Category Archives: Divorce

Divorced, But We Get Along

As you’ve heard on my radio program, sometimes when people get divorced, they can’t stand to be in the same room with each other.  This week, I got a question with a slightly different twist:  should divorced parents (who aren’t constantly in “battle mode”) get together occasionally for family dinners?

Video: Divorced, But We Get Along

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Read transcript here.

Chaos Theory

Even though this is a quirky piece of news from Foxnews.com, I think it has a message about our society.  An 11 year old Pennsylvania boy has been charged with killing his father’s pregnant fiancé.  He was in a county jail, but then was sent back to a juvenile facility.  The judge ruled that it was in the boy’s best interest to be in a juvenile center, even though he has been charged as an adult.  He’s accused of shooting 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk in the head, killing her and her unborn baby boy.  Houk’s mother said this boy had been threatening his dad’s fiancé for a while.
     
Now, what makes it quirky–he’s 11 years old, it’s his dad’s knocked-up girlfriend…you know, it’s got all of the salacious parts in it–that he shot her in the head (she’s pregnant…you know, it’s really dramatic).  But it also points out something very important.  Now, it is not usual for kids to murder the new love in one of their parent’s lives when there is a divorce.  That’s very unusual; it doesn’t happen every day, especially with a kid this young.
       
But what does happen to kids when parents divorce or go off with other people, have more kids, shack up,  maybe marry, maybe not, is that with all the chaos they start not doing well in school, they start experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol.  They get in trouble with gangs, they get very depressed, and they get into accidents which are really attempts at suicide.
       
In other words, they act out in all kinds of ways, they show tremendous rage or turn completely inwards.  We get lots of calls from people annoyed about how their kids are behaving after they’re divorced and re-married and getting on with their lives.  “Why aren’t the kids just conforming?  Dammit.
       
So this is a very unusual circumstance.  But his pain and motivation is out there every day as you take away the kid’s foundation, as you make him compete with other people’s kids, new kids…whatever.  And my guess?  You’re going to see more murders, or attempted murders from kids in these situations.  Why?  Because this goes all over the media and gives kids ideas.  They go on the internet, they get ideas, and their little brains that are totally unformed yet…little ideas that are bad sound good when other people have done it.  And they get in the paper and they get on the internet and they get on television.  I suspect you’ll see more of this.  Up to now, you’ve mostly seen just self abuse.  Self abuse, meaning everything as simple as not washing, not having friends anymore, not working hard in school…to self-mutilation, to addictions, to promiscuity, to illegal activities.  This is a big notch up, don’t you think?  Especially when it all comes from the same place: chaos.

Put Your Kids First, Madonna, Not Yourself

Everybody wants to know what I think about Madonna’s public comments during her  very public and rancorous divorce.  I think they pretty much match her general public image, demeanor, and behavior.  I have always found her incredibly objectionable, offensive and intentionally vulgar – all under the rubric of free-speech and free-spirit.

To start, I’m not convinced that most current celebrity marriages are indeed commitments of mind, body, and soul as they are intended to be (think Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward).  For the most part, very ‘out there’ performers are exceedingly centered on themselves and want someone to adore them, serve them, be a reflection of their perceived wonderfulness or importance, fulfill a fantasy or simply put…the sex was great and the public relations aspect boosts their visibility.

When the so-called object of their affections becomes tiresome, more or less important or successful, demanding, and no longer reflects a narcissistic boost…they are dispensed with.

When a divorcing spouse makes public vulgar, insulting, and humiliating comments about the other spouse, children are devastated and tend to either compulsively go towards the attacked party to protect and defend them, or compulsively go towards the attacking parent so they won’t also be victimized by that parent.  Either way, children become emotionally fragmented, confused, and distrustful – and that will likely be an issue for their whole lives, especially when they are ready to establish relationships.

Celebrities with the usual chaos in their personal lives are the fodder of media sales and ratings.  Celebrities with quality relationships are ignored (Tom Selleck, for example).

