Writing as a person who was divorced before I had any children, I might be considered rather unqualified to comment on the subject of communication to children on this “always painful” subject. That, however, will not stop me. For decades American divorce rates have suggested two seemingly contradictory notions about marriage: 1) Monogamy is an idea that belongs on the scrap heap of social thinking, and 2) we may well be the most self-involved, indeed selfish, people who have ever trod the Earth.
On one hand, it’s pretty clear that millions of people struggle with remaining faithful to their spouses, so one might wonder why, except for the tax break, they even try. On the other, once the term “formal commitment” creeps into a relationship, it’s unclear which term is then more widely misunderstood – formal or commitment. Clearly, though, both come in behind MY HAPPINESS in importance. This is not to say that there aren’t marriages that shouldn’t be dissolved for the sake of the physical safety of one or both partners, as well as any children. But it’s obvious that MY HAPPINESS still comes first; this is why lawyers invented the term “incompatible.” Incompatibility covers everything from adultery to snoring to even vague dissatisfaction with a spouse’s wardrobe, haircut, or hobby-obsession.
Now, before all you “family values” people out there start scribbling approving comments about the previous couple of sentences, I’d suggest that you don’t. You won’t like my counter-comments. That’s because I happen to know that exactly 92.4% of you are actually closet gay bashers hiding under the hoodie of The Sacred Family. Get a grip. Divorce is an idea long approved by society and codified by law. The only thing you may be somewhat right about is that, perhaps, divorces are granted too lightly, particularly when children are involved. Nonetheless, divorces are granted every day because an unhappy spouse’s happiness obviously comes first. MY HAPPINESS, it is imagined, can spring up like spring flowers even if the prickly pear of communication with children and the totally absurd notion of “sharing” said children between “two homes” are introduced into life.
People attempt monogamy. People attempt divorce with children. Both are a bit like trying to block Dick Butkus.
The matter of the poorest communication with children while divorcing would seem to comprise three categorical errors, arranged here from least to most serious in nature: 1) “too much information” about the core divorce issue; 2) threats to cut off a child from contact with “the other parent,” and 3) shifting the blame for the divorce onto the children. Thus, the top seven things to avoid saying to your children when divorcing:
7) Aw, hell, she polished off a two bottles of sangria and fell through the Wilsons’ picture window.
6) Cheryl! Get that dummy I dressed in your father’s clothes. It’s time to train Killer.
5) It certainly didn’t help that your cheerleading squad was always sunbathing out back.
4) Well, Billy, one day mommy had some special surgery done; then, about three months later, she met Chad.
3) At least we don’t have to worry any more about Hungarian porn infecting the computer.
2) Yeah, how about that? I don’t know how she knew we’d be there, but let’s get moving. We need to hit the gun shop before McDonald’s.
And of course: 1) Brian, your father never touched the hard stuff until you gave up that grand slam to a girl.