THE BLOG
02/11/2014 11:51 am ET | Updated Apr 13, 2014

Retaliation Nation

"Without forgiveness life is governed by ... an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation." ~ Robert Assagioli

In the agony, angst and anger of divorce, we often retaliate against our former spouses to the detriment of our own children. Makes no sense. Shouldn't the responsibility and honor of parenting come first and trump all else no matter how difficult the situation? Time and time and time again, I speak with people who are a part of this devastation and I have a hard time wrapping my head around it.

A few months ago, I had coffee with a woman who told me that her husband's ex-wife refused to take her child to the doctor for a renewal of a required prescription. This woman, his step-mom, offered to take him, and the mom refused and cancelled the appointment entirely. Who is this hurting most? The child who needs his medication.

I spoke with a man just before the holidays. He and his wife are divorcing. He has been a stay-at-home dad to their three kids for the past seven years, while she has been the full-time wage earner. She doesn't want to give him any child support or palimony and says he should get a job. Is this kind of shake-up fair to those kids? Why should it be any different simply because the traditional gender roles are reversed?

I met with a woman last week who was furious (understandably!) because her husband has been having an affair at work. The woman he is in a relationship with is a supplier to the company. Clearly this is in violation of all corporate rules and he would quickly and easily be fired for this major conflict of interest. The woman told me she wants to call the Corporate Integrity Hotline and report this to "get his a$$ fired." Hmm ... so now you are going to be a single stay-at-home mom with no source of income because you got your husband fired, and now your two children (one of whom is about to start college) aren't going to have any financial support? Does that make any sense?

I get the anger and the urge to be ugly and retaliatory in each of these examples, but seriously people, who are you hurting more? Your ex? Or your kids? Are you prepared to deal with the repercussions for something that might have felt good in the moment?

Perhaps this will resonate! Don't cut off your nose to spite your face!
How about this? Don't risk losing the war just to win a battle!

I believe one of my greatest obligations as a parent is to take care of my kids! Not to helicopter them. Not to protect them from learning life lessons. Not to make decisions for them, but to teach them to become responsible adults. Part of that obligation is to ensure that they are adequately cared for, and when possible and realistic, that both parents play a role in parenting to the best of their ability. You've heard me say before that, extenuating circumstances aside, kids deserve to have both parents.

Before you act, resist the urge to retaliate out of selfishness and your own anger, and instead ask if the path you are taking is in the best interests of your kids. Are you taking the high road? If the answer is no, you might want to rethink your strategy. Divorce is hard enough on everyone - especially our children. Let's try to do what we can to not rub salt in that wound and make it even more complicated.

What about you, what do you think?