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Miriam Novogrodsky

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Harboring Resentment Is Bad For the Kids, Duh

Posted: 04/12/2012 2:45 pm

There are plenty of topics I could spend my time writing about:  health care, abortion rights or Santorum and Romney and the dismal race? How can I write such drivel when the world is boiling over with troubles?  Trayvon, Korean school shooting or Iraqi's itchy fingered bomb mongers -- to name a few.

But when I sit down, whatever is lurking springs forward. So here's what I got: I watched Dr. Phil a few months ago and he said that exes who continue to harbor crap about each other are harming their children. He said that any amount -- any trace -- is bad. I usually watch self-help shows from a smug spot on high. But that day I fell off my chair because I had traces. Before  I knew what was what, I was getting bawled out by Dr. Phil because of 'em. I had traces of anger, piles of hurt and mountains of resentment. And Dr. Phil said those unresolved burdens are the most toxic crap for kids of divorce. I made a plan.

The first thing I did was apologize for blogging about my ex-husband's parenting in a disparaging way. I was sorry and I was sorry to give up the good material. Next, after a year long I'm-not-translating-you-to-our-kids argument, I began my job as interpreter again.: "Dad doesn't know you feel that way unless you tell him. He loves you and needs to hear from you what you need"; "Dad meant that you need to work on your grades. He didn't mean that other part." We were married, so for me the job of interpreting my ex is easy.

Divorce is like a death, but you don't bury anyone. You both die and continue to walk around bumping into each other. You learn to co-exist peacefully after you accept the situation. Years before acceptance there is anger (and many, many other emotions). When I went all Dr. Phil on our situation, I quickly found a pile of sad underneath all traces.  Dr. Phil said the kids would be happier when the parents were peaceful, and they were -- our kids seemed happier and more comfortable within the awkwardness that exists in the wake of divorce and blended families. The kids were doing well. I had been foolish to think our polite nicey-nicey had been construed as anything other than a sham by our children.

Dr. Phil said anger equals unfinished business between exes. I believe he is correct. Why? Because when living peacefully with my ex, I felt more sadness than I had in years. Unfinished business anyone? Apparently by keeping enough tension between us, I had been able to avoid the final step in divorce: the sadness that accompanies acceptance.

Great, I have another part of life all sewn up. Woop-de-doo, what's the big deal? There isn't one. I just hadn't anticipated sadness (I'm still not sure I wasn't riding some horomonal nostalgia wave); once I put down my sword, the nice parts of my ex were clearer than they had been in years.

But if we weren't politely fighting what were we? Divorced.

 

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