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20 Post-Split Surprises

RC Steif

You know divorce has lasting repercussions for every member of the family, but there’s lot more you don’t know. Rabbanim, professionals, askanim, and those in the trenches share their experiences on lesser-known ramifications

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

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WRONG ROLE There’s a tendency for divorced parents to parentify their children. Children are often given inappropriate responsibilities and are expected to fill the shoes of the missing spouse

Y ou know divorce has lasting repercussions for every member of the family, but there’s lot more you don’t know. Rabbanim, professionals, askanim, and those in the trenches share their experiences on lesser-known ramifications.

You know Maseches Gittin is an important and relevant part of Torah. You know that the Mizbeiach cries when a couple gets divorced. You know the effects may last for generations.

But there are some things you most likely don’t know about divorce.

Exposed

I feel like I lost my right to privacy. I’m not talking about the busybodies who have no issue asking personal questions. I’m talking about what I must grudgingly admit is a legitimate infringement. When we were married, my husband and I decided together if, when, and how to share family news with others. Of course, we weren’t always on the same page, but I had some control over what was being shared. Now, it’s my decision or his decision — and his alone. I never know how much his parents, siblings, rav, friends, etc., know about things I don’t want shared.

One of my children needed intervention for a developmental delay. I didn’t turn it into a state secret, but I didn’t tell too many people. The day my ex found out, the entire city knew! Of course, I need to clue him in on issues; they’re his kids after all, and he has a right to know. But then I never know who else will know.

Then, there’s the issue of me feeling forced to allow the kids to share. I know they need an outsider to talk to, and I allow them to speak to the school guidance counselor. I have no idea how much she’s sharing and with whom — for the purpose of helping my child, sure — but then it’s out there. In short, we’re in the limelight now more than ever. Not the worst of my problems, not a very comfortable place to be.

Tova, a divorced mother for over a decade

Not Cessation, Escalation

Rather than divorce ending marital conflict, many couples simply continue the same conflicts in their post-divorce lives. One wants the kids on Monday, and the other only wants to send them on Tuesdays. The father brings back the kids at nine instead of seven, and his ex claims he’s being the same irresponsible guy he always was. He’ll counter that she’s being the same rigid person she always was. The fighting, lack of civility, and inability to reach a compromise is still there — only it’s escalated a lot!

Mordechai Weinberger, