Divorced Girl Smiling received a heartbreaking e-mail from a newly separated man seeking custody advice. His two young children are having difficulty transitioning from one house to another.
Earlier this year my wife of 9 years left me. She said she felt we had
grown apart and she wanted to be with someone more extroverted. I have
always been a quiet person but she said she thought I had become
progressively more shy. She also said she had been feeling very sexual, but
no longer found me sexually attractive.
As you said in one of your recent blog posts, “nothing really bad happened”
in our marriage. She is a very conflict averse person and didn’t mention
any of her concerns about our marriage to me. I think the resentment
gradually built up, until by the time I noticed it and said something to
her, she no longer wanted to save our marriage. She said she had been
feeling this way for years, which absolutely floored me.
I generally think I’m a fairly sensitive person, but I completely failed to pick up on this.
Soon after I moved out she started dating someone. I don’t
believe he was the reason she left me, but he was the trigger: my wife saw
the possibility of a better life with him than she had with me.
I was – am – devastated.
We have two children: ages 7 and 4. Because we were
renting our house one of her family members, I was the one who had to move out. I
found a place to live that’s just a few minutes from our old house and we
agreed to share physical custody of the kids more or less 50/50. However, several
months after I moved out, my son is still not adjusting well. Handovers
from my wife to me can be traumatic, with one or both of the kids bursting
into hysterical tears.
My son often says he doesn’t want to be with me and
would rather be with my wife instead. At bedtime he often cries saying he
wishes his mom was here to tuck him into bed too. Although I can
understand this (his mother’s house is the house he grew up in, my house is
still new), I find this very difficult to hear, especially since I
genuinely believe that my wife bears the lion’s share of responsibility for
the failure of our marriage, given her failure to do anything to try to
I’m starting to wonder whether shared physical custody is actually the best
thing for him (and my daughter), or whether he would be happier if he
stayed with my wife all the time and I just visited. It would break my
heart to lose regular contact with him, especially as this separation is
not something I wanted, but I know I need to focus on what’s best for my
kids, not me.
Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.
First, I want to tell you how heartbreaking it was to read your story, and how sorry I am that you are going through this.
It’s difficult for me to give you custody advice because I don’t know you personally, I don’t know your ex, and I don’t know your kids. So, I can’t tell you what to do. BUT, I can tell you what I would do if I were in your shoes, and get ready, because I am shouting this: I WOULD NEVER GIVE UP MY CHILDREN!! Did you hear me? I WOULD NEVER GIVE UP MY CHILDREN.
Do you want your children to grow up with their dad visiting them? Or, do you want to be a huge part of their lives? You sound like a loving father who wants the latter. So, how can you achieve that? Here are some suggestions; things you can try.
1. Get help for your children.
Perhaps take them to a therapist. All kids have a hard time transitioning from house to house, some much more affected than others. But, they eventually learn to do it and it becomes routine and they end up totally fine with it.
2. Talk to your kids.
No matter how young they are, constantly hug and kiss them, tell them that you and your wife are both there for them, and both love them. Over and over again. Tell them they can call her if they miss her. Maybe it would help them if she stopped over your house and even sat down and had a cup of coffee in YOUR living room. That might make them see that mom is ok here, so they should be too.
3. Try to be amicable with your ex.
If your kids see you arguing, see the dirty looks, or even sense that there is friction between the two of you, it hurts them. It’s not easy, I know. She really hurt you. But be really nice to her in front of them and NEVER talk negatively about her in front of them.
4. Make your new home a REAL home.
No paper plates and take out and eating in front of the TV. Have dinner at your kitchen table and talk. Make your home warm and inviting and a place they feel comfortable going because it’s a real home, not a temporary place to keep your stuff. Hang pictures. Unpack. Bake cookies with them. Watch funny movies. Read to them.
All of these suggestions are difficult. I’m not saying any of these are easy, but if you really want your kids in your life, these are steps you can try that might make the transition easier.
I’ve seen many men “give up” because that’s what their ex wife wants them to do because she is angry and bitter. Don’t be one of those guys. It’s only been a few months. Give it time.
You sound like a great dad. Please don’t “give up.” You deserve to be in your children’s lives now and always.
Like this article? Check out, “I Can’t Get Over My Ex-wife”
Get support for yourself also. Whether it’s in the form of individual counseling or starting off in a divorce group. I think the only part of Jackies 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.
I love this comment and totally agree with everything…except for allowing your ex into your house. Trust me on this one. I’m not saying you have to invite her in every time, but not allowing her in your space sends a bad message to your kids. Thank you, though, for giving him all these other great ideas!!
I feel for you buddy! My ex and I divorced when my son was 1.5 years old. At the time due to a crappy lawyer and my ex being who she is, I got 4.5 hours with my son a week! No naps, no overnights, just 4.5 hours. I was scared out of my mind in regards to losing him. Finally after mediation and months and $27,000 I was able to get more time.
He hard a hard time transitioning at every change. From naps, to his first overnight to having two overnights now. His mother made none of this easy and is still battling me. But I perservered and now he is doing really well with me! I am going to start to talk to lawyers again soon to see about getting him 50/50 even if it is another 9 months and $27k.
I wish you the best luck in your struggle!!! –Mike