Does that mean that relationships go to Miami or points beyond when there is dissolution of the relationship and couples become divorced? Being a marriage and family therapist for twenty nine years, an instructor in the Court mandated Children of Divorcing Parent’s Course since its inception twenty years ago and for the past ten years a Parent Coordinator for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit, you wonder how far south do relationships have to go when divorce becomes imminent. I have witnessed all too often the impact of what once loving couples now engaged in a “War of the Roses,” have upon each other and the real unwitting and innocent victims of divorce…the children.
With our divorce rate hovering around fifty percent for first marriages and increasing approximately ten percent for subsequent second and third marriages, these marital disruptions strain parent-child bonds (particularly between fathers and children). One has to wonder why previous loving couples have to be so destructive and blatantly malicious towards each other.
Divorce is not dissimilar to death. In fact, it is a death, the death of a relationship as we once knew it. Its rippling effect impacts everyone in the family as no one goes through a divorce unscathed, especially our children. Sometimes, without even being aware of the irreparable harm that we are doing, we use our children as pawns in an attempt to retaliate against the other parent.
Statistics concerning children from divorced homes are foreboding. They have a higher school dropout rate, arrest rate, incidence of divorce rate when they marry, and a higher teenage suicide rate. The encouraging news is that it does not have to be this way. No one is asking you to love or even like your former spouse, though, for your well being and especially that of your children, there must come a time when you will have to learn to be civil and respectful of each other. Your child’s well being, psychological, and emotional health is dependent upon this. Not only will it enable you to better prepare for your future, it will enable your children to more effectively cope with their parent’s divorce, something that you as loving and nurturing parents want very much to do. Unlike a death, you will continue to see your former spouse at school and religious functions, at your child’s extra curricular activities, graduations, and in all probability, at your child’s wedding. In fact, one day in all likelihood, the both of you will share grandchildren together.
Remember, how well your children cope with the divorce is mostly predicated on how well you, as parents, handle the divorce. While the relationship may have boarded a flight south, both of you have the power to disembark without your baggage and allow it to travel south by itself. What a wonderful idea…unclaimed negative baggage on the carousel, remaining forever unopened.
Walt Liebman, Ed.S., is a marriage and family therapist in private practice in South Miami, President elect of the Miami Dade Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and an instructor at Miami Dade College and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 305.665.4177.