[NOTE: the following is an excerpt from my newest marriage relationship book, Guiding Your Children through Divorce]
An important factor to hold onto is that your relationship with your children’s other parent will never, never end. Far too many people are under the misconception that a divorce ends the relationship between a husband and wife. But if you have children, your lives are tied together forever.
Let me explain what I mean. Your children hold certain expectations for you and their other parent, expectations they will almost demand you either uphold or pay dearly for not upholding. In your children’s eyes, parents are supposed to do certain things, like attend their school functions, their ball games, band concerts, or whatever. No matter how you get along with your soon-to-be ex, your kids will expect to see the two of you sitting in the bleachers to watch them play— maybe they don’t expect you to be seated together holding hands and visiting pleasantly, but they do expect you both to show up. You’ll be called on to attend second grade plays, and junior high and senior high ball games. And you’ll be expected to both be at their high school graduation. Now, they won’t expect you to talk to each other because they’ll be teenagers and with their friends, but they will want to see that Mom and Dad cared enough to show up.
Then, shortly after graduation, you’ll both be expected to attend their wedding. And they won’t want to have someone poke their head in the back room and say, “Hey, can you come out here and get your mom and dad to settle down. They’re making everyone uncomfortable.” This is their special day. They want you to show up, look pretty, pose for pictures, and play nice together. In fact, they’ll be counting on it.
And then after that, probably in the middle of the night, you’ll get a phone call saying to hurry to the hospital because the baby is about to be born. And you’ll hustle off to see your baby have a baby. And I promise you, they won’t want to hear anything like, “Well you know I can’t come up while she’s there!” or “Not while that woman’s around, I won’t!” They frankly won’t give a single care about your petty squabbles or your hurt feelings. They’ve just had a baby. They’re tired and starry-eyed. They just want you to come in quietly, ooo and aww over the baby, pose for more pictures, then get out so they can rest. And THEN, that baby will expect (brace yourself) grandma and grandpa (that’s you) to both show up for his or her kindergarten graduation and little play and choral concert, and so on. It goes on and on.
Your responsibilities to work together and to get along will go on as long as your children and your grandchildren are alive. So you’d do well to figure out now a way to make this work. Because some very important people are demanding a lot from you. And there’s no piece of paper that will get you out of their needs and expectations.
Since your children will be a primary focus in your life for a long time to come, how you handle your divorce is extremely important to your new relationship. Your new spouse will be profoundly affected by the way you build your new relationship with your ex-spouse and your children. I’ve seen far too many second or third marriages destroyed by a mis-managed earlier divorce.
I’ll be talking more about how to make this work in upcoming blog posts. This new guidebook is taken directly from my award winning lessons for newly divorcing parents, which I’ve taught for nearly seven years to thousands of about-to-be single parents. You can get a copy for yourself at http://www.familymediator.org/childrendivorce.html