The Misalignment of Love

by Carolyn on October 6, 2010

Yes, this actually is my daughter. And yes, she'll probably kill me one day for putting this on the internet. But really, how could I resist?

 

This past weekend, I had a poetic family moment. You know, one of those greeting card moments where you visualize a leather bound book opening to a picture of the exact scene you’re sitting in. It was Saturday morning and my husband and I were lounging in bed while our son, who as usual had been up since the crack of dawn, was playing in the kitchen. I heard our daughter waking up, so I went to get her but after changing her diaper I realized that my husband hadn’t yet gotten out of bed. I brought my daughter back in to see if the two of us together could rouse him. My daughter, always thrilled to see her father, laid down on his pillow and turned to me saying (in her angelic, two year old voice), “I love daddy”. I smiled, laying my head down beside her and said, “I love daddy too.” Her reply was simply a smile that could melt glaciers, and then… she sighed.  

Yes, my two year old actually sighed with happiness.  

That’s when I had a thought. Or maybe, not so much a thought, but an epiphany. An idea that came barrelling through my Hallmark moment like a wrecking ball, smacking me upside the head. You see, I have often wondered why it is that so many of us children of divorce end up emotionally detached from our parents. I’ve considered that it might be due to our trust issues. Our sense of betrayal. I’ve wondered if it was the collateral damage of us simply shutting down emotionally, a well used protective mechanism of divorced kids. But you know, I think it may be more fundamental than that. I think it may be the result of the misalignment of love.  

Mutual affection creates bonds. And not insignificant ones. Mutual affection can create the foundation of friendships, romances and even marriages. It can keep relationships going; making them endure. We tend to gravitate towards people who like the same things as we do.  Who love what we love.  And do you know why that is?  Because in a relationship, affection towards something outside of each other gives us something tangible that confirms we are alike, that we belong, that we are…kindred.  

Think about it. When you start raving about a book or a movie or a song that you love only to have someone proclaim their distaste for whatever you’ve been gushing about, leaves a sour taste in your mouth, doesn’t it? It makes you wonder why you don’t have that in common. And even if that person follows up their proclamation up with a declaration that your feelings are acceptable, that difference between you represents a bond you do not share.  

Children of divorce feel very much like this sometimes.  They love their parents.  Both of them.  But they are acutely aware that those same people no longer love each other.  It becomes a bond they no longer share.  

Now imagine that same someone from the previous scenario told you they didn’t want to hear about that book/movie/song anymore? I guess they really wouldn’t have to; knowing they didn’t share your affection would preclude you from sharing any more of your true feelings. What if they completely tuned you out when you showed any interest? What if they pointed out every negative thing they could find or shared every negative tidbit others had shared? The situation could create a fissure in the relationship. A fissure that could easily grow into an abyss.  Do you notice the parallels? 

Parental love is fundamental.  It is woven right into the fabric of our souls. And the dissolution of that bond of mutual affection between our parents puts us children of divorce in an awfully awkward position. The thought of losing that bond with both parents can sometimes feel too overwhelming, often resulting in us aligning ourselves with one parent while dispelling the other. And if you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand how important it is for a child to feel analogous to a parent. To feel like they belong.  

Because, what’s the alternative?  

The alternative, is what the bulk of us do. Accept the loss of such a significant bond with both of our parents. That loss brings a sense of isolation. To correct it, we may try out some masks, putting on a different facade with each parent. And with that we risk losing ourselves. Many of us find the answer in indifference. But the love we feel for our parents is no less than the love they feel for us and pushing it away via our indifference comes with severe consequences.  With indifference to our parents, comes indifference to ourselves.  Apathy swirls us back into isolation and of course, our self esteem suffers.  

As a parent of divorce, it is integral to your relationship with your child that you carry even a hint of that bond of mutual affection for your ex. And I don’t mean that you have to be physically affectionate or chat like girlfriends or vacation together. You don’t even have to show any actual affection to your ex, you only have to show it to your child. Show your child that you’re sad if you hear that something negative happened to your ex and show happiness if you hear something positive. Tell your child what you admire about their other parent or what qualities you are glad to see in them that remind you of your ex. Be engaged when you are being graced with stories about their visits and also be engaged in their plans to go. Simple things that pay great rewards with very little effort from you.   

