You never hear how divorce effects children from the second family. There is a lot of information on how divorce effects the children of the divorced family but what about the new family? Does anyone realize that the effects of the first divorce are far-reaching and continue to affect families affiliated with the children whose parents are divorced? I learned first hand how my divorce from my daughter‘s father was still effecting my family and it wasn’t my daughter who was struggling but my son who was from a new relationship.
When my ex-husband and I divorced, my daughter was 20 months old. While initially, she was affected by our divorce, as she got older, her memories of us being a family faded and her memories of her father and I have always been as divorced parents. When she was six, I got pregnant with my son and while his father and I chose not to marry, we’ve lived together since he was born so all he has ever known was a two parent home. As he got older and became more aware of our family dynamic, I noticed early how he was effected by his sister leaving for her weekend and summer visits to her fathers home.
The first time he noticeably reacted to her absence was when he was a year old and she’d been gone for her summer visit. He was very mobile so we kept her bedroom door shut but what no one realized is that by keeping her room closed, he thought she was locked in the room and one night he walked by her room and knocked on the door. We laughed and told him she wasn’t there but of course he didn’t understand . As he learned to talk and understand that “Sissy” was leaving for the weekend, he would question where she was and try and understand this every other weekend phenomena of his sister leaving him but it was a struggle.
By age three, he reacted to her leaving by crying and constantly asking–“Where’s Sissy?” or confirming what we told him about her whereabouts by saying– “Sissy’s at Renzo’s?” (his name for her father). There was constant discussion of where his sister was because he just didn’t understand. He didn’t understand that I used to be married to another man and he was confused that he and his sister had different fathers. It was at this point that I really started to understand how my actions were affecting not only the child of divorce but the child who loved the child of divorce.
When he turned four it was obvious that he had abandonment issues. He had anxiety about her leaving and he would leave the room so that we couldn’t see the tears in his eyes. Talking to her on the phone made him sad and when she left for her six week visit with her father, he acquired an eating disorder. Yes I said a four year old had an eating disorder and the disorder was he wouldn’t eat! Everyone told me that it was a phase he was going through and that it would blow over but no matter how they tried to convince me that everything would be alright, the stress of trying to make him eat anything other than cereal was wearing on the entire family.
I even had a breakdown when he was crying about his sister being gone and I flashed and told him to basically “suck it up!” I got so upset I started to cry and it was at that moment that I saw how the fallout from my divorce had reached all the way to my new family. It hadn’t crossed my mind to worry about how he might feel because honestly, my focus was on my daughter. She was the one whose family had been broken up and she had never complained so him having such visible reactions to my daughter’s situation was alarming.
I began to recognize that his “eating disorder”was his way of maintaining some semblance of control in his life. I had watched my 20 month old daughter have a similar reaction when she and I moved and she had to start staying with her great-grandparents while I worked but she transitioned easier than he did. He was and still is very adverse to change and it wasn’t until he went to pre-school and began to have his own life outside of the home that he finally calmed down.
Being around other children helped him and slowly he let go of his “eating disorder”. By the time his sister went away for her summer visit, he was so engulfed in his pre-school “social life” and his impending year as a Kindergartner that he was able to let go and have fun. One year later, he has made great strides in overcoming his abandonment issues and he has taken control of his own social calendar by setting up outings with his grandparents by and for himself.
Raising my son has taught me that the effects of divorce are continuous no matter the affiliation the child has with the divorcing parents. I have learned that a broken family is a broken family and it is paramount that people realize that decisions made today will most certainly effect the generations of tomorrow.
We have a family friend who I’ve dubbed “The Marrying Kind”. He’s that guy that pulls the trigger very quickly on life changing decisions and I always felt he was a bit delusional about how relationships work. When he married his ex-wife it was because she was cool and they didn’t argue. This, of course, was because they were dating, not living together and having great sex…of course they weren’t arguing…they hadn’t gone through any real life situations! He wanted a mother figure and she wanted a child and that is exactly what they both got so in the beginning, everything was perfect.
Despite his friends voicing their concerns about his reasons for asking his wife to marry him, he went ahead and asked her. They had a large wedding and went on to live happily ever…I’m not even going to bother finishing that statement! As happens with many young couples, they quickly got pregnant and as anyone who has been married and had a child knows, things changed.
Her priorities shifted and he lost his position at the top and instead of focusing as a family on the baby, he did what many men do when they lose top billing, he started becoming less involved in the relationship and as a consequence it suffered. Having experienced similar issues in my first marriage, I tried to convince my significant other to talk to him and let him know that the problems they were having were normal for first time parents and that what they were going through was not truly “divorce worthy” and could be worked out.
I wasn’t privy to the exact cause of the demise of his marriage but I do know that the root of the problem really wasn’t a problem. His new wife had just had their first child and she was going through the natural changes a woman goes through after having given birth. In time, things would have settled down and they would have been able to reconnect on a husband and wife level…he just needed to be patient.
He didn’t want to listen and ultimately the marriage ended in divorce and not long after that, he began perimid-life crisis (Yeah…I made that up!) and began exclusively dating women in the 20-25 year old demographic. Now I don’t have an issue with him dating younger women but his rationale behind why he was now only dating them sent up all kind of red flags and suddenly instead of just saying he was dating a younger woman because he liked her, he blamed it on something else…in this case it was age.
He convinced himself that the reason his marriage failed was because his wife was older (same age as him) and therefore needy. She was needy because she wanted him to be around and she expected him to be involved in the home and their newly expanded family and he wanted to continue to be free without any responsibilities which of course wasn’t possible with a new wife, a mortgage and a baby.
He began making comments like–“Young girls have a cool attitude and young girls don’t trip and need you to be there for them all the time.” These were, of course, the thoughts of a simple minded person and honestly, I refuse to try and compare a 22 year old woman to a 35+ year old woman. They are very different and for good reason, one has seen more than the other and already lived what the other is soon to live so there is no sense in even attempting to try.
So now we hear that after having dated less than a year, he has gotten engaged to his new “Perfect woman” and moved in with her. All of the qualities and qualifications that made his first wife marriage material are possessed by this new young lady and though I know it is wrong, I am mentally betting on how long this relationship will last because what he fails to realize is his first marriage and his potential new marriage will both end in the same disastrous way because they both have the same common denominator…him!
He is the baby of his family and his actions are that of the baby so until he acts his mature age of 37 and leaves his 19 year old thought process behind, he will continue to end up with the same result and forever be on the hunt for the “Perfect Wife”. He is a walking PSA for women everywhere to beware of the guy who is the marrying kind because the marrying kind do just that…they marry but they don’t stay married!