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Author Topic: The Legacy of Divorce  (Read 4418 times)

Dr. Jen

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The Legacy of Divorce
« on: Aug 26, 2004, 12:30:42 PM »
Thanks to all of you for your patience while I've been distracted by a family challenge that has more to do with the longterm effects of divorce than it does about the death of a family member that triggered this most recent challenge.  What I'm going to share here is shared with you in the spirit and belief that there are reasons and purpose for why we experience in our lives the things we do and that each of us who has been in the experience of divorce, custody, shared parenting, and more, have the responsibility for understanding and being highly conscious of how our beliefs and actions impact the lives of our children and their families for generations to come.

On the surface this may appear to be a "no brainer" to some of you reading this and you may be wondering why I am even bothering to take up my valuable time writing this let alone your valuable time reading this.  This is why:  we may or may not have a way of predicting the future but without a doubt we have the ability to influence the future, and we do.  If I can offer something of meaning or value to just one of you reading this message, then that is one more person in the world who has the potential to break the oftentimes longterm and devastating effects divorce and adversarial parenting can have on the children of divorce.

I come from a long generational legacy of divorce, family/relative cut-offs, anger, misuse of personal power, emotional trauma, secrets, loss, societal stigma, mistrust, miscommunication, matriarchal abuse of power/ patricarchal stripping of power, and the challenge of being able to distinguish the difference between what is true and what is not true.   The journey has been long, the learnings great and the healing wonderous.   This doesn't mean it hasn't come without a price.

My parents were divorced during a time when divorce was unheard of (early 1960's), especially in the community in which I lived, and the socio-economic status from which it was I was told I came.  My mother's parents were also divorced, as were other relatives in my immediate extended family and my hunch is that there were other divorces along the history my geneaological lineage of which I have no knowledge.  Divorce, step-parents, stepfamilies, anger, cut-offs, fighting, secrets and lies have been a story thread throughout my family history.

We never know how our thoughts and actions will touch another person nor do we have the guarantee that what we say will be heard, interpreted or processed in the way we intended.  

Divorce when there are children involved, holds always the potential for fears around loyalty to rise and for breaches of loyalty, or perceived breaches of loyalty, to occcur.  It also the potential for children to be "vampired" by one parent or another, a "new age" term commonly associated with what we're coming to call "energy vampires" but in the world of divorce and custody (as well as other areas of life), what we've come to refer to as "emotional incest".

When emotional incest occurs in children of divorce, the pattern of thoughts and behaviors that are established and played out between parent(s) and child(ren) have the potential for devastating longterm effects.  I say "potential" only because it is best not to organize one's beliefs to a global population as there is always one (or more) who do not fit "the norm".

In my biological family of divorce there was a breach of loyalty and a subtly spoken yet behavioralized want, need, expectation if not requirement for the children to choose one parent over the other.  One did and one did not.  The one who did, over the years, took on all of the emotions and behaviors of the parent whose side she chose.  She carries on this parent's legacy today.  The other child chose neither parent and instead went her separate way, immersing herself in her schoolwork and education, in her travels, in her protective shell, being in connection with her parents in different types of ways and later separating herself completely from them both, choosing instead to find another way to live, another way to be, another way to see the world and to live in relationship in the world, knowing that there had to a better way, a way that was different than what she was experiencing and what she was coming to see our society being conditioned to believe was the way divorce and custody/parenting was in many ways supposed to be.  

When my mother became ill and died a few months ago the legacy of negative emotions and behaviors, fears and anger around breaches of loyality and the need to protect one's heart began to play itself out in estate management issues.  The child who had stayed loyal to "the cause" seeks to protect and defend the legacy.  The child who walked away and was able to live in the world in a different kind of way seeks now to find a way to bring the two sides together in heart, to change a pattern, shift a legacy, heal a generational legacy of hurt.  

The parties are at a standstill as of now, one holding the power of attorney, the other the energy of the heart coupled with the desire for healing.  One believes she needs everything to gain.  The other has nothing to lose.  She already lost it all years ago but through losing it and learning how to let go she learned a much more valuable lesson about love and the power of love.  She learned about love and in particular unconditional love through the unconventional and heart-challenging, heart-growing parenting of her children and sees the results today, 20 years later, and knows and can see without a doubt that at least in her present family, the legacy of generations has been changed.

Both parties have much yet to learn in this journey called life.  They each have much to learn about themselves and about the other but for now, the jury is still out and the longer term legacy of these two sisters and their sisters before them is yet to be seen.


go on loving, go on living,
Jennifer

Jennifer Isham, LCPC, CS, GM
Email: jennifer@momswithoutcustody.com
http://www.momswithoutcustody.com

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love."  ~ Rumi


Gecko

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RE: The Legacy of Divorce
« Reply #1 on: Aug 27, 2004, 12:23:51 PM »
When I read this yesterday, I felt as though I had been poleaxed!  

