By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
When there’s an “other woman” (OW) in the picture, divorce can be vastly more complicated for parents. (Of course, it’s the same with the “other man.”) However, the challenges that can come with the “other woman” don’t change the parenting rules.
Affairs and new relationship partners mean you’re coping with tremendous emotional turmoil. And you deserve to be heard, validated and treated with great compassion at this time. But your kids deserve great compassion as well!
When you’re a parent it is essential that you don’t make the big “never do” mistakes. It’s especially important when talking to your children and dealing with the OW – as tempting as it may be to do otherwise. That’s the foundation of a successful child-centered divorce.
Here are 6 damaging behaviors and “never do” mistakes you must avoid to show you love your kids more than you hate the “Other Woman or Man”!
Never-Do Mistakes For Divorcing & Divorced Parents
- Sharing adult information with your kids, even teens.
Don’t bring up the OW unless the children already know about her. Don’t discuss adultery and other complex adult issues, despite the hurt and pain you’re experiencing at this time. Instead, reach out to a therapist or divorce coach for professional help and support. Confide in your friends – not your kids! As tempting as it may be, minimize the conversations about the why behind the divorce. Focus instead on the continuation of your family as a family – even after the divorce. Stress the co-parenting your children can expect ahead. Divorce is a change in the form or structure of your family, but it doesn’t have to dissolve your family. If both parents take that to heart, your children will find it easier to adapt to the changes ahead. They can take comfort knowing they haven’t lost either parent.
- Letting your kids support or parent you.
If your children bring up the other partner, answer their questions without editorializing. That means don’t get emotional, judge, vent or put down the OW. Don’t break down either. Show your most mature parental side. Otherwise, your kids will start to believe they have to take care of you. When children feel they should ‘parent their parents’, it robs them of their childhood. This situation is not their fault and certainly not their responsibility to fix!
- Badmouthing your former spouse around or within hearing of the children.
That includes phone calls, talking to the neighbors or quarreling in another room. That’s still their other parent. Your divorce issues are adult issues. Children love both of their parents. They are confused and hurt emotionally and psychologically when they hear one parent put down the other. They feel guilty for loving that other parent. Are they wrong? Do they have to take sides? Asking that of them puts enormous pressure on kids – even teens. When you feel like exploding, vent to friends, family, therapists or coaches!
- Downplaying the importance of working on your self-esteem first.
Remember, the OW has nothing to do with your value as a person or a partner. Don’t move into competition with her. She’ll get her just returns in time when reality sets in. Don’t stoop to levels beneath you by putting yourself down or fighting with your ex about her. I know this isn’t easy – but it’s important and also therapeutic for you. Find ways to embrace your new life, to move on and open the door to your happier future. That’s the first step to reinventing yourself. Make doing the inner work a priority. Then, when you are ready, you will attract a new partner worthy of you! Reach out for professional support to ease the struggle.
- Making your kids feel guilty for liking the OW.
This is not an easy situation for you. But it’s crucial to remember that you’re a role model for your kids. They are looking to you for guidance in how to handle life challenges. By showing your maturity and compassion for them you are modeling adult behavior they can emulate. It’s okay if the OW turns out to be a nice person. Or fun for your kids to be with. Remember, your kids are innocent and didn’t ask for any of this. Keep in mind, they can move ahead into the next chapter of their lives much more successfully if you are there for them. Show your best side – even when it’s tough! And don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
- Alienating the kids from their other parent.
It’s so tempting to encourage your children to hate or reject their other parent for bringing the OW into your lives. And you certainly may feel justified in doing so. However, that’s not what your kids need from you. Sure, you’re divorcing their other parent, but they’re not. Nor should they be. Children told lies or manipulated into disrespecting their other parent often come to resent you for this behavior. They may even reject you when they’re grown adults. Or develop serious emotional challenges when it comes to their own relationships. Parental alienation strategies are never the right path to take either for you or your children.
Divorcing when an “other woman” is involved can be exceptionally painful and life altering. You need to take care of yourself. Take the time to vent and talk to your trusted help team. Find a way to be the parent your children deserve as well. While this reality is never easy to face, as a parent you have no choice. With support you can overcome the obstacles both to your self-esteem and to your life goals.
Through it all, keep this mind. Your innocent children should never pay the price for either parent’s questionable behavior or poor coping skills. They need your love – and mature, responsible parenting – more than ever before.
Want some help? Contact me to discuss a Coaching session to give you the skills you need to get on with your life with confidence. That’s a gift to give yourself as well as your kids. Reach me at [email protected].
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right!, her Coaching Services, e-courses and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com.