questions; “Is my reaction based on emotion or intellect? Am I reacting to the reality of the situation or am I living in my past reality?
It’s time to regain your sense of independence. Your ex-spouse and his new spouse are not responsible for you or your emotions. Not matter what they do, they cannot make you feel better. Only YOU can make yourself feel better. This sense of empowerment will allow you to regain control of your own life. It’s so wonderful and empowering to realize that your happiness depends on you. It’s scary to close a chapter of your life, but it’s exciting to realize that you can rebuild it even better than before. Not to mention that it will help your children do the same.
Empower yourself. Regain control, rebuild your life, let go of the past and move on.
To all of my enabling ex-husbands
You are partially responsible for creating the angry monster through your enabling actions. Guilt is your driving force that allows you to be inconsistent, thereby creating an ex-wife who feels a sense of entitlement to your life. The reality is that you are DIVORCED. You must change your perspective by viewing your ex-wife like an acquaintenance rather than someone who you have a permanent connection to. It is not your job to provide her with emotional support, be her shoulder to cry on or make sure she’s happy. That is not your role anymore.
An emotionally attached ex-spouse will try to guilt you into thinking that you have to or even force you to share everything with her because you share a child, but DON’T FALL INTO THIS TRAP!. Realize that you are not doing an injustice to your child by not allowing your ex-spouse’s emotions to dictate everything you do. Unless there is a SERIOUS issue, such as your child is being mistreated or is very ill…there’s no need for explaining yourself, defending your actions or discussing everything with your EX-spouse. Divorce signifies an end, a separation of two people who now go off to lead separate lives. You’re free to have your own life, feelings, thoughts, theories and ideas WITHOUT consulting or comparing notes with your EX-spouse. She does not get an all access pass into your life just because you share a child.
Set boundaries for your ex-wife early on, be consistent and don’t waiver out of guilt. No, you will not waiver from the set visitation agreement because it’s convenient for her, but not convenient for your family. No, she cannot attend any and everything that you and your family plan for your child just because she is his or her mother. You are entitled to your own private festivities and celebrations with your child, without your ex-spouse. You are not harming your child by insisting that you lead separate lives. Your children will only benefit from ceasing the back and forth, thereby confusing them all the more when it comes to the divorce. They need to know that it’s okay to move on and embrace a new family. Don’t allow the fact that your ex-spouse is confused and scared to let go to influence your child’s emotions. Your child needs to observe a healthy perspective and reaction and you can offer that ot him or her.
I encourage all of the ex-husbands out there to evalute the areas in which they are weak when it comes to the ex-wife. Are you reacting out of guilt? Are you setting clear boundaries? Are you being consistent?
Your ex’s emotional state is not your fault and you are not the cure. Guilt only serves as the fuse for a ticking time bomb that is just waiting to go off.
The beauty of divorce is that both parties need to realize that they are now FREE! Ex-wives, you are free to be independent, in charge of your own happiness and free to rebuild your life. Ex-husbands, you are free to have your own life as well; one that is independent from your ex-wife. Don’t allow your emotions based on your past to dictate your future decisions. Once you divorce, it’s time to let go; let go of the emotions, change your perspective regarding your ex-spouse and move on. You are no longer each others’ life partners. Yes, you both will always be mom and dad to your child, but you are no longer husband and wife to one another, and those roles must be clearly redefined. The only way you can truly be free of the life you once knew is to not only legally divorce, but emotionally disengage yourself from your ex-spouse, and from that point on, allow your intellect, not your emotions, to dictate your reactions and decisions.