After an incredibly difficult and emotional divorce (and aren’t they all), I came to the conclusion that I did not want to live a life filled with anger. The most treasured people in my life, my children, deserved to live with a mother who was happy, calm and peaceful rather than one who was carrying around anger, irritability and tension about a situation that was unchangeable and permanent. The way I found my peace was by acceptance. It is not easy, but it is possible and necessary if you want to nurture your children to find the happiness they deserve and to foster their relationship with the other parent that they deserve.
The first step to acceptance is to recognize that the situation is what it is. You may not like it. It may not be easy. But it is what it is. You are divorced. Your children will now travel between parents. Your financial situation may be less than ideal. But too bad. That’s the way it is, and it’s up to you to make the best of it. Being angry and resentful will not change the situation, but recognizing it and moving forward will change the way you look at it.
The second step is to recognize that your former spouse is who he/she is. He has not changed, may never change and may never want to change. This is not your problem. Once you recognize that your perceived faults and limitations of this person are most likely going to remain status quo, let go of your expectations and accept what is. I am not saying that you will not have moments of anger or frustration. They should just be situational rather than your way of life.
The third step to acceptance is to take responsibility for your life the way it looks now. My whole life changed because of decisions I did not make. It is very difficult not to be pretty ticked off about that. But when I realized that I, and only I, was in charge of my future, I was able to let go of that ticked off feeling and embrace that I was in control of my future. I knew that there was no going back. There was no changing the situation. The only thing I had control over was how I chose to move forward. No matter how I got where I was (and it was pretty low) no one was going to alter my future but me. That is scary and empowering. Be empowered.
The fourth step to acceptance is to recognize that your children do not deserve a life filled with anger and conflict between you and your ex. This is not their problem to own, to fix or to endure. Anger is one of the most destructive emotions to relationships, but the harboring of this feeling can and will destroy any ability to communicate effectively and therefore affect all relationships involved, including relationships with the kids. Any decent parent who truly wants the best for their children will find a way to gain perspective and put kids first. This means fostering a loving and healthy relationship between the kids and the other parent. This means allowing the kids to feel free to love, free to spend time with and free to talk about the other parent with no negativity from you. Do not put adult problems on a child. If the other parent disappoints them, the only response you have is this: “I am sorry that happened, did you talk to your mother/father about how you feel?” If the kids have a great time at the other parent’s house, your response is this: “I am so glad! Tell me all about it!”
I don’t think any of this is easy. I make a conscious effort to continue to feel acceptance And when things come up, it is difficult. But now, when I get angry, I am able to isolate it to the incident at hand and not dredge up all the years of anger and frustration from the past. Letting go of the past and our anger about it often feels unfair. We want to feel validated or compensated for the ways we feel we were wronged. But that is not life, and as all of our parents told us...life is not fair. As parents, we have no right to surround our children with our feelings of anger, resentment and inequity. We have an obligation to be mature adults who accept responsibility for our own situations and surround them with love, joy and peace as best we can.