When a Girl Dreams
Navigating Separation and Divorce in the Best Interest of the Child
by Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
Before we can address the issue of separation and divorce in the lives of children, we need to validate the experience of the adults. I distinctly remember sitting with a woman in my office who was hiring me to work with her children on issues
surrounding her divorce from their father. As we talked over the nuts and bolts of the legal agreements, the history of the marriage, the fall and the readjustment, she had this weight that seemed so heavy to me. There were no tears, no significant anger, just the facts and the weight. I paused and said, “I’m sure this isn’t the fairy tale that you dreamed of as a young girl.” The flood of tears began. Without regard to who’s fault the marriage failure was, she had never acknowledged the sadness over the broken dreams until then.
The media may like to have us think that marriage to the same person for a lifetime is a thing of the past. They would have us think that a girl no longer dreams of getting married, for we are now in the “better to never marry than to have to go through a divorce” generation, as if somehow the pain from broken relationships is avoided if the woman never wears the dress and the man never wears the tux and the two never say the vows. “For what do vows mean anyway? They can be broken.”
Are you buying this new wave of thinking?
I don’t deny that there are young girls who do not dream of getting married one day and having a family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. They have other dreams.
However, a great many girls will simply naturally dream of a man one day going down on a bent knee, taking her hand and asking her to marry him.
So in this supposed new way of thinking, at what point does the girl change her mind? Has the supposed cultural wave impacted them so early as to alter the theme of their doll or Barbie play? Or is it in middle school, when, in my day, the girls were beginning to get excited about boys asking them to go to a movie, or walk down the hall together? Or maybe high school, when some girls are dressing up for prom? Or do the dreams remain intact until then and fall apart when the young woman goes to college or enters the work
world? Yeah, I suppose. At any of these times, girls just really don’t care.
Well, let me say, many of the young women I work with in my practice are of the opinion that they want to have a decent and even wonderful man, and they want to have a strong marriage and family and avoid the mistakes that they grew up with.
In fact, a good many of the young women out there desired a relationship, a partner, a “rock”, someone to love them, so desperately that they jumped the gun. They became intimate too quickly, maybe more than a few times, they became pregnant before the relationship could support a family, or they got married and did not have the mindset or the support to weather the storms that are naturally a part of most marriages…and THEN…they changed their mind about marriage, certainly not all women, hence the number of second marriage, but many.
One of my favorite movies is Pretty Woman, with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. I can’t give a link to the two scenes I want to illustrate, one because of profanity (one word) and the other because it is the final segment and some of you may want to see it if you haven’t. But I love this scene. Setting the wealth aside, how many girls DON’T want this??
Who believes that children are BETTER OFF with one full and one part-time parent, two part-time parents, or one full-time and one absent parent. Despite whoever and whatever groups are steering the culture, all
credible research, shows that children are better off in a HEALTHY, intact family.
But, as is the topic of this series of posts, that is not the case in the lives of a good many children.
First, I want to say, don’t blame “marriage.” A healthy marriage is an excellent relationship, for men, woman, children and our culture. If your relationship or marriage failed, there may be a time in the future when you wish to seek a new relationship, and to assume that marriage is bad, gives you nothing more than out-of-court pain (unless there is a new child). As with any major, life-long endeavor, you need to be smart about
it. Get help to not repeat the issues from the first relationship/marriage failure. Second marriages fail at a HIGHER rate than first marriages and you will want to crush the statistic, not reinforce it.
Second, I am adult child of divorce. My parents did some things right and some things wrong. I suffered. I also developed useful skills and gifts to use in my life with others as a result of my experiences. My story was not one of going back and forth from one house to the other, but for example, children who can successfully master this have skills than even many older children do not have.
Third, you love your children deeply, or for one, you wouldn’t be reading this. Parents like you are going to do everything possible to support their children, protect their children, love their children and ensure that their children’s needs are met. As you sort out all of your new roles, the new schedules, differentiate between the need for discipline and the need to cut your little one a break because of “all they have been through”, etc., you’ll be onto a new road. You can begin to look at your own pain from the broken relationship and begin to set new goals and direction for yourself. You’ll be able to size up your supports and see where there are some gaps that need to be filled, or even some “bad habits” or negative thinking that needs to be adjusted.
Forth, generally speaking, people choose someone to be in a relationship that is not more than one developmental level above or below their own level. There are exceptions to this, but by and large, one level up or down. This gives hardly any room for taking the “high road.” Yes, I know. This statement will have
many people angry at my and many people claiming they are the exception. I’m sorry, but not in my
experience. The issues are different but comparable. An attitude of humility is very important in navigating divorce AND in considering a new relationship. To go into a new relationship feeling confident, because “my X was the one with the issues” is a slippery slope.
Fifth, be aware of the messages that you are sending your children about this issue. Be sure that the messages that are coming across are the ones you really want to send.
Please consider getting support if you are going through a major separation, married or not married, especially if you have children. Family and friends can be very helpful, but even just a few sessions with a specialist can make a big difference.
Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
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