It’s normal if a teenager doesn’t know what to think when their parents get a divorce. It can be very shocking. The thoughts and feelings going through their mind are usually confusing and scary, having very little idea of what might happen to them or their family.
In many instances, teens might feel like they can’t talk with their parents about how they feel. They might be embarrassed or might not know how to express themselves about it.
But, most parents and a lot of other people want to be supportive of a young person as they go through such a challenging time. The hard part is being sensitive when approaching the situation or knowing what to say.
I think sometimes keeping it simple is best. All a parent might need to do is simply tell their teenager … “I’m here for you.” This will give them an open window to talk when they’re ready.
Below are 21 tips to give you more ideas to help you support and understand your teen during divorce.
1. Provide quality and simple support at a time when everything seems chaotic.
7. Support their feelings even if you don’t agree. Emotions aren’t always logical.
8. Acknowledge their emotions and continue to guide them with conversation helping them talk about their present feelings.
9. Teens need to know you care and that they are worth being cared about.
10. Find another person they can talk to such as a mentor, friend, therapist or relative.
11. Keep your teenagers routine as normal as possible.
12. Find them a support group with people their own age who are experiencing something similar.
13. Giving teens the time they need to think and experience divorce is ok. Sometimes it takes a long time for teens to process what they have been through and for healing to take place.
14. Divorce can be a big change, adjustments and living arrangements should be handled gradually.
15. Parents need to understand and be ok with what is comfortable with your teen with living arrangements. It can be tough to decide especially when couples disagree. But also keep in mind that some teens are able to thrive by spending half their time with each parent, others need the stability of having one “home” and visiting with the other parent.
I fell in love with a narcissist and lived to regret it.
The night we met, the moment I saw him, I wanted to get to know him. He didn’t make a move, though. Every time I smiled at him, he smiled back. I caught him looking at me several times but, that was as far as it got.
Connie and I left and went to another local bar. We sat at a table with friends and were talking. Within a few minutes, I looked up and saw HIM and his friends walk in and sit down. They sat next to an empty table. Connie and I got up, went out the back exit and back in through the main entrance. We sat at that empty table next to where he and his friends were sitting.
I was determined to have at least a conversation with him and, where there is a will, there is a way. I was determined to make it happen. You have no idea how many times I’ve asked myself since that night why I didn’t just let it slide. If wishes were horses, this beggar would be riding a damn fast one!
When we sat down next to his table, he felt the movement and turned to look. He saw me and a HUGE smile swept across his face. With that smile, he sealed the deal and I welcomed him in with no awareness of what that would mean for our children and me.
He was easy to fall in love with. He dropped a love bomb on me that no woman could have resisted. Unless, of course, she didn’t care for dimples and blue eyes.
What do I mean by love bomb, think flattering comments, tokens of affection, or love notes on the mirror, kitchen table, or windshield, or, flowers sent to my workplace. He pulled out all the stops. Within a month I couldn’t imagine life without him. I was full throttle in love.
What were some things he did to reel me in?
He was a jeans and T-shirt guy. I liked my men buttoned down. He went out and purchased 6 Izod buttoned-down shirts.
At least twice a week he would drop by work to take me to lunch.
Every time we got in his car he would reach over and buckle my seatbelt.
If I left his apartment in the middle of the night to go home, he’d give me time enough to get home and call to make sure I was there and safe.
He told me I was beautiful but not often enough that it would sound manipulative or cheesy.
He loved my friends and family. He genuinely appeared to enjoy their company and was always willing to spend time with them.
He shared his life with me. I didn’t have to dig for information about him, he readily volunteered it. He entertained me with stories of growing up with 8 brothers. He shared with me what it was like living in a mining community in Alaska and fishing for Salmon on a big fishing boat. He had led a life of adventure. I was a small town girl whose head was turned by phrases like, “I’ll take you there sometime.”
We planned our first sleepover, and he picked me up and took me to a local department store. He purchased new sheets, pillows, and a comforter and duvet. “Only the best for my girl,” he said. Imagine that? He wasn’t just thinking about getting in my pants. He wanted me to feel comfortable and cozy while he was in my pants. That’s the kind of shit that will make a girl swoon.
Two of my favorite things back then were Dr. Pepper and Snickers candy bars. On Valentine’s Day, he gave me a dozen roses and a gift basket with a dozen Dr. Peppers and a dozen Snicker’s bars. Imagine that, he had been paying enough attention that he knew my favorite soft drink and candy bar.
If I liked Chinese food, so did he. If I like riding Rollercoasters, so did he. He liked EVERYTHING I liked. I like romantic comedies, guess what, so did he. I loved John Grisham books, low and behold, so did he. I bet if I’d told him I like Herpes he’d have done whatever he needed to gift me some Herpes.
His father and brother came to town to visit him. He insisted I be part of all their plans.
