An old joke goes: Ed, retired in Florida with his wife, gets on the phone and calls his son in New Jersey one mid-November. I think you should know that your mother and I have decided to call it quits. Were getting a divorce. Its amicable.
No, Pop! yells the son. You cant get divorced now! Youve been together too many years! Listen, promise you wont do anything till I get there. Ill come down next week. OK? And Ill call my sistershell come too!
Ed hangs up the phone with a mischievous grin and turns to his wife. Its OK, honey. The kids will be here for Thanksgiving after all.
The wife turns to her husband and says, Great! But what are we going to tell them to get them down for Christmas?
Its a joke, but the sons horrified reaction is real. Kids do not want to see their parents get divorced. Anyone can understand the reaction of a five-year-old, 10-year-old, or even 15-year-old who learns that his home is about to be split. But why would a 35-year-old be upset to that degree at news that his parents are breaking up? If you say its the best thing for both of you, shouldnt your adult child accept your word for it?
One reason why that may not be the case is that it shocks kids to hear that their parents arent happy together;were you unhappy all along? Was the warm, cozy family of your daughters youth a fabrication of her imagination? Was there discord that your son couldnt see? Was the happy family a fraud from the get-go?
Another reason is that, as you both approach your older years,your kidswant to know that you each have someone who will take care of you: each other. (And, mixed in with that, they may be concerned that if you arent there for each other, they'll have to take care of you should you have a medical contingency.)Too, they dont want to be put in a situation of divided loyalty. Are they going to be asked to take sides, to tell one or the other of you, Youre right, or Yes, I can understand why you left him/her?Then theres the comfort of the familiar. When our worlds are turned upside-down, life can get pretty scary. And the marriage of our parents is about as fundamental as you can get. So how do you cope with an adult child whos freaked at the prospect of your divorce?First, show him or her that youre in control. Youre not falling apart. Youre not going to flounder being on your own. Neither is it going to be a financial emergency. If you can calmly sit your child down and spell things outwhat your plans are, how youre going to cope (emotionally, financially, and practically), you may give her a great deal of reassurance right there.Second, dont go into the details of what went wrong in the marriage. Your kids are entitled to some explanation: We grew apart, We never really got along, and I dont want to live the rest of my life like that, There were issuesI dont want to go into them. Were entitled to some privacy. But take your cue from that last statement: You are entitled to some privacyand your kids are entitled to be protected from a litany of his faults or yours, or a recitation of his cheating ways. That will also protect them from feeling pulled as strongly to take sides.
Third, dont ask them to take sides. Even if he has had three affairs in the last year and gave you herpes, even if he habitually humiliates you in front of your friends, thats still their father youre talking about. Fourth, make them understand that youre sure this is what you want, this isnt the result of hasty thinking, and neither is it the end of the world. Youre getting divorcedand thats that. And things will be okayin fact, better than ever.If you and your husband can stay amicable when youre no longer married, that will be a big plus, too. If your kids dont feel they have to choose which of you to invite to their houses for holiday dinners, grandchild birthdays, and such, but can invite both of you without an Arctic frost settling over the room, that will make things a lot easier for them. And stick to your guns. ?????Above all, dont let them sway you (or guilt you) into thinking it overi?f youre sure its the right thing for you. Its your life. Live it the way you believe is best for you.About the Author: Cynthia MacGregor is the author of 54 conventionally published books and over 30 e-books, not to mention ghostwritten books, articles, and many other kinds of writing.