In response to my article, “Newly separated man seeks custody advice,” I received this comment from a guy offering some divorce advice of his own:
I think the only part of Jackie’s divorce advice I’d disagree with is letting your ex into your house. Be nice, don’t make negative comments, but don’t let her in to Your house. It’s a space that you need to create and define with your kids and make it a home with their help.
Get their help to add personal touches to their rooms. Go on excursions and take pictures. Make collages that you can hang in their rooms. Put pictures on the fridge so every time they go to get a favorite snack they have a happy reminder of the things they’ve done with Dad. Have a sleepover with their friends. Peer support becomes stronger than parental influence as they grow up.
Have the custody schedule modified (if it isn’t already), to be four on, three off, then four on again. Having them for a greater block of continuous and consistent time should help. That way you and your ex are both staying in touch with the school schedule and alternating having weekend time with them. Stay engaged with them. They will get better over time as long as things are consistent.
“Be nice, don’t make negative comment’s but DON’T LET HER INTO YOUR HOUSE??!!!??” I literally wanted to scream and tell this guy how damaging this kind of divorce advice is.
He then goes on to say, “It’s a space that you need to create and define with your kids and make it a home with their help….” I love that and the entire rest of what he says.
But let’s back up and talk about why I am astonished that he would tell someone not to let his ex into his house, especially a person whose children are traumatized by the separation of their parents and having a hard time transitioning!!
First I want to make it clear that I’m not expecting any man (or women) to open his or her home to the ex, have him or her come over every night or have a key. I know there are boundaries that need to be in place, and I know there is a lot of hurt and other negative feelings when a couple splits up. But what I’m talking about is letting children show their mom their new rooms and all their stuff, their pictures and all the other wonderful things mentioned in his comment.
I have personal experience with this. I got divorced several years ago. A few years after my divorce, my ex remarried and bought a house with his new wife. In the nine years they lived there, I never saw the inside of the home. I dropped off and picked up my kids from there at least 200 times and was never invited in. In fact, they both made it very very clear to my kids that I wasn’t allowed to go into the house. A couple more facts: I wasn’t a stalker, my ex didn’t leave me for his new wife, my ex and I weren’t on bad terms, in other words there was no reason not to make my kids feel comfortable–like they had two parents who loved them and that they had a sense of family even though we were divorced.
Looking back, it was absolutely disgusting and selfish for the couple, and you know who it hurt the most? My kids. They were only 7 and 9 when they moved into the their home, and I could see in my kids’ behavior the awkwardness they felt about the whole situation.
EVERY SINGLE time, I would drop them off or pick them up, I could see it in their faces, how weird and uncomfortable they think it was that I had never seen the beds where they sleep, never seen the table where they eat, never seen the closet their clothes hang in, and never seen the pictures they’ve chosen to put on their walls.
When children of divorce see their parents get along (even just civilly) it makes them beyond joyous. It makes them feel loved and secure. When they see their parents give each other dirty looks or act like strangers, it kills them.
Several years later, (around the time COVID started, but even before then) I got to be friends with my ex again. He would come over and bring the kids food and sit at our kitchen table and talk with them, and their faces would light up. Seeing their parents laughing about old times and just being friendly was giving them a sense of security and confidence and love. My kids are now adults and they still enjoy it when my ex comes over and we are all together.
Does that mean that both of us forgot about the past? Nope. Does that mean we want to get back together? Nope. Does that mean we are forgiving things we did to each other? Nope. It just means that we have both moved on from the divorce, we are putting our children first, and we are coparenting beautifully. People think that when your kids get older you no longer have to have contact with your ex, and that is true technically. But what I’m finding out is that kids, even as adults have problems where they need their parents on the same page.
My divorce advice:
To be able to put your kids first like that and be friendly with your ex is also wonderful for your own self-esteem, sense of peace and happiness. I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m not saying we are perfect, but we do the best we can and our children are better for it.
So, what I want to say to this guy who seems to have his children’s best interest in mind (with the exception of the deep resentment he harbors for his ex-wife, to the point he won’t even let her in his house) is that being a divorced parent (actually, just being a parent) means being selfless and making the relationship civil, even if you have really negative feelings towards your ex. And you do get something out of it for yourself–a happier, more peaceful life.
So, if your child asks, “Dad, can mom come see our new bunk beds?” and you say no, you might want to think about it.
I’m so tired of hearing single parents (men and women) talk about how much they love their kids and how they are trying to make things good for them, and then putting their own need to “stick it to their” ex ahead of the kids, causing them pain. One example includes a couple who had separate birthday parties for their 8 year old daughter. The same set of friends has to go to each of the parents’ homes for a birthday party because the two have so much hatred they can’t even be in the same room together. It’s very childish and selfish, and weird for the kids.
In closing, I don’t know how to tell people to let go of bitterness. I once had a woman say to me, “I really want to let it go, but I don’t know how.” One step in the right direction is to let the love you have for your children conquer the pettiness and the clinging to the past. I know it’s really hard, and I’m not telling anyone to forgive and forget and be best friends with your ex. Just be civil and kind enough for the benefit of the kids. In any decision you are trying to make, ask yourself one question: What is best for the children? If you base your decisions on this, you will never make a bad decision.
Like this article? check out, “Can’t Get Over My Ex-wife” Says Divorced Man