Both of my sisters and myself had our own homes when our parent divorced.  At the time, I didn't give it a lot of thought with the exception of how it would effect my upcoming wedding.  It wasn't until after that, that I discovered that not only was I expected to take "sides", but that I was expected to take our mother's "side".

Since I was the last one to leave the nest, I saw a lot more than either of my sisters and so I knew that they (our parents) were equally at fault for the demise of their marriage.  And too, I really didn't think it was "place" to comment on our parent's marriage...it really wasn’t any of my "business".

And so my sisters "took on all of the emotions and behaviors" of our mother, and I sort of, went my own way.

I say "sort of", because I did what I could to at least keep the spirit of our "family" alive.  Even though we all lived hundreds of miles apart at times, I kept up with phone calls and letters, but neither of my sisters were interested in hearing anything about our father.  Eventually, it was my own divorce that caused the ending of relations with my sisters and our mother.  

It wasn't that they liked my [now] ex-husband; it was the fact that I ended up giving him custody of our children.  Sadly, no one thought to ask me why, they just assumed they knew that answer and damned me for it.  But the ultimate "sin" in their eyes came when about a year or so later, I moved to Arizona and in with the "enemy"...Dad.

Now Dad wasn't the "enemy" JUST because HE divorced Mom.  Add to it that 6 months later, he remarried a woman who was around our "age" (a year younger that my older sister) AND they had a child (a year after their wedding (which none of us were invited to).  Though none of us liked her (she really was a bitch), I thought it was pretty hypocritical of my sisters took HER side after they divorced, but they felt that Dad was getting what he "deserved".  

About six months after I moved, communications were restored between my sisters and myself and it was because our mother was reaching the "peak" of her bitterness and was now taking it out on them, and her grandchildren.  As sad as it was, for the first time in over ten years, we had "common ground" to meet upon.  But the only advise that I had for them was to do what I did...cut off all communication and hope that she would "wake-up" and start accepting responsibility for her own actions.

I had been living in Arizona for just over a year, when Mom called.  I about fell off my chair when she asked me how I was doing.  It wasn't just a polite question she really wanted to know!  So we talked about "me" for about 15 minutes and then I asked her how she was doing and found out the reason for her "change"...she had accepted Christ.  I was totally blown away needless to say...growing up, the only time "God" had ever passed her lips was when it prefaced "damnit".  

Over the next eight years, our mother tried to rectify the damage she has caused between her daughters and their father with her bitterness, but it wasn't enough, because the hurt went much deeper.

As I was moving back to Oregon last July/August, I stopped and spent several days with my mother.  For the first time in my life, I had my mother's unconditional love and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world!  Before I left, I made plans to come back the end of December and spend some more time.

Three weeks later, I got a call from my younger sister...Mom had just been taken to the hospital and we need to get there ASAP.  As our plane headed south, we realized that this was the first time in over ten years that we had all been together.

I know for a fact, that three grown women in their forties got off that airplane, but it was three little girls who were now gathered around their mother's bedside.  She couldn't speak because of the tube that was helping her breath, but you could see the love in her eyes and feel it in her lips as she kissed each of us goodbye.

It took us two days before we could get the hospital to remove the tube and give her enough morphine to allow her go without pain.  On the morning of August 28th, as we were getting ready to head back to the hospital, they called...it was time.  Our younger sister, having in the last couple of years lost both her husband and her oldest son, decided that she could stay and my older sister and I were fine with that.  For the next three hours we sang Mom's favorite song, Amazing Grace I don't know how many times; we held her hands, we talked to her.  Then the head nurse came in with her Bible and against hospital rules, she read to us from Psalms and I knew that it would not be long.

I remember kissing her hand and telling her, "Mama, it's ok, you can go.  We'll be fine".  She smiled...and then she was gone.

While our mother's death has brought the three of us closer, it was no overnight "miracle" when you consider that my younger and I almost came to blows two days later (that would have been sight).  For the first several months afterwards we hardly spoke to one another, but then we started “talking” through email.  

Things are no means perfect between the three of us, but they are better than they have been in years and we all three agree that our parent’s divorce(s) are really just a small part of the bigger whole.  

Healing takes time.

olanna

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My thoughts...
« Reply #2 on: Aug 27, 2004, 01:06:55 PM »
My Dad *believes* we are emotionally tied to our Mom...and I suppose in some ways we are; however, that emotional tie to Mom happened long before their divorce did.

My Dad was gone all the time.  And when he did return, he wanted quiet and time with my Mom.  He is also an alcoholic, so his moods were unpredictable.

Many years later, and lots of water under the bridge....I reached out to him, in a sincere attempt to reconnect with him.  He cancelled the meeting with me...I had traveled some 3000 miles and was within 1.5 hours of him....but he really didn't want to see me.

Now...I don't feel guilty anymore. It's done and I can't make it come back. The sad part is that he hasn't tried to stay in touch with any of us. And some things might just be better left alone. I know it sure hurts less when I don't put myself out there.

Kitty C.