Simple things that will not only benefit your relationship with your child but will also benefit their relationship with themselves.  

Aren’t those two relationships worth working on?

{ 13 comments }

What I Cannot Change…..

by Carolyn on September 29, 2010

The serenity prayer reads:

God, grant us the…
Serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference.       ~Reinhold Niebuhr

Such simple words that have transcended time and space because they describe at their very core what we all crave.

Serenity, courage and wisdom.

My mother introduced me to the song “What I Cannot Change” by LeAnn Rimes a couple of weeks ago.  She was considering using in a group dealing with family issues and wondered what I thought.  I listened to it while driving my son to hockey and by the end of the drive, he had asked to listen to it four times in a row.  I can’t say that I’ve ever been much of a fan of Lee Ann Rhimes, but this song does resonate.  Because in my experience, family issues often find themselves tunneling their way into every aspect of my life. Sometimes those issues can’t be fixed.  Sometimes they can. Sometimes they need to be fixed and sometimes the cost of fixing doesn’t outweigh the benefit of just…letting go.

But the line between acceptance and action can be thin and it’s usually hard to tell which needs what without that trifecta so many pray for.  Serenity, courage and wisdom.

The lyrics of this song are all moving, but the lines that really hit home for me were the ones right at it’s heart:

I don’t know my father
Or my mother well enough
It seems like every time we talk
We can’t get past the little stuff

The pain is self inflicting
I know it’s not good for my health
But it’s easier to please the world
Than to please myself

I found a video on youtube that not only plays the song but also shares personal stories that were recieved from fans based on their response to this song.  The only drawback is that the stories are so compelling that it’s difficult to really listen to the song while reading them.  Maybe try watching it twice – once while reading the stories and once with your eyes closed.  Just to hear.

Enjoy.

PS – did you know that the serenity prayer also has an extended version?  I never knew that and it’s so beautiful!  I couldn’t resist posting it in it’s entirety.

God grant us the….
Serentity to accept the things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can, and the
Wisdom to know the difference
Patience for the things that take time
Appreciation for all the we have, and
Tolerance for those with different struggles
Freedom to live beyond the limitations of our past ways, the
Ability to feel your love for us and our love for each other and the
Strength to get up and try again even when we feel it is hopeless.

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Feeling Like a Rockstar!!

September 23, 2010

I’m a rockstar! Umm, no, not really. But I’ve felt like a rockstar ever since I did my jam session for Jenn over at rockstarcoparenting .com.  The interview was great because Jenn asked completely relevant questions and it was clear that she was familiar with both this blog and the information I could offer (even the question about what kind [...]

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The Explanation

September 20, 2010

Hi there. I’m not really sure how to begin, but the truth is that I wanted to post something and I didn’t want to footnote an offhanded apology or begin with a lame excuse for not writing this summer. Because I don’t really feel sorry and I don’t have any excuses.  All the same, if [...]

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Spoiled by divorce? You’ve got to be kidding.

May 17, 2010

  The perception that children of divorce are spoiled simply as a result of being children of divorce amazes me. Do people really think that or is it just something they say without actually realizing what they are saying? Even one of my favorite bloggers, Avitable recently wrote in a post that children of divorce were [...]

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Happy Mother’s Day 2010!

May 9, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day!  Here’s to all the mom’s.  Moms who are here and moms who smile from above.  Biological moms and stepmoms.  Foster moms and adopted moms.  Moms with angels in heaven and moms at heart, trying to conceive. To all the women who give of themselves in the name of a child, we honor you today. [...]

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Feedback Friday

May 7, 2010

Okay.  So don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a weekly thing and I know that chances are you aren’t even reading this on a Friday, but I couldn’t resist the cheese factor of the title. Or the picture. Simple pleasures, but I’d better get back to the point. Dear readers, I’m asking for your [...]

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Because of You – A Child of Divorce Speaks Out

May 4, 2010
Thumbnail image for Because of You – A Child of Divorce Speaks Out

I heard this song at work today and I remembered that when it was released, I read that Kelly Clarkson had written it about the impact that her parent’s divorce has had on her since she was six years old.  But when Breakaway, this song’s album was released, I wasn’t as in tuned with all things divorce like I am now.  Today, I [...]

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