He marked his calendar down to my birthday and made sure I knew that he was going to make it special. He told me I deserved to feel special, and “you just wait, your birthday is going to be something else.” And, he was right, he pulled out all the stops.
He was the most caring and giving lover I’d ever had. His focus was on satisfying me and making me feel cared for during sex. It was true lovemaking. Or, it was to me anyway.
He was like a fantasy, a gift of a man.
A man I had never imagined. You can’t fathom that kind of attention, affection, and love. Thoughts of a man like him didn’t lurk in the shadows of my mind because I had no idea such a man was possible. I felt like a 4-year-old who’d been given permission to eat a bowl of sugar.
We dated for a year. A year filled with comfort when he held my hand and feelings of security when he would verbally include me in his future plans. As an adult child of an alcoholic father, he gave me everything I’d ever craved. And then I became pregnant.
Tax time. As I dropped by the post office to get the right postage for the thick packet of homework to send to my accountant, I smiled to myself, confident that I had my financial house in order. It brought back memories of all the effort it took to dig a new foundation years ago, after my divorce.
I no longer get weak-kneed and shaky thinking about those months leading to the divorce. The request for a divorce came as a surprise to me. So busy with family and career that I hadn’t been attending to the finer points of our family finances—that was something my trusted husband did.
Evidently, I wasn’t attending to the marriage either.
Rather, I was full throttle busy but confident that it wouldn’t be long before we would have an opportunity to do a reset as a couple once our last child left for college. My husband was on another page. When the last child was launched, he would also start his new chapter. And, it didn’t include me.
The shock of divorce rattled me, and I don’t rattle easily. In fact, calm is my middle name. My career track steady and upward for the entirety of our marriage, I was now close to the top of my field, responsible for business lines that were valued at tens of millions of dollars. “On the rise” is what people would tell my husband about me at the rare work event of mine that we attended together.
I wonder now if that message didn’t send alarm bells to him—a signal that we were out of sync. After all, he had married a younger woman still in grad school with no prospects, and as he was older, his career was already launched. Perhaps neither of us took stock of what that would mean later.
Silly me, I thought we were happy and about to enter that golden time in a couple’s marriage when the burden of children is lifted, careers are set, and a second honeymoon is around the corner as empty nesters take the time to find one another again.
Some must find divorce a relief after years of strife, or abuse.
I found it confusing, embarrassing and disorienting. It took me months to feel myself again and to assure myself that the kids were ok—or as ok as they could be with their world shaken. But they had new worlds to explore, going off to college was a happy and understood rite of passage.
Divorce at middle-age is not. Although more “gray” adults are divorcing now, it still hurts me when I see a couple that is celebrating their 40 plus wedding anniversary. Surrounded by children and grand-children, toasting one another with loving looks, sometimes sharing a truth about having weathered a storm or two, but toughing it out. Good for them.
Life is hard. So, when you find someone to hang onto, it is a blessing. When you lose that person, it is difficult, regardless of the circumstances. After the initial shock wore off, and I adjusted to the fact that my husband of twenty years plus didn’t want to be married to me anymore, I wanted to get out of the marriage as quickly as possible. During that period of deep hurt, I realized how little I knew about our finances.
Pulling papers together, going through correspondence, talking to bankers, and finally, my own attorney, I was overwhelmed. I needed help. Someone to take charge of my funds—once I settled out— invest them, and work with me on managing them wisely. I also needed a CPA to help me with tax planning, short and long term.
I was startled by what I didn’t know.
It’s not like I was a princess who had waited for her prince charming to come along and rescue her. I was a smart woman who had navigated to a high-profile career with a great future ahead of me. But I had not paid attention to the essentials of investing for my own future. Why would I? My future was intertwined with my husband’s, and he was looking out for both of us, right?
I felt powerless and knew I had to take control to conquer that fear. And, I did. But it took years, and a small village, to get me to a place that feels comfortable.
How I Got My Financial House In Order
Fortunately, through the referral from a trusted friend, I found a broker who was indispensable when it came time to receiving my settlement monies and guiding me through the decision making on where to make investments. Another friend referred me to her tax accountant who turned out to be heaven-sent. To this day, she has my back and has recently helped me through the intricacies of college savings for my grandchildren.
As I leave the post office, I realize that my comfort now is due to the fact that I educated myself, took advice from trusted friends, and brick by brick learned to build my financial house on solid ground.
My lesson was learned the hard way. Married couples are partners for financial planning and the tasks should not be delegated to one partner only. Quarterly meetings to review your financials and make adjustments as needed, with both partners conversant and supportive of the financial plan is the best practice. Things happen, and when they do, the last thing you want is to be distracted about is your financial security.
When the kids were younger, Summer break was always a good time for us to spend a lot of quality family time together. We were able to make things work so that one parent was home, or we would enroll the kids in different programs that would work around our schedules.
