Friday, January 12, 2007

If You are Considering Divorce...

Today, January 12, 2007, a letter to Dear Abby provides a cautionary tale about the impact of divorce.

My husband, "Noah," and I are being divorced. He moved out nine months ago. We have a 7-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter.
Last month, Noah revealed that he has had a girlfriend, "Dana," since last June, and they're moving into an apartment together this week. He said the children won't have to meet Dana until I'm comfortable with it. Noah also promised it would be gradual."
I took the kids to see his apartment a couple of days later. The next day he called me and announced he was taking them to a birthday party for one of Dana's relatives. He also said some co-workers would be there. (He and Dana work for the same company.)
We're not even divorced yet! I don't want to teach my kids that people live together before marriage. By moving in with Dana, Noah has created a secret I can't tell my kids.
Abby, I had to meet many of my father's girlfriends. They all fell by the wayside, each time creating more loss in my life. I don't want that to happen to my children. I'm thinking of making a rule: One year of committed relationship before either Noah or I introduce them to a potential partner. Personally, I'm waiting until after the divorce is final before I start to date. Am I right? --

DEAR PROTECTIVE MOM: Create all the rules you wish, but that doesn't mean Noah will abide by them. If he took the children to a birthday party for a relative of Dana's, it's logical to assume that they have already met her.

Abby has more to say, but here are my comments.

1. The mom really has no control over whether her children's father introduces new loves into their lives. Whether the new love interest is a good person or a dreadful influence over her kids, the birth mom has very limited options in controlling the kind of people her children's father brings into their lives. When they were married, they had both the opportunity and the ability to cooperate with each other about issues of this kind.

2. This mom is an example of something social science has documented for years: divorce continues to be a dark cloud over children's lives, well into the adulthood. This mom remembers very well the pain of connecting with her dad's new loves and then losing those relationships when her dad broke up with them. From a child's point of view, each new love interest is like a remarriage. And each break-up is like a divorce. Not identical in their impacts, of course, but powerful experiences in their own right.

3. This case illustrates one of the problems with no-fault divorce. "We aren't even divorced yet." If this woman lived in a state which considered marital fault as a factor in dividing marital property, and access to the children, the husband would be much more circumspect about getting involved with a new partner even before the divorce was final.

No comments: