Q&A with Geoff: How Do I Respond to Opinions From Others About My Divorce?Jan 24, 2024
I’m recently divorced. And sometimes I’m completely content to tell myself: “it doesn’t matter what other people believe about our marriage, no one can know what it was like but me.” And then I can let it go. But sometimes all I want is for some understanding and compassion from my friends and family. My best girlfriend insists that my ex-husband loved me, that he loves the kids, and tells me that I should reassure them that he loves them when they feel like he doesn’t. Everyone tells me that he really loved me, and I want to make them understand that things he did to me in our marriage couldn’t be called love. My ex-husband tells the kids, “I love your mom, but she’s doing this to our family.” It’s also really hard when my teenage son says, “Dad loved you, why did you divorce dad?” I have no idea how to respond to others, especially my children.
You’re caught in a difficult situation. You want validation from your ex-husband that he hurt and betrayed you. You need your children to know that the decision to divorce their father was more complex and difficult than they could possibly understand. You long for friends to understand what it was like to be in your marriage. Simply put, you feel deeply misunderstood by everyone and only hope for compassion and validation for what you’ve been through.
While the demise of any marriage will impact children, extended family, and friends, the decision to divorce is so deeply personal that no one can fully understand what’s involved. Even though you will have some people who support you and others who don’t, this decision is ultimately a lonely one.
Sometimes when our very survival is at stake, we must move away from destructive relationships.
Only you can know whether the answer to divorce was necessary. While your children and others might someday receive a confirmation of the truth of your decision, there is a possibility they will go through life completely misunderstanding your experience and intentions.
There is nothing wrong with telling your friends that it’s not helpful for them to speak for your ex-husband or to speak for you about something they can never understand. Ask them to stay with you and support you through this, as uncomfortable as it may be for them.
It’s unfortunate your ex-husband is waging a campaign to discredit you in front of your children. This benefits no one. Clearly, you can’t control what he says about you to your children. Obviously it would be more damaging to the children to put them in the middle as you build a counter-argument against their father.
However, you can visit with your older children and acknowledge how unhealthy the marriage was and your decision to leave the marriage is complex and painful. You don’t need to blame and put your children in the position of choosing sides. As your children grow up, they will form their own opinions of their father’s love for them as well as your love for them. The personal experiences they have with each of you will be more important than anything you could say at this time. Ultimately, your best option is to hold fast to the decisions you’ve made, and then have compassion for the hurt and confusion of your children.
Continue to show your children how much you love them and care for them. It’s normal for children who go through divorce to question everything, including their parent’s love for them. Even though you did what you had to do for reasons beyond their understanding, the difficult reality is that their whole world is different now. There will be days they feel your love and days they doubt your love. It will likely be the same with their father.
Your love for them won’t waiver, so stay steady, accessible, and responsive to them for as long as they need reassurance. You don’t speak for their father. You only speak for you. Others can’t speak for you, only you can. Your compassion for the pain and confusion they feel will be a blessing to them.
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