Understanding the roller coaster of emotions we are dealing with while going through a divorce and minimizing the impact on our children.

A divorce or separation is as hard to deal with. We must deal with the realization that life will no longer be the same. We are left to deal with the roller coaster of emotions that come with the divorce. These emotions will impact each person in different ways, in different order, and in different levels. How long we deal with each emotion depends on what part we played in the divorce or how we internalize the “story” that we keep telling ourselves.

I have found in my years of practice that while each person is dealing with their emotions, they lose sight of the end result, which is the pain and hurt that they cause on their children. It is important to be cognizant of what we are feeling and why we are feeling it. Being able to understand our emotions while this is happening, will help us get a grip on our thoughts and regain control of our emotions minimizing the impact on our children. If we recognize what we are feeling in the moment, and we change our physiology, focus on our language, we can control “our story” and safeguard our children in the process.

The following are the 3 groups of emotions that people deal with during the divorce process that can tremendously impact the children in the process.

  1. Guilt and Shame:

Guilt that we caused the end of your marriage, guilt that we did not do enough to save our marriage. You may be telling yourself, that you were not the perfect wife or perfect husband. Maybe you even feel that you were the reason why your marriage ended. These are all debilitating stories we tell ourselves.

Shame because you are now a statistic, you feel you “failed” the social stereotype of the “perfect” family. Shame, because you realize that your children will now have to live in two separate homes because of something you did. What I have seen happen is that those with absolute guilt and shame are those who take responsibility for the end of the marriage, those who acknowledge their wrongs are those who give in, those who do not fight for their children because they do not want to keep hurting their spouse, so they just fold. Then there are those that are mad as hell at the person who wronged them and they will do anything to make them “pay” and the best way to do that is to limit the contact with their children, which may cause them even more shame.

2. Fear and Anxiety:

The unknown can cause tremendous fear and anxiety. How are you going to pay the bills? Which days are the children going to be with you or with your ex? Will the children adjust? How will this affect them? Am I ever going to be able to find love again? What if my children want to spend more time with my ex than with me? There are so many unanswered questions, all of which can drive anyone crazy, if you allow them to consume your thoughts.

Fear comes in all shapes and sizes, and of course, the fear and anxiety that comes from losing control. The fear that your ex will get everything they want. The constant threats that they will take your children away. The bullying and control tactics. The accusations of parental alienation. Some people will go to unthinkable limits to retain control and in the process disregard how it will later impact their children. Your children can tell when you are in fear, when you are suffering, or when you are stressed and as a result, they internalize the same feelings.

3. Anger and Revenge:

You have to face it your marriage or relationship is now over…..you’re angry! You’re angry that your spouse betrayed you or disrespected you. You’re angry that you invested so much time and effort into a relationship that has not worked out. You’re angry because your spouse is now telling you that you’re not going to get anything out of the marriage or that you’re never going to see your children again.

Maybe you don’t even understand the feeling you are actually feeling so you’re just mad! Sometimes people need to feel angry to justify their desire to leave the relationship… “I just can’t stand him anymore, he makes me so mad!”

Often times I have witnessed where one person does not want to let go of the connection they have with their ex. Because the line between love and hate is so thin and both are such strong emotions, they allow that love and obsession to convert into hate and revenge and thus keeping their connection.

Keeping an emotional connection to their partner, whether negative or not, is better than not having a connection at all. Let’s think about it for a minute…when you are fighting with someone, you continuously send text messages or emails, you find things to say that you know will push the right buttons with your partner, that will cause a reaction. That reaction causes them to text or email back because they want to prove their point, or call you whatever name they are thinking in that moment. Once the response goes out, you will likely respond back and the cycle will continue until one of you has had enough of that conversation. Then, 1 or 2 days later a new subject will arise that will cause restart the cycle. All and all, the constant back and forth of accusations will allow for the connection to stay alive. As long as the connection never dies, you still have a piece of them which fosters a very toxic situation.

When you finally find peace or settle for indifference you have reached the point of healing. You do not love your ex, but you do not hate them either, so your actions are clearer and without an ulterior motive.

Emotions drive our actions either in a positive manner or in a negative one. Unfortunately, most divorce and paternity actions occur when one or both parties are at their highest peak of emotion. The longer that one or both parties hold on to their negative emotions, the longer the case will take. The longer the case takes, the more hostility and defensiveness the parties will feel, which will lead to more negative emotions and continues the cycle. I propose that there should be a “cooling off period” before filing an action with the court.

The best advice I can give you is to be conscious of your emotions, understand that you maybe feeling guilt, fear or anger and that may distort your decision making. Walk away from the situation temporarily and look back at it with a clear mind before you make any life changing decisions that will impact you and your children. It is also very important to manage the situation in a way where the children do not feel responsible for the break-up. Understand that things don’t happen TO you, they happen FOR you. Our children are entrusted to us… We were chosen to protect them, to teach them, and to give them an ultimate life. Constant fighting with their other parent will not accomplish those goals.

Originally published at medium.com