When I became a single mom in 2015, life suddenly got so much harder trying to juggle the balance between work and family. I suddenly had to find alternatives for childcare so I could go back to work full-time just to support the three of us.
I dreaded the Summer because I had no idea what to do with the kids while I was working. They weren’t old enough to stay at home by themselves, childcare was getting so expensive for both kids, at a young age there wasn’t really many camps or programs they could join. It just became this big ordeal in trying to find something I could afford at their age.
I searched constantly for a work at home job or childcare that would work around my schedules. I juggled friends and family helping me watch the children or get them to where they needed to be. After looking for a few months, I finally found a job that after a few months would allow me to work at home. I live in a small town, so this was a huge deal for me.
Summer Child Care Tips
Plan, Plan, Plan
Summer break may not be the first thing on your mind, but it should be right up there on the list. Save up your vacation days and any earned time off work. Use those days off during the Summer when you may need them. Another option would be setting a little bit of money back each payday to go towards daycare or camp costs.
Ask about changing your work routine or schedule
Do you have a lot of college kids or younger adult coworkers that may be able to switch their hours or days around? Does your employer offer a work from home program that you can work towards? Don’t be afraid to ask your boss about changing your schedule or days to fit your summer break schedule. Be open and honest with your boss and maybe they can offer some help.
Ask Other Parents
You probably know or work with other parents. Start up a conversation about the kids and what they may be doing for Summer break. They may know of friends and family who own an affordable daycare or know of some not so expensive programs that you can enroll your child into.
If your child has made friends with a student who has a stay at home parent, check with them to see if they would be willing to help watch the kids during summer break while you work. You can set up a payment plan with them that would fit within your budget.
Check with your parents to see if they would be willing to help with summer care. Maybe they can watch the kids while you are working. They may also be able to help get the kids to different activities around town. My mom was able to help during the school year, luckily, she only lives 30 minutes away, so she was able to help on her days off.
Last Summer, our family who doesn’t live close, was able to take the kids for a few weeks at a time. This worked out well for both of us because they were able to spend quality one on one time with the kids and it gave me the opportunity to work without worrying. I could also work extra hours at that time for a bigger paycheck.
You can check with other members of the family as well. Maybe the kids have an aunt or uncle they can visit for some of the Summer.
Low-Cost Local Programs
Many places such as the YMCA, schools, and other organizations offer affordable day camps. This was another lifesaver for me. It was both affordable and they often ran until the late evening, so I didn’t have to worry about trying to get the kids from one place to another while I worked.
These programs often offer a low-cost option or can point you into the right direction of receiving financial help to pay for the program costs. Also, check with the state programs or local community or colleges to see what they offer. There is a local college here where they offer a discounted day program to qualifying families so that students get hands-on experience with kids for their degree.
High School Students and Siblings
When Summer hits, there always seem to be high school students looking to make a little extra money. This can be a good thing for working parents. You’ll often find this is cheaper than daycare or camp programs. Of course, you don’t just want any high schooler watching the kids so be sure to do your research and ask around to see if any friends or family can make a recommendation.
If you have older children who are responsible you can recruit them in as well. Since they are on summer break as well, they can babysit.
As kids get older it can get a lot easier to find things for them during the summer. Check with your local and state laws to see how old a child must be before you can leave them on their own. If they are old enough and responsible enough to take care of themselves that is another option. If they are at the right age, you can test their responsibility level throughout the year to see if you can trust them being home alone. Work on a few hours at first then move up to a weekend night. After you know they can handle it you can try it for a full weekend.
As a single mom, it can be tough throughout the Summer. Trying to juggle kids and work can be extremely hard and expensive. Start planning early and looking at different options to see what will work best for your family.
With a little imagination and some self-love as a foundation, divorce can be the gateway to living your best life and find your self after divorce.
When I had my children all those years ago, I was shocked to learn some hard truths about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
Some of the surprising facts no-one thought to tell me about include: there are consequences to natural vaginal deliveries, you can still look five months pregnant after giving birth, having children can lead to marital discontent, and the biggest shock of them all, many women lose themselves in motherhood.
Although it’s not widely discussed, identity loss is a real and devastating side effect of raising children.
I for one was secretly harboring a depressed state of low self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth, behind a calm and collected façade. It took a divorce for me to recognize this truth and eventually restore my sense of self. And now, as a Life Coach to moms, and a friend to many women with children, “motherhood, as an identity theft”, is an issue I see emerging again, and again.
Most recently I came across an interview featuring actress, Jada Pinkett-Smith, who bravely revealed that motherhood had caused her to “lose her groove”. Even as a star, in the throes of raising her children, she too found herself asking “Oh my gosh, where did I go?”.
It does seem to happen that way. You throw everything into raising your children, helping them build their own identities that you lose sight of your own. You wake up one day and realize you’re a distant shadow of the person you once were.
So, here I share my personal story about how I was able to piece together my identity and how you can do the same.
