Setting an example.
It sounds easy enough – not! A friend who has been through a rough divorce and is really struggling in her new life recently made a comment to me that hit a reality nail on the head. She was sharing with me how tough things are; she has no car, lives in an apartment, can’t afford to do much with or for her 3 girls, a far cry from the life she had while married. Her ex is newly engaged, just bought a nice house with his fiancee, goes on numerous vacations, both with and without the kids…great life, right?
Wrong. He is still the same person. Those things don’t make everything better. But that wasn’t the sad part. Her comment to me was, “I should have just stayed in the marriage until the girls were all grown”. Too many of us think and feel this way.
I remember feeling like I needed to do whatever it took to make my husband come back to stay with our family. Grovel, beg, plead, whatever it took. But it was so nasty in my case that nothing would have worked.
After 2 months of him living his own life, at the recommendation of friends, family and my counselor, I retained a lawyer and filed for legal separation, mainly to protect our assets so myself and the kids would not be left with nothing. My soon-to-be ex was partying, traveling, and spending money like crazy, buying new cars, furnishing a house, etc. I forewarned him; I did not blindside him with being served papers, and I suggested he sign it over to a divorce when he got it, since that is what he wanted.
He did not, of course! He was adamant we were getting a divorce, but he was not going to be the one to file. He didn’t want me to be able to tell people he filed for divorce!
A couple of months later, when we went to court for the first time, I requested the judge turn it to a divorce instead of a legal separation. Of course, my ex was fine with that; he could now tell everyone that I had filed for divorce. His first call was to me, to demand I be sure and tell our children that it was me who filed. I said I would, so individually I sat with each of our three children. Our daughter, way too young to understand ,just knew daddy lived somewhere else. Our oldest son, who was just months away from getting married, said, “its about time,” and our middle son said, “I told you to do it a long time ago.”
So there you have it; I told the kids I filed.
Looking back, I know it was the right thing to do. I do not want my daughter to think that is how a woman is to be treated or that she has to accept that type of relationship.
I gave the same advice to my friend with the comment “I should have stayed married until the girls were grown.” Is that really the type of woman you want your daughters to be? To accept less than they deserve, to be unhappy, to be weak, to settle, to possibly be abused (whether emotional or physical)?
My oldest, now married with kids of his own, is a great daddy! I am proud of him for many reasons, but that is a big one. I would get angry when I would praise him for being a great daddy and ask how he learned that and his answer would be “I took good notes.” This angered me very much, because one, I felt he didn’t have a great example in his dad, and his dad was gone for long stretches of time due to military commitments. So after getting angry hearing this comment for about the 100th time (obviously I praise him a lot!) I angrily asked what that comment means, because he didn’t learn that from his dad. My son’s response was ,”I said I took good notes, I didn’t say they were on what TO do.”
Whether we know it or acknowledge it, our children see and absorb what is around them.
Photo Credit: Cody Wiley Photography
D12 orginally published 5-2014