Dear Straight Talk: I am newly divorced from my husband who "wanted out" of the relationship after 18 years and three kids (13, 15, and 18). He has a girlfriend already and wants to act like old friends. The kids want us to be friends, too. But I'm so hurt and angry I cannot stand being in his proximity. If I see him somewhere, I leave. I don't enter his house and don't want him in mine. I'm biting my tongue and not verbally thrashing him around the kids (with difficulty), but am I really expected to hang out around him "for their sake" when having to see him makes me want to cry, scream and barf all at once? — Sheryl
Editor's Note: One parent is blinded by pain, the other by freedom. The kids are more or less ignored. The collateral damage kids suffer in a typical divorce is shameful. Needing to be blame-free, needing things "perfectly" fair, the I-told-you-so's, the contrary and belligerent actions, the why-should-I-do-everything-when-he's-having-fun rationales, these are death knells for the kids' wellbeing. Much of our mail involves situations where separated or divorced parents are working at cross purposes, or are so caught up in their own affairs that kids are left skating the middle ground, feeling lost, invisible and burdensome and often veering onto a dark path. If even one parent takes the high ground, the kids can be safe.
Post-divorce counseling is so overlooked. It is as important as marriage counseling. If you can both take responsibility for your roles in a marriage that failed and hear a sincere apology from each other, it can make a world of difference in normalizing your relationship and being able to move on. You benefit and your kids REALLY benefit. If the separated partner won't go with you, go yourself. —Lauren
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