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.......gecko..........
« Reply #3 on: Aug 27, 2004, 01:08:35 PM »
I sit here with tears brimming in my eyes...........I've lost my father, so I know what courage it took for you to write that.........ALL of it.  Your mother was the blessed one........she 'saw the light' and at least tried to make amends for what she had done.  Many never even reach that point.

I pray that your father finds the inner peace he seeks and that you and your sisters continue to find your way together.
Handle every stressful situation like a dog........if you can't play with it or eat it, pee on it and walk away.......

Butterfly

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Incredible!
« Reply #4 on: Aug 27, 2004, 06:27:35 PM »
Very profound post, Dr. Jen!  Thank you for exposing your heart in this way; it DOES have an impact on others!

I'll be reading it over and over again for some time to come.  You're obviously a remarkable mentor for the NCMom...thank you for the time you spend contributing to a greater cause than just your family life!


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RE: The Legacy of Divorce
« Reply #5 on: Aug 31, 2004, 01:36:32 PM »
I couldn't agree more...

In Divorce #1 -- my girls are encouraged to love their dad inspite of the fact that I don't.  I explained many times that their love for him is different and that I don't have a problem with them loving him at all.

In Divorce #2 -- my son is fine, but it's still not toally right.  He asked me this summer if his step-dad's feelings were "hurt" because he calls him by his first name.  I said "No, FIRSTNAME knows you have a dad and that he is STEP-dad."  And he got quiet.  Then I said "It's not like that at your dad's house, is it?"  He said "Nope" and we left it at that.  See fake-wife/step-mom is called MOM whereas when she refers to me, it's by my first name to my son....I know it's childish, and my son is catching on....and fake-wife and EX#2 will learn maybe the hard way.

In Divorce #3 -- that's DH's situation.  For 3 years, she intercepted all mail and phone calls.  Over time (and court hearings), that has changed.  And in that situation, it depends on how the wind blows as to whether or not SS is allowed to "love" his dad and mom equally.  Too often she still encourages all three of their children to choose sides and two are old enough not to take either side.  We encourage the girls (who are here) to love their mother and the same holds true for SS when we can while he's here.  I'm NOT their mother -- but I will perform the motherly duties in her absence.  His EX will learn too -- and hopefully it won't be the hard way (again).

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RE: The Legacy of Divorce
« Reply #6 on: Aug 31, 2004, 01:43:35 PM »
Let me add something real quick...

In Divorce #1, we've had events where all parents should be present -- like Confirmation, high school graduation AND the oldest getting married.  Everyone was civil and nice to each other.

In Divorce #2, there have been several occasions this past year where I've been present at my son's BMX races.  I can't think of a time where my EX said anything to me nor I to him.  But it's fake-wife who does all the stuff -- staring me down from a distance, and even last week shouting at me across the parking lot that "Son was changin in the van" when I wasn't even thinking of them or where son was -- I had something else on my mind.  Then when I started walking towards them (to talk to someone half way between us), fake-wife says "OMG, she might have something to say to us." or something like that -- totally childish.  And I just ignored....and went about what I wanted to do.  

Who knows what other events will bring -- and at least there's 7 school years for them to grow up before high school graduation arrives -- and yep, I'll be there.

In Divorce #3, there's been a high school graduation, and another, and a wedding, and a grandbaby.....and for none of those occasions did the BM take the time to watch her children.  When we've seen her after court she's been civil -- so I just don't get it.  I guess she knows her limitations and has to live with her decisions.  Dad will be at his son's graduation in 7 years....  Will BM come for MSD's wedding?  or college graduation?  Who knows....and we decided a long time ago that it's her decision and she has to live with it.

Actually we're both planning to attend both graduations that year as long as it's physically possible to do both....otherwise, yep we'll each go our own way and the other will understand, I'm sure.

Dr. Jen

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RE: The Legacy of Divorce
« Reply #7 on: Aug 31, 2004, 01:54:39 PM »
Thanks to you all for the continued sharing of your stories.   I'm glad my posting could lend itself to connection, awareness, expression and growth.   I'll share more in a bit about what has occurred since my posting as it is full of interesting and amazing points of wonder and consideration.

Loving and living,

Jennifer

Jennifer Isham, LCPC, CS, GM
Email: jennifer@momswithoutcustody.com
http://www.momswithoutcustody.com

"If there's any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed, but... who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt."  - Celine, from "Before Sunrise" (1995)

grammieger

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RE: The Legacy of Divorce
« Reply #8 on: Sep 04, 2004, 11:21:31 AM »
When my ex and I divorced, we made sure that we could speak to each other about things involving our children and we have all had such a better life.  When my daughter was married 2 years ago, her step-mom played the organ and her dad sat in the same pew with me and her step-dad.

I guess I have always thought that I loved the man enough to have 2 children with him...there had to be some good qualities to him.  That doesn't mean we haven't had our spats...but we sure have always made it a point to keep the kids out of it...and to "get over it" quickly.


 

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