Art has always been my passion. I’ve loved art since I was a kid.
The most memorable picture I created was that of a bird. An Eastern Rosella, with its fluorescent yellows, bright greens, and deep hues of red and blue. This drawing, at the age of 10, ignited my love for creating beautiful things.
As I got older, I continued to dabble in small pieces of art, mostly paintings I gave to family and friends. But as life got busier with the need to work and the arrival of children, art became something that I only did with my kids. Whilst I focused on helping my children build their creative muscles, my own desire for personal expression was put on hold.
It wasn’t until more than a decade later, during the early stages of my separation, that I reconnected with this part of me.
In the quest to “find myself”, I decided to take up painting lessons under the guise of an accomplished artist. I created artwork that I was proud of and felt myself come alive. As I left the studio each day with paint on my hands and clothes, I also wore a permanent smile on my face that I just couldn’t wash off.
But sadly, financial constraints and altered childcare arrangements meant that I could no longer continue the classes. What started as the equivalent of writer’s block for an aspiring painter.
I lost my inspiration and flow.
Everything I did outside of those classes, felt below par.
Frustration started to build as I was no longer enjoying the process. I bought into the ideals of our productivity-obsessed culture. The guilt of wasting time and money on fruitless activity weighed heavily on me. I felt a need to make my works of art “saleable”.
To that end, I continued with my mission to create big pieces of art. I was stuck on the notion that “large paintings made a bigger impact”. Consequently, I started focusing too much on the end result. I lost sight of why I was painting in the first place – for the love of creating beautiful things.
One after another, half-finished paintings piled up into the corner of a room. Nothing was good enough. It was only a matter of time before I gave up.
Several seasons passed by before I found myself contemplating art again. I moved into a new house and came across my old, boxed up, paints and brushes. So, I decided to give it another go. This time I would ease myself back into painting and only paint for leisure.
Like reacquainting with an old friend, I started to relive the joys of painting again. I chose to do something for myself and it felt great.
From there I started finding more opportunities to do more of what I loved. With each act of self-love, I continued to discover other parts of me that I had left behind or long forgotten.
A beautiful quote by a soulful writer, Beau Taplin, comes to mind, which I believe rings true: “Self-love is an ocean and your heart a vessel. Make it full and any excess will spill over into the lives of the people you hold dear. But you must come first.”
As self-indulgent as it may seem, doing things that bring joy to your heart during divorce is not a self-fish act.
When you do things to look after and love yourself, you become the best version of yourself. Only then, can you give your children all of you and more.
So, what is it that you love or would love to do?
Were there things you wanted to do while married, but couldn’t for some reason (e.g. learn a new hobby, spend more time with family and friends, volunteer, bungee jump, etc.)?
Instead of making excuses about why you can’t do those things, research, make time, plan, find support to care for the kids, and do those things.
If money is a factor then that’s an opportunity to be creative. Brainstorm ways you in which you can engage in similar activities that will bring you joy.
In my case, I traded in big expensive canvases for small sheets of watercolor paper. I also swapped acrylics and oils to watercolor paint. Not only did this make painting more affordable, but less messy too.
Another example is my substitute for a trip to a Day Spa. A full afternoon of professional pampering may be out of reach, but soaking in a hot bath (uninterrupted), donning a face mask, with added bath salts, a good book, and a cup of tea, can make a world of difference to the hamster wheel of life.
There’s also plenty of resources and ideas online that show you how to make pampering products with ingredients straight from the pantry. Who knows, you could enjoy the DIY process more than the pampering session itself.
The possibilities are endless!
You, resilient mom, can now make your own decisions, try new things, make new friends, and eventually find someone to love you the way you deserve to be loved.
With a little imagination and some self-love as a foundation, divorce can be the gateway to living your best life and finding your best self.
It may have been months since your divorce ended, and you thought you were doing okay.
You were picking yourself up financially, making your home your own, and trying some new activities and were feeling pretty good about yourself.
Delayed Anger After Divorce
But then it hits you and won’t leave.
That anger–that pure rage once you look back and realize just how awful your ex treated you.
The time you found the messages from another woman on his cell phone.
Or when you’d come home after a week-long work trip, only to find the house a complete mess and him sitting on the couch watching football.
Or when you’d go to the gym together, after a few comments he’d made about “you don’t look like you did when we met,” only to have him completely ignore you and pretend he doesn’t know you there.
The list could go on and on. Each memory making you see a deeper shade of red, wondering why you didn’t see the signs–why you didn’t leave.
And it’s that feeling of unfairness and injustice that can make you feel blind and keep you from moving on.
That’s called anger, my friends. And it’s appearing now because you’re getting stronger.
These feelings of rage are coming because you’re healing. You’re moving on from the divorce and you’re getting stronger. But during that process, the present, more confident you have a new set of eyes that are looking back on the past you.
