There are new study results from the Center for the Demography of Health and Aging University of Wisconsin-Madison about divorced fathers and their relationships with adult children.
Using data from 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2008 the study extends the existing literature on post-divorced fathers and their relationships with adult children. Specifically, the study contrasts late to midlife divorced fathers and their relationships with their adult children from a prior marriage or relationship after they have entered into a new relationship.
What did the study find?
Preliminary results from the analyses suggest that:
- Divorced mid- to late-life fathers who repartner have notably less contact with and are less likely to transfer money to their adult children from a prior union than divorced fathers who remain unpartnered.
- Cohabitation has similarly negative implications for divorced fathers' relations with their adult children as does remarriage.
- Although new (step)children reduce contact with and financial transfers to children from a prior union, changes in remarried and cohabiting divorced fathers' family structure do not account for the effect of repartnering.
- There is some suggestive evidence that new step-children have a smaller negative effect on ever divorced fathers' ties with their adult children from an earlier partner than new biological children.
- The hypothesis of 'family swapping' is not supported as findings indicate that new (step)children reduce fathers' relations with adult child from prior union to a lesser or a similar extent as do additional children from a prior union.
What does the study tell us about divorced fathers who remarry or cohabitate?
1. Fathers make their new mate a priority over their relationship with their children?
2. Second wives or partners drive a wedge between fathers and children?
3. First wives drive a wedge between the father, second wife or partner?
4. A mother's parental instinct is more keen than a fathers?
5. Fathers have a problem separating their relationship with a new wife from their relationship with their children?
What are your thought?
I heard a young bride say, shortly after taking her wedding vows, "now he can never leave me." The woman had actually been struck dumb by her wedding vows! But, I think a lot of folks are. Once those vows are made it is easy to assume that you are both on the same page as far as making the marriage work.
We all carry our own assumptions about what makes a marriage work. The most dangerous assumption one can make is that the marriage will work just because you took a vow. The days are gone when people remained married because it is the right thing to do, or for the sake of the children. And, with a divorce rate at nearly 50% there isn't much thought being put into staying married to keep the family intact.
Making the assumption that your marriage will last because it is a marriage could be the very thing that breaks the marriage.
When we are working on developing a relationship in any way, whether it be mending a broken marriage or doing things to strengthen an existing marriage if we do things with the wrong assumptions about the other person we are very likely to not be successful in our endeavor.
I receive heart breaking emails regularly from women whose husbands file for divorce out of the blue. Women who were happy in their marriage and assumed their husband was happy. The most devastating thing we can do to a marital relationship is assume there are no problems based on our feelings alone.
It is easy to become complacent or assume that all is well in a marriage when in reality your husband is hiding his true feelings. Before you know it you find yourself in a situation where he has one foot out the door and you are scrambling to fix problems that may not have solutions.
To keep your marriage out of divorce court it is important that you stay aware of not only your feelings about the marriage but your husband's feelings also. Nothing, especially when it comes to marriage should be taken for granted. You should "check in" periodically, take an inventory of sorts just to be sure you and your husband are on the same page.
When going through the divorce process there is a lot of effort put into negotiating a divorce settlement that is fair to both parties. I learned from personal and professional experience that regardless of how fair a settlement is, there are those who feel a court order does not pertain to them.
Your divorce settlement agreement will cover issues such as child support, visitation and the division of marital property and marital debt. You will either agree via mediation on a settlement or a Family Court judge will decide for you how these issues are handled.
The problem is, just because someone agrees to or is ordered to pay child support or, marital debt doesn't mean they will pay as ordered.
The day before my ex-husband left our marriage I would have bet everything we owned that our marriage was stable and would last. Good thing that bet didn't happen!
Over the years I've learned that being caught off guard by a spouse's desire to divorce is common place. Many, many people are left holding the emotional baggage after a spouse walks away or, in some cases runs away from the marriage.
My ex and I had an argument before church one Sunday. He picked up his car keys and said, "I'm going to get a coke." That was the end, he never came home again. I'm not exaggerating, he quite literally never came home again.
I know a woman who woke up one morning to find her husband gone. He had left in the middle of the night with his clothes and a few possessions. He left no note, no forwarding address, no explanation. Like me, she had no idea divorce was being considered by her spouse.
An unwanted divorce is devastating enough without compounding it by a lack of explanation on the part of the leaving spouse. Some though don't think they owe an explanation or can't face the pain their leaving causes. When it is time to go, it is time to go, regardless of how those who are left behind feel or deal with the situation. It is a cowardly exit!
Was your spouse a "runaway?"
Did your spouse...
Behave like all was well in the marriage? Did he/she treat you kindly and lovingly before leaving?
