Part III: Confiding in Children and Changing Relationships
Part of me grew up thinking that my three parents were perfect; almost godly. Their inhuman semblance flickered out as the rumors distanced me from those beloveds-turned-betrayers. Even so, I still took sides, as children of divorce frequently do. My allegiance to one parent after the first divorce suddenly became unstable during the second. Favoritism remained throughout the second separation, but the rumors shadowing my family embedded themselves so deeply that I couldn’t feel safe in my loyalty to any of my three parents. In my loneliness, I grieved for my second chance of familial unity that unequivocally expired.
Although the rumors circulating around my community fashioned themselves into my daily routine, my parents did nothing to dissuade my concerns surrounding them. In fact, they added fuel to the rapidly growing fire. Even my own home wasn’t impervious to the heavy fumes suffused with deafening whisperings of he said, she said. In their anger and pain, my parents exposed me to inappropriate details that not only provoked the external speculations, but lead me to believe they were true. I was conflicted because each parent confided in me about the other’s shortcomings, and consequently, I was ashamed of myself because parts of the belittled parent were directly mirrored in me.
My parents’ inappropriate disclosure of information, true or not, resulted in taking sides and changing relationships. I demoted my relationship with the first parent to one of superficiality and toleration, maintained the preexisting distance with the second parent, and dissolved all communication with the third. While I wanted to protect one parent from criticism, I also wanted to protect another from the danger of the other’s “faults”. Analogous to the parenting schedule, I felt ping ponged between parents. I felt it was my responsibility to not only shield my parents from criticism, but also to fix their (and therefore my) flaws.
In any divorce, separation, or even small argument, both parties feel they were done wrong, at one point or another. The feelings of betrayal often overpower innate human benevolence or protective parental instinct. The be-all end-all tip is this: don’t let it. Do not let temporary feelings selfishly reduce your children’s needs to anything less than your first priority, because confiding in your children about the intimate details of divorce is destructive, abusive, and selfish. In my own brief employment as my parents’ therapist, I began to question if I was brought here through love or something else. So even if the only love left in your marriage is that towards your children, as parents and adults, your first priority is to ensure that your children know, and sincerely feel, that they were not brought into this world to be your therapist or confidant. They were created by two people who, at one point, loved each other, but your mutual failings as partners should not fall on your children’s shoulders to carry, to resolve, or for which to feel guilt.