The stronger, more confident you are bearing witness to all the disrespect and mistreatment the past you endured and she wants justice, dammit.
“But Martha, why now? I feel like this is completely derailing my recovery!”
Think of your recovery in a couple of steps. The first step was when you were getting mistreated by your spouse, but you may have blamed yourself or you may have normalized it, thinking it was somehow just how your marriage was.
The next step is where you are now: you realized that the marriage is no longer healthy for you, and you are either in the process of divorce, or you are finished with the divorce and are working hard to move on.
So, the anger gap is actually the delta between those two parts. It is you now realizing that:
Getting treated like crap was NOT okay.
You deserved better than getting treated like crap.
You are now frustrated because you can’t go back in time to change the fact that you were treated like crap.
And it’s this frustration that you’re feeling now? That feeling is the Anger. The anger is directed in a couple of places:
It’s at your ex because he treated you poorly.
It’s at your ex because they will most likely not apologize and truly regret how they treated you.
It’s at yourself because you’re now kicking yourself that you let it go on for so long.
What a mess. It’s no wonder why you’re feeling stuck and not sure what to do.
But do you see the commonality with all these things?
They are all things you cannot control.
You can’t go back in time and get your ex to treat you better. He was a jerk who didn’t deserve you anyway. It’s as simple as that. No excuses.
You can’t “make” your ex apologize. You cannot “make” him suffer or feel bad for all the things he did. He’s most likely emotionally unavailable and him feeling bad and truly expressing his regret or sorrow ain’t gonna happen, sweetheart.
Trying to go back and dissect “what should I have done differently?” or blaming yourself for not standing up to your ex, or not realizing his toxic behavior only keeps you from moving on now.
So now what?
Redirect your anger to something productive and healing for you.
No, I don’t mean you have to pick a bunch of flowers in the meadow and make a vision board if you don’t want to.
Hell, I’m not even saying forgive him right now.
But what I am saying, friends is to channel that anger you feel into something that can help you move on with your life. I call this the PPF Model—short for Past Present Future.
Past: What lessons can I learn from this anger?
Present: What can I do NOW to turn this anger into something good?
Future: What will I do in the future to protect myself from this toxic BS?
It’s not easy to just “let go” of all the memories that are pissing you off right now. But you can’t let them keep you stuck in rut and unable to move on with your life. Right now, you have a choice. You can choose to stay stuck in a rut, paralyzed by a past you can’t change. Or you can learn from the past and let that anger remind you that you deserve better. And you’re the work it’s going to take to move on.
When we fall in love, it’s natural to become attached and form a romantic bond. But once in love with a narcissist, it’s not easy to leave, despite the abuse. Although you’re unhappy, you may be ambivalent about leaving because you still love your partner, have young children, lack resources, and/or enjoy lifestyle benefits.
Outsiders often question why you stay, or urge you to, “Just leave.” Those words can feel humiliating because you also think you should. You may want to leave, but feel stuck, and don’t understand why. This is because there are deeper reasons that keep you bonded unlike in other relationships.
You’re hopeful and accommodating and keep trying to win back their loving attention. Meanwhile, your self-esteem and independence are undermined daily. You may be gaslighted and begin doubting your own perceptions due to blame and lies. When you object, you’re attacked, intimidated, or confused by manipulation. Over time, you attempt to avoid conflict and become more deferential. As denial and cognitive dissonance grow, you do and allow things you wouldn’t have imagined when you first met. Your shame increases as your self-esteem declines. You wonder what happened to the happy, self-respecting, confident person you once were.
Research confirms that it’s common for victims to attach to their abuser, particularly when there’s intermittent positive reinforcement. You may be trauma-bonded, meaning that after being subjected to prolonged belittling and control, you’ve become childlike and addicted to any sign of approval from your abuser. This is referred to as Stockholm Syndrome, named for hostages who developed positive feelings for their captors.
You’re especially susceptible to this if the relationship dynamics are repeating a pattern you experienced with a distant, abusive, absent, or withholding parent. The trauma bond with your partner outweighs the negative aspects of the relationship. Studies show that victims of physical abuse on average don’t leave until after the seventh incident of violence. They not only fear retaliation, but also the loss of the emotional connection with their partner, which can feel worse than the abuse.
Additionally, codependents, who are usually preyed upon by narcissists and abusers, often feel trapped and find it hard to leave any relationship. They can be loyal to a fault due to their codependency.
After You Leave a Narcissist
Narcissists and abusers are basically codependent. (See “Narcissists are Codependent, too.”) If you distance yourself from them, they do what it takes to pull you back in, because they don’t want to be abandoned. Narcissists want to keep you interested to feed their ego and supply their needs (“narcissistic supply”). Being left is a major humiliation and blow to their fragile self. They will attempt to stop you with kindness and charm, blame and guilt-trips, threats and punishment, or neediness, promises, or pleas―whatever it takes to control you so that they “win.”