Never mention being unhappy in the marriage?
Leave without notice or, like mine, go out for a coke and never come home?
Give you reasons for leaving that rewrote the history of your marriage? Were you accused of not loving him/her enough? Were you told that marrying you had been a mistake, that they had been miserable the entire marriage?
Change drastically after leaving. Did he/she become mean spirited, controlling and irrational?
Cut off emotional and financial support after leaving?
Turn what you thought was a good marriage into one years long lie?
Turn his/her back on everything you thought they held dear?
It is impossible to describe how it feels to be on the receiving end of this kind of treatment by someone you loved and were committed to. I don't know if it is any consolation but, take this as truth from someone who has been there, this is a dark period you will work your way through. It is a time of growth and acceptance and I promise you, you will come out the other side far better off than the runaway.
In an interview with People Magazine Bethenny Frankel expressed bewilderment over the fact that her soon to be ex, Jason Hoppy is still wearing his wedding band. "It's an interesting choice," she said. "And I don't understand it, about the ring."
I thought I'd take this opportunity to help Bethenny understand. He is wearing his ring because he is still emotionally attached. He is wearing his ring because it represents something that still holds meaning for him. Unlike you, he is still invested emotionally in his marriage to you.
He is still wearing his ring Bethenney because unlike those who make the decision to divorce, those that are left need time to process the end of a marriage and relationship that was of the upmost importance to them. That ring is his final connection to someone that was important to him...YOU.
For this reason I suggest you put serious thought into what you say about your marriage and your husband in the press, before you say it. Out of respect for him and your child, step back and do the right thing. Stop talking about how miserable you were with a man who, from all appearances was deeply in love with you. Stop belittling the father of your child. A child who will one day grow up and read what you are now saying.
Please, just stop!
When going through a divorce you not only need the support of a competent divorce attorney, you also need emotional support from friends and family. In some instances the most valuable support you can find is that offered by people who have or, are going through a divorce themselves.
Here at About Divorce Support you will find comprehensive information on the legal , financial and emotional aspects of divorce. We are aware of your need for more than information during the divorce process. You also need the support of others who have and are experiencing similar issues in their lives.
Therefore, not only do we offer helpful information, we offer a community of support. Our Divorce Support Forum is a convenient, non-threatening way to meet others with similar interests and find support during a stressful time in your life. We hope you will join our community and share you story.
Join in a Forum Discussion or, Start One of Your Own:
Divorce means change, a HUGE change and along with that change comes fear. Fear that you won't be able to make it on your own. Fear that your children will suffer negative effects from the divorce. Fear that you won't be able to make it financially. Fear that you will live the rest of your life as a single person. Fear that you will fail in your next relationship.
Building a new life as a divorced person is a challenge. The fear we feel is a warning system telling us to be careful, to pause before making a decision and to be sure of what we are doing before we venture out into the unknown. We need to listen to our fears, welcome our fears and face our fears. Feeling afraid in a new situation is normal. Whether or not we move on to a rewarding and fulfilling post divorce life depends on how we deal with our fears.
Face your fear. Don't try to think your way through any fear you are feeling. It just doesn't work! Fear can't be intellectualized. Fear calls for action on your part. Once you take action, the fear will begin to dissipate. Identify what it is you are afraid of and then take baby steps toward getting what you want. If you are unhappy in your marriage but the idea of divorce terrifies you, try a separation. Test the waters, face the fear of being alone or making it financially. If you have made the right decision the fear will disappear and your perception of what divorce will mean for you will change.
Use positive self-talk. When facing a change and the fear that comes with it don't use phrases like, "I don't think I can do this" or, "I'm afraid to do this." Those words do nothing but cause us to resist the change and worsen your fear. If it is something you want and the only way to get it is to take action and have confidence in yourself to succeed. When doubts enter you head push them away with positive words..."I can do this," "I want to do this."
Give yourself an out. If you find yourself in a place of indecision or fear about what step to take next bargain with yourself. Plan an action but give yourself permission to step back if that action is too uncomfortable. If you don't like the results of the newest change you can always go back and do things the way you were doing them. Instead of not moving forward because of the fear, move forward and if you don't like it, go back to the status quo with a new plan of action. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
Fears are to be embraced, not used an excuse for not getting what you want out of life. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."
1. According to Judith Ray, a licensed family therapist in Colorado Springs, an attempt to alienate a child from his/her parent is not a gender specific issue. Mothers and Fathers both engage in the behavior.
As Ray says, "Those who are men tend to be narcissistic, characterized by a sense of entitlement, arrogance and low empathy. Female alienators often have borderline personalities, marked by insecurity, neediness, a strong fear of abandonment and chronic emptiness."
