Married for 28 years, I’m the most predictable guy in the world. Last month, my wife left me and took my 12-year-old daughter. She says reconciliation isn’t in the cards. I’m a product of divorced parents and carry the heartache of a broken home. I told my wife I would make any behavioral adjustment, and go to counseling seven days a week. She sees a therapist, but refuses marriage counseling. My daughter refuses to spend time with me because my sadness upsets her. I sit at home alone every night. I need my family back or my life is over. Advice?
Sixteen years ago, during the dissolution of my marriage, I prayed daily to grow in dignity, compassion, awareness and peace. I prayed that my soon-to-be-ex-husband would have the emotional resources he needed. And I always ended my prayers with this: “… May anyone, anywhere, who is suffering through a separation or divorce also have the dignity, compassion, awareness and peace they need.” Why? Divorce is a life experience. The pain of separation is real; grief at the death of a marriage is real. Lengthen into those feelings, but don’t wallow.
Don’t convince yourself that you are the only person enduring the pain of separation and divorce, either. If you are a prayerful person, pray for yourself and for everyone else who is struggling. Doing so connects you to the millions of people across the globe who know and understand your pain. You are not alone. We are never alone. Believing otherwise is a lie we tell ourselves in order to inflict more pain. That pain permits us to justify problem behaviors like drinking, overeating or bingeing on visual entertainment. By avoiding reality, we attempt to avoid facing our responsibility for the death of the relationship. We also deny the ways we are being called to change.
One way you can change is to surrender your resistance to change. In between the surges of pain, fear, loneliness and frustration, you will have moments of clarity and acceptance. During those balanced times, you can confront your belief system about divorce. Are you the product of a broken home? No, of course not. You are not a product. You are a beautiful human being. Your parents ended their marriage. At times, you felt different from other kids. Maybe you missed the parent you did not live with. But that’s one experience of divorce. Many children adjust very well to their parents’ divorce. A child’s experience of divorce is profoundly influenced by the divorcing parent’s attitudes and behaviors toward each other, toward the institution of marriage and toward the reality of love.
Your daughter’s choice to steer clear of you because of your unrelenting sadness is sensible. She is taking care of herself. Divorce, like any major trauma, can catapult adults back to our most stunted, immature selves. In your sadness, you may be inadvertently sending covert expectations demanding that your daughter play doctor to your emotional wounds. If so, she is right to stay away. It’s your job to model for her how an adult responds to a life crisis. Do everything necessary to heal. Do this on your own. If your wife refuses marital counseling, so be it. Go to a competent psychologist on your own and become the father your daughter wants to spend time with. If you don’t, she could mature into a woman terminally afraid of a man’s sadness. What good is that?
By the way, your situation is why I wrote my book, When Your Heart Breaks, It’s Opening to Love: Healing and Finding Love After an Affair, Heartbreak or Divorce. You can purchase it at Time-Tested Books, Barnes and Noble Arden Fair or on Amazon. Buy it. Read it. Revelations await.