Divorce: We do not separate from our children

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Louise Hay


Divorce: We do not separate from our children

Last update: 24 March, 2022

There were 2016 divorces in Spain in 91.706. Divorce is part of a legal framework that aims to protect all family members, but it is perhaps one of the most difficult experiences in family life. Sometimes the process is consensual, although often one of the two parties takes the first step. Family affects in terms of protection, love and recognition. Its sinking leaves us loneliness, fear, pain or anger.

The marital breakup opens the door to the ghosts of the past. In crises, our personal history is reflected and our effective ability to face the present is revealed. For this reason, each member of the couple has their own answer to each question. There are people who put aside hatred and resentment, while there are others who erase the good times; there are those who do not want to face the facts and hang on to the hope of a reconciliation that never comes; there are those who forget with another person, or with many others ... As you can understand, the range of reactions is very wide.

But while the marriage is reversible, motherhood and fatherhood last for a lifetime. To process a divorce, adults must accept the breakup, but not their role as parents. Children should not be involved in an atmosphere of violence and resentment. And they must never become tools, bullets with which to hurt the other or messengers of hope for a possible reconciliation.

Divorce: when the war has no respite

Divorce should not be an obstacle to the exercise of paternity / maternity, nor a process that damages the privacy, trust and security that the child needs. Children are not an integral part of the couple and are not owned by either parent. Therefore they must not become an instrument of revenge, hatred or controversy.

Children depend on their parents, and even if they don't belong to them, they need to maintain relationships with both of them to grow healthy. It is not uncommon for one of the two parties to argue that his love is more precious and his care more valid, suggesting that the other's affection is insufficient or superfluous. It is one of the most serious mistakes, which can cause the greatest harm to a child. Children need contact with both parents for healthy emotional development. It is his right, as well as that of his parents, to be able to enjoy each other's presence.

Following a conflicted divorce, parents often hinder each other's relationships. In the most serious cases, one of the two parents ignores the child or even both abandon him. The cases that can occur are various, for example a total or partial abandonment of the child or even that the parents involve him in their conflicts.

The impact that conflicts have on couples, children and parent-child relationships depends on how they are managed and the spaces reserved for them.. The emotional cost can also be greater depending on how you try to resolve the conflict and how long it lasts. When conflicts are dealt with inappropriately, generating dissatisfaction, aggression and tension, they cause greater emotional distress and a rift between family members.

Consequences of abandonment

A divorce involves an important change in family dynamics, particularly at the relational level, but in no way should it involve the abandonment of children. The child's suffering increases if the absence, unreliability or disappearance of one of the members of the ex-couple is added to a conflictual divorce. Accepting that the father or mother are not present is very difficult, and it becomes an even more painful battle when he realizes that the parent is far away, does not respect the agreed visits or even does not want to know anything about him or take care of him.

The child who has been abandoned often clings anxiously to the parent who has him in custody. She often tries to control the relationship by grabbing all her time through very demanding behaviors. Behind this is the fear of losing the parent, a deeply rooted sense of insecurity. The process of separating from the absent parent is very difficult. The child has to detach himself internally. It is common for him to imagine his return and fantasize about it, thus idealizing the relationship and avoiding detachment.

If the parents go missing, the child may feel punished. He may feel compelled to suppress all manifestations of hostility and anger, and may even become extremely obedient and submissive by turning violence against himself. If not, he can choose the impulsive variant and adopt an aggressive and combative attitude.

"Having children does not make us parents, just as having a piano does not make us pianists"
-Michael Levine-

Conflict of loyalty

Loyalty is a feeling of solidarity and commitment that unites the needs and expectations of various people. It implies a connection, an ethical dimension and, in the case of the family, understanding and coherence among the members. Generation after generation, there have been systems of values ​​passed on among family members. The individual is inserted into a network of multipersonal loyalty, in which trust and merit are important.

In many families, such covenants may be hidden, that is, they may be expectations that are not verbally spelled out, but that carry rules that are expected to be followed by all family members. It is a measure of justice within one's family, an ethic of relationships that allows identification with the group. This implies that each member of the family must adapt their individual needs to the family network.

When a marital or relationship breakup occurs, and this does not imply the end of the confrontation, but a new framework in which to prolong the controversy, it is not difficult for children to feel the need to secure the affection of at least one parent. This is the so-called conflict of loyalty, children receive pressure (usually hidden) to approach one of the two parties, and if they don't, they feel isolated and disloyal to both parents. But if they decide to get involved to find protection, they feel they are betraying one of them. A family dynamic in which loyalty to one parent implies disloyalty to the other.

"The best inheritance of a parent for his children is to give him a little of his time every day"


Responsibility for the conflict

It is essential not to send children messages of double bind, that is to generate communicative situations in which the child can perceive contradictions. For example, telling him that it is not a problem if he goes with his father, but at the same time depriving him of caresses. Verbal and non-verbal language communicate opposing messages, in order to arouse strong dissonance in the child. The child perceives that he is behaving wrongly, but does not understand why, since he is the adult himself who is causing the emotional conflict. These dynamics are very harmful to children's mental health.

Success as a couple does not mean being together for life. If the two people and the family suffer from it, if a relationship is very destructive, success consists in separation. When marriage causes pain, decisions need to be made, perhaps considering divorce or seeking help from a professional who can provide therapy for the family or couple. However, the separation must not be followed by a abandonment of parenting responsibilities or the use of children against the ex-partner. Divorce involves two adults, who as such should act with maturity trying to manage conflicts and feelings without involving their children. Children and adolescents need adult support and protection to feel safe and cared for. It is the responsibility of the parents to encourage such stability.

If the process is too difficult for one or both partners, it is advisable to seek psychological help that can provide models to follow in this regard.. For example, how to regulate emotions, manage conflicts, make decisions, manage responsibility, seek support, etc. In short, being able to face a new phase by overcoming and closing the previous one. It is the way in which conflicts are dealt with that makes them constructive or destructive, especially if there are children involved.

"To pretend that parents, as a demonstration of respect, are free from defects and represent perfection, is nothing but pride and injustice"

-Silvio Pellico-

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