If you succeed in leaving a narcissist, they usually continue their games to exert power over you that compensates for their hidden insecurities. They may gossip and slander you to family and friends, hoover you to suck you back into the relationship (like a vacuum cleaner). They show up on your social media, try to make you jealous with photos of them having fun with someone else, talk to your friends and relatives, text or call you, promise to reform, express guilt and love, ask for help, or “accidentally” appear in your neighborhood or usual haunts.
They don’t want to be forgotten but keep you waiting and hoping. Just when you think you’ve moved on, you’re reeled back in. This may reflect their intentional spacing of contacts. Even if they don’t want to be with you, they may not want you to let go or be with anyone else. The fact that you respond to them may give them enough satisfaction. When they contact you, remember that they’re incapable of giving you what you need.
You might feel guilty or tell yourself that your ex really still loves you and that you’re special to him or her. Who wouldn’t want to think that? You’re vulnerable to forgetting all the pain you had and why you left. (See “Why and How Narcissists Play Games.”) If you resist their attention, it fuels their ambition. But once you fall into their trap and they feel in control, they’ll return to their old cold and abusive ways. Only consistent, firm boundaries will protect you and disincentivize them.
How to Leave a Narcissist
As long as you’re under their spell an abuser has control over you. In order to become empowered, you need to educate yourself. Come out of denial to see reality for what it is. Information is power. Read up on narcissism and abuse on my website. If you’re unsure whether you want to leave, take the steps in Dealing with a Narcissist to improve your relationship and evaluate whether it’s salvageable. Regardless of your decision, it’s important for your own mental health to redeem your autonomy and self-esteem. Take these steps:
Find a support group, including a therapist, 12-Step group, like Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), and sympathetic friends―not ones who bash your spouse or judge you for staying.
Become more autonomous. Create a life aside from your relationship that includes friends, hobbies, work, and other interests. Whether you stay or leave, you need a fulfilling life to supplement or replace your relationship.
Build your Self-Esteem. Learn to value yourself and honor your needs and feelings. Develop trust in your perceptions and overcome self-doubt and guilt.
While it’s normal to want to undo the past, being friends with your ex usually doesn’t work out. It’s a noble endeavor to want to be a friend to a former spouse but it can fuel your child’s reconciliation fantasies and prevent both adults from healing and moving on with their lives.
It’s especially problematic for the person who was left – or the dumpee – because having regular contact with the person who rejected them can make a person feel confused or give them a sense of false hope. On the other hand, the dumper would probably admit to feeling guilty upon seeing their ex regularly or worry that they are sending the wrong message.
When my marriage ended, I had the misconception that two good people (myself and my ex) should be able to stay friends after our divorce. In my case, I was looking for closure – but soon realized that letting go of the reasons why our marriage dissolved was a healthier decision. I also came to terms with the fact that I didn’t need to have all of the answers to why my marriage failed in order to move on.
There are many reasons why people strive to be friends with their ex after a breakup or divorce. Certainly one of the main reasons is that they have unfinished business that they hope to resolve. Our they may want to keep the non-intimate part of the relationship going because they have caring feelings toward their former spouse.
Erin, a 40-something teacher confides, “I couldn’t understand why two civilized adults couldn’t visit with our kids and hang out like friends. But Jason told me it hurt him too badly because I broke it off and he was reminded of his pain every time we got together.” This experience is a common one for the dumpee who might feel –especially hurt if their ex has a new partner and they don’t. It can add salt to an open wound that has not had sufficient time to heal.
Guilt Can Drive You Towards Being Friends with Your Ex
Another reason why people want to stay in close contact with a former partner after a breakup is guilt. Sometimes the person who is the dumper feels guilty about leaving the relationship, especially if they were unfaithful, and they want to remain friendly with the dumpee to help to ease their guilt. In this case, counseling with a qualified therapist is a more effective way to deal with these leftover emotions.
Further, some individuals keep their relationship alive because they hope for reconciliation but they don’t necessarily acknowledge it. According to Susan J. Elliott, author of Getting Past Your Breakup, “Examining your quest for contact and being honest about your real intentions will help you stop making excuses to make contact.”
Conner, 48, reflects, “I did all I could to keep in touch with Karen with the hope that we could fix things and one day get back together – even though I knew she was in love with someone else.”
7 Reasons Being Friends with Your Ex Doesn’t Work:
Most of the time, a post-breakup friendship is a setup for further heartbreak, especially for the person who was left and probably feels rejected.
It does not give you or your ex time to grieve the loss of the relationship or marriage. Like all losses, the breakup of a long-term relationship or marriage causes people to go through various stages of grief. In order to heal and move through anger, denial, it’s essential that individuals have the emotional and physical space to do this. Trying to maintain a friendship may extend the healing process.
You need to forge a new identity: After a breakup, it’s essential to lose your identity as a couple and to return to who you were as an individual, rather than half of a couple.
It can cause confusion for your children. It’s normal for most children to experience reconciliation fantasies and seeing their parents spend time together (social events, holidays, etc.) can cause them to long for their intact family. Children benefit from parents who are collaborative but not necessarily friends post-breakup.
You might not have been true friends and it’s problematic to start now. Sometimes, especially when there are children involved, a person may feel pressured to preserve a friendship that never existed or that disappeared during your marriage. So just say “no” and remain cordial to each other.
You need energy to “take care of yourself” and to form new relationships. Maintaining a close friendship with an ex (especially if it’s emotionally or physically intimate) can delay this process.
Acceptance is the final stage of grieving the loss of a loved one, according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and a post-breakup friendship doesn’t facilitate this process.
At some point, it’s important to accept the breakup of your marriage and come to a place of “it is what it is.” These anecdotes from bloggers help to explain how acceptance and setting boundaries with your ex can facilitate creating a new chapter in your life.
Katie, a 30-something high school counselor reflects, “When I broke it off with husband Kyle, he took it very hard. I thought that if we stayed in touch and hung out sometimes, it would help him adjust but it only made things worse. I let my guilt and his feelings of rejection be the driving force rather than common sense. It took him years to get over our breakup and I was left feeling even more guilty because of the pain I caused him.”
Justin, a 40-year old accountant shares, “It just didn’t work for Heather and me to remain friends. It got complicated without three kids and they felt more confused when we tried to get together. Then when I started dating Susie, they didn’t like her and kept talking about wanting their mom and me to get back together. It wasn’t fair to them and I didn’t want to give them false hope.”
Truth be told, it’s a great idea to be civil and cooperative with your former spouse – especially when you have children. Being allies with your ex can help children adjust and thrive post-divorce. That said, maintaining a friendship with your former spouse probably won’t allow you both to move on with your life after a divorce. Giving yourself time and space to regain independence and a sense of identity will serve you and your children well in the long run.
blame – adj : expletives used informally as intensifiers; “he’s a blasted idiot”; “it’s a blamed shame”; “a blame cold winter”; “not a blessed dime”; “I’ll be damned (or blessed or darned or goddamned) if I’ll do any such thing”; “he’s a damn (or goddam or goddamned) fool”; “a deuced idiot”; “tired or his everlasting whimpering”; “an infernal nuisance” 1: an accusation that you are responsible for some lapse or misdeed; 2: a reproach for some lapse or misdeed.
I was 45 years old, divorced and raising two sons on my own and for six years I had needed someone to blame for my predicament. I was finally able to blame someone after a conversation with my son. He was having some difficulty, emotionally, with the financial problems we faced to keep him enrolled in his college courses.
He was struggling at a time when his only concern should have been what courses he would take and living the carefree life of a college student. He was upset and through his tears, he said to me, “Mom, if we had played a role in this I might be able to deal with it. If I held some responsibility for the way things are with Dad it wouldn’t hurt so deeply.”
I began to reflect on my role in the pain of my divorce and the damage done to my children. Isn’t it human nature to want someone to blame your problems on? If there is someone to blame then we might be able to extract some justice and feel vindicated for our suffering.
As I sat thinking back I realized that the ultimate blame lay with me, the person who had fallen in love with and married his father. I had looked across a room one night a little over two decades ago and with one momentary look at his face, my fate and the fate of my children had been sealed. What came in between then and now has been, at times, powerfully loving and incredibly cruel.
How I Met my Narcissistic Ex-Husband
Connie and I chose a table close to the door and ordered a couple of drinks. We hadn’t been there long when I glanced over at the bar and noticed a group of guys sitting at the bar. I had an immediate and intense attraction to the looks of one of them.
He had a square jaw line, full lips with a perfect receding hairline. If there is such a thing!
He had a little boy look about him. He smiled at one of his friends and there were dimples, deep dimples that lay right below beautiful, icy blue eyes and rosy cheeks. He had a sweetness to his face and before I had even spoken to him, I knew, from his look, that he would be able to grab my attention and hold it.
And, wounded he was. Wounded beyond fixing no matter how hard I tried. He was one of nine sons raised by a devout Catholic mother who thought it her religious duty to procreate but not mother and an absent father who thought raising the children was women’s work. He became the love of my life, the father of my children and a man who would do immeasurable harm to those who loved him most.
Women, and especially daughters of divorce, can put undue pressure on themselves to find the right partner, marry, and develop a happy home life. But if they possess this goal, it can present many problems. For the most part, women from divorced homes don’t have a healthy template to follow when it comes to nurturing and sustaining a committed relationship, making it difficult for them to know where to start.
The following lessons were derived from my own experience and conversations with over 300 women I interviewed for my book Daughters of Divorce.
12 Lessons Daughters Learn from Divorce:
1. Revisiting the past as an adult can help you heal. In order to overcome the legacy of your parents’ breakup, it’s essential for you to get a more balanced, realistic view of your parents’ divorce. Many women in my study discovered that a lot of their assumptions about the cause of their parents’ split were false after they examined it from an adult perspective.
As a result of gaining accurate information, many were better able to move forward with their lives (and in some cases forgive one or both of their parents).
2. Reevaluate your view of relationships and adjust your expectations. The reality is that with time people grow and change. This doesn’t mean love has failed. Simply because love doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean there was something wrong with it. If you are hard on yourself or your parents, you may need to adjust your standards.
3. Learning to love yourself is an inner journey that involves examining your past from a fresh perspective. Take the time to investigate any carry-over from past relationships that might impact current ones. As a daughter of divorce, you can be your own saboteur. Write a positive intention to accomplish each day; boost your confidence by setting a goal and achieving it.
4. Self-compassion is a life-long journey. You may believe that you’re being selfish when you take care of yourself, or you may be left feeling you don’t deserve to be loved or have to earn someone’s love. But these feelings are based on low self-esteem and not based in reality. Change negative self-talk into positive statements such as “I am getting stronger every day.” You deserve to be loved and cared for.
5. Establishing a healthy level of trust in a relationship is possible but takes time. When your first reaction is to act out of a place of mistrust, this shows a lack of confidence in yourself and your partner. Trust is a skill that’s built over time by observing consistency between your partner’s words and actions.
Learn to trust your intuition and instincts and extend trust to someone who demonstrates trustworthiness. Consider how much your mistrust is a remnant of the past or as a result of your partner’s present behavior. Listen to his or her side of the story before making accusations or issuing an ultimatum.
6.Practice being vulnerable in small steps. Being vulnerable and expressing your thoughts and feelings to your partner will allow you to build trust and feel more connected to them. Does your fear of intimacy translate into testing a relationship by picking a partner who is wrong for you or picking fights to get your partner to prove their love? Setting a goal of being more vulnerable and accepting of nurturing and support from your partner is crucial to enjoying a happy long-lasting relationship.
7. Emotional dependency isn’t love. If your relationship causes you to feel anxious or to question your sense of self, it may not be the best relationship for you. Ask yourself this question if you’re in a relationship: Is there something about the way my partner treats me that makes me a better person? If the answer is no, you may be settling for less than you deserve due to a fear of abandonment or of being alone. These are the two most common reasons women stay in relationships that aren’t meeting their needs.
8. It’s OK not to rush into a commitment. In fact, getting to know a partner over time is wise and can help you to gain confidence in your judgment. It’s important for you to feel relatively safe and secure before you make a commitment.
9. You expect a lot from your partner but you’re also a giver. Sometimes giving too much can cause you emotional pain but being a giver is something you take pride in. However, it’s key not to morph into someone else when you’re in a relationship with a taker who looks to you as their source of happiness and fun (and may have trouble being alone). If you’re a giver, be careful not to allow a taker to zap you of your time and energy.
10. Counseling, reading, and blogging are helpful supports and can help you cope. As you experiment with new ways of relating to others, giving and receiving feedback is essential to your personal growth.
11. Relationships are your teachers. As a child of divorce, you know the sting of loss and are fine-tuned to the signs of rejection and abandonment. However, whether they last three months or three decades, relationships can provide their participants with the love, understanding, and intimacy they need at the time. Often, the courage to end a relationship that is no longer meeting both partners’ needs shows the greatest strength.
12. Both chemistry and compatibility are essential aspects of a successful long-term relationship and it’s possible to have both. Keep in mind that you can determine what kind of relationship works for you. Love is a leap of faith and there are no guarantees. This is true for all people, whether or not they are a child of divorce.
As a daughter of divorce, intimate relationships and marriage may present many challenges to you, but you must also realize that you are also armed with your own strength to face and embrace them. Truth be told, all relationships end: through breakup, death, or divorce. Why waste time being preoccupied with the fear of your relationship ending?
The concept of a wedding, or even a successful marriage, may seem alien to you but commitment and possibly marriage can be a source of stability in an uncertain world and bring you happiness.
According to researcher Nicholas H. Wolfinger, marriage is still the preferred state for most people. In Understanding The Divorce Cycle, he writes: “Doubtless, many people who remain single throughout their lives are happy to do so, but marriage remains the normative experience for most of us: about 90% of Americans will wed at some point in their lives.”
In closing, the best relationships are ones born out of trust and vulnerability. In positive relationships, each partner approaches one another as an equal. The relationship doesn’t drain its participants; instead, it nourishes. A successful romantic relationship is where you feel at your best.
It is possible to be vulnerable with others without losing parts of yourself. By doing this, you’ll be able to restore your faith in love, trust, and intimacy.
Follow Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com where you can purchase her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship. Her new book “The Remarriage Manual” will be published in the spring of 2020 by Sounds True Publishers.