2. Parental Alienation occurs when one parent purposefully and willfully attempts to alienate a child from the child's other parent.
3. Never give up on your children. You may find yourself defenseless to fight the other parent in Family Court. You may find very little understanding of Parental Alienation among therapist, a Guardian Ad Litem, your own attorney and others you turn to for help. Regardless of your feelings of powerlessness, never give up on your children.
Nothing is more painful than feeling rejection from your child. It is imperative that you not allow the pain of that rejection to cause you to give up on your child. If you send consistent messages to your child that they are loved by you regardless of the anger they express toward you, your child will one day reach out to you.
Your child is defenseless against the power of the alienating parent. It is imperative that you be the steady, dependable and reliable influence in your child's life. How do you do this? Whether you are allowed to see your child or not, you can show your child love on a daily basis.
- Send periodic emails expressing your love,
- If you don't have access to email, send a card or note,
- Never fail to send a Christmas gift or birthday gift,
- Refuse to engage in conflict with the alienating parent,
- Reach out to your child on a regular basis in any manner that is available to you.
These things work, I know from experience. I was an alienated parent. I did all these things during the time that my son was alienated from me and he eventually came home. Children grow, mature and begin to make their own decisions about what and who is right for them. If you show your child consistent love and understanding you will one day fall into the "who is right" category.
Are you married to someone with avoidant personality disorder? I was and I spent a lot of time focused on what his avoidance of conflict and intimacy in our relationship was doing to him. It wasn't until after we divorced that I began to pay attention to what it had done to me.
He was a kind and generous husband who refused to engage in any form of marital conflict. It was important to him that we appear happy, whether we were happy or not. In response to his generosity and kindness I beat myself up for not being happy or for feeling the need to express that unhappiness.
Not only did he need to control his own emotions, he needed to control mine also. I entered into the marriage an open, honest, communicative person. It didn't take long before I was playing by his rules and stuffing my feelings to avoid hurting him and causing conflict. I had joined him on the dark side!
And that is what it is like when married to someone with avoidant personality disorder. They don't express emotions so, you learn not to also. They don't confront issues or problems in the marriage head on so, neither do you. Anything negative is swept under the rug and you learn to pretend, just as they do, that regardless of how empty you feel all is well.
What does this mean for you, the spouse of the avoidant?
- Loss of self-confidence,
- Loss of personal identity,
- Possible depression,
- Possible anxiety and panic attacks,
- Anger turned inward,
- Physical diseases and pain disorders due to the stress of stuffing your feelings.
In other words, your spouse's need to avoid problems may be the cause of the majority of your problems!
I'm always puzzled by parents I talk to who believe their children are "resilient" and will bounce back and do well after a divorce. These are people who are barely holding it together due to marital problems but, for some reason they give their children more credit for being able to handle a negative situation than they give themselves.
They are in a marital situation they feel they can no longer endure emotionally BUT they believe the trauma of a broken family will be less stressful for the children than them living in an unhappy marriage is for them.
Since when have we become a society of adults who believe kids take problems in stride while we should have special attention to us when we endure a problem?
Definition of RESILIENT
: characterized or marked by resilience: as
a : capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture
b : tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
Think about it, do you think your children are anymore able to withstand the shock of divorce than you are the stress of an unhappy marriage? Who is more likely to be able to make adjustments to unhappiness in life, you or your children?
According to Lisa Vratny-Smith, "Toddlers are able to recognize that their parent is no longer at home and will struggle to understand why. Developmentally, a toddler's focus is on what is occurring at the present moment, and the future is incomprehensible. Like infants, toddlers will react to the stress or tension the adults in the home are experiencing. They may exhibit decreased tolerance for frustration, increased aggression or temper tantrums. More frequent crying or pouting and changes in mood may also occur. In addition, toddlers may suck their thumbs more frequently, have nightmares and be more reluctant to separate from parents."
Parent's relationships have a HUGE influence over the emotional development of their children. As adults we have developed emotionally...most of us anyway. We've gone through all the stages that children go through developmentally which makes us more resilient when it comes to handling adversity.
Some adults going through or thinking about divorce make the mistake of projecting their ability to deal with stress onto their children. Which I find puzzling because these same parents are finding it hard to live inside an unhappy marriage. Not abusive but, simply "unhappy" for them. This tells me that such projection is a refusal to see the situation from their child's perspective.
Sure, there are situations where children are better off when parents divorce. Children should never be exposed to high conflict marriages. If there is domestic abuse or behaviors destructive to your child's well-being you owe it to your child to change the situation.
If, however you are in a low-conflict marriage think about the impact to your children before you, "Ditch your spouse and eat, pray, love your way to the next one" as Beverly Willett so eloquently put it.