These celebrity musical chair relationships are obviously not a great image for our impressionable youth.  Quite frankly, most divorces don’t need to happen at all.  Weathering lousy times is a sign of character and commitment.  Most of the time when folks call me all angry and convinced they need to divorce, they are simplifying the situation because they haven’t taken the responsibility needed to help maintain a quality comradeship.  I tell them short of abuse, addictions, and repetitive affairs, they should treat the one they want so much to leave as though they loved them with their last breath – for a month – and then watch and feel what happens.

If one parent decides to leave for selfish or foolish reasons, the truth of the situation can be spoken to the children without the nasty parts.  For example, “Your mother, sadly, has decided to leave to be with a man she met on the internet.  I’m hoping that she will find that she misses us all so much that she wants her life with us back.  Until then, let’s pray and stay as positive as possible.”

This approach states the truth, which I believe children in this situation need, but opens the possibility for hope.  Children will over time form their own conclusions when mama never calls, visits, or comes home.  That parent will have destroyed the relationship with their children all by themselves.

I try to remind folks considering leaving for less than important reasons to stick around and create the kind of homelife that will best send their children into their adulthood with optimism and an open heart.  I tell them that this is their moral obligation…to put themselves second.

More on Parental Irresponsibility

Sue Shellenbarger writes a column for The Wall Street Journal that generally sends me up any available wall. The column is entitled “Home & Family,” and I keep up with it if only to counter its content.

She recently answered a reader’s question (4/30/08) that had to do with a divorced father wanting to take his 10 year old son to his native Australia for 10 days, but his ex-wife is fighting the plan. The father contends that life lessons of such a vacation trump school. He’s going to court for the right to take him, and asks Shellenbarger what she thinks.

First of all, there are laws which prohibit one parent from taking a child out of the country without the express permission of the other. The reason is obvious: child-stealing. Secondly, having divorced parents at war with each other over a child hurts the child as he or she feels divided loyalties and tremendous anxiety. Thirdly, taking a child out of school for a protracted trip teaches the child that education is less of a priority than personal desires for fun. This father could arrange a summer trip when no school is missed. My guess is that this is a major power play.

Shellenbarger not only doesn’t deal with any of these issues, but she focuses on the whim of the child: if he would be comfortable with the trip; if he would see it as an adventure….in other words, just considering what the kid wants. What?? Of course the kid wants to be out of school and hanging out with dingos and kangaroos!

“The ideal route would be for you and your ex-wife to set aside your personal feelings and focus on what he truly wants,” contributes a New Jersey Marriage and Family Therapist. “[It] depends on your son’s openness to the experience. Try to give him a free and honest choice, unfettered by feelings of loyalty to either of you or fear of letting you down.”

Is she kidding? How can a ten year old do that? And why put the burden on the child? Aren’t the parents supposed to want and do what is best for the child? This is more of the “if it feels good it is good” school of thought – an experiment whose failure doesn’t seem to curtail its perpetuation.

Divorce Is Bad For The Environment

Jianguo “Jack” Liu, a Distinguished Professor of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University, has published a study that shows that divorce is bad for the environment.  (Proceedings of the National Academy of Science – http://csis.msu.edu/Publication%20files/PNAS_divorce_environment.pdf)  With rising divorce rates, there are more households with fewer people, thereby taking up more space per person and using up more energy and water. A refrigerator, for example, uses roughly the same amount of energy whether it belongs to a family of four or one parent and child.  Liu estimates that Americans spend an extra $3.6 billion annually on water as a result of the extra households created when people divorce. Continue reading

Thoughts From a Soon-To-Be Ex-Husband

I got this eloquent email recently, and wanted to share it with all of you, as it addresses the consequences of some behaviors that often come up from callers to my radio show:

“Two months ago, I left my wife and children and moved into a condo about a mile from our home.  This morning, I was moved to write the following, just to help me vent my frustration over the treatment from my wife that led to this painful and damaging decision, called “For Years:” Continue reading