Divorce: The Importance of Letting Go
One of the bumps in the road on becoming a new coParent that I often see in my practice is letting go, explained Dr. Debra K. Carter, author of CoParenting After Divorce, a GPS for Healthy Kids.
Interestingly, this can take two opposite forms. One is the coParent who is still romantically attached to the other parent. when a couple may be divorced, but one parent still has secret (or even not-so-secret) dreams that they will get back together or at least she shouldn’t be with another partner. The other way not letting go is a problem is in the parent who holds on to past hurts and resentments. These problems seem to be unrelated, but they both have to do with a parent not letting go, either of positive or negative feelings.
The parent who hangs on to the hope of getting back together doesn’t want to let go of memories of good times and the hope of a happy future. This parent can’t imagine how to make a happy life without the ex. It’s easier to think that the past can come back. Moving on is painful. It means admitting the marriage failed. This logically leads to the idea that the parent failed. After all, if she were a better wife, would he have had an affair? Or if he was a better husband, would she have told him she was bored in the marriage and wanted out?
At the other end of the spectrum is the coParent who holds on to past hurts. This parent has a long list of hurtful actions the ex has done. The list is taken out and recalled often. Nothing is forgotten. Nothing is forgiven. This parent is living on a diet of anger and resentment. You may think that the hurts are exaggerated, or even made up. But much of the time these are very real hurts. Because the focus is on the ex, it is hard to move on. The focus is backward, toward the past. It’s hard to see the road ahead when looking behind.
Looking Ahead for the Child’s Sake
Both of these parent types need to let go, but doing so will not be easy for either. One has to give up dreams of the future, and one has to give up the nightmare of the past. Both need to look ahead, for their children’s sake. This can “clean the windshield” through which they look at themselves, their ex, and the parenting issues before them.
Letting go means you are no longer working on getting even or getting back together with your ex. Some parents have to let go of the idea that their ex will be made to pay for what he or she has done. Payback can be emotional or monetary. Letting go of the idea of payback is hard for many parents.
I will mention forgiveness again as a way for parents to move on. Think of forgiveness as a way to gain a sense of control, predictability, and safety in your relationship with your ex. Forgiveness is not saying that your ex is not “guilty as charged” of the harsh things that have been done. It’s about your wish to move on with your life and not continue to spend time, energy, and financial resources to stay where you are.
From COPARENTING AFTER DIVORCE: A GPS FOR HEALTHY KIDS by Debra K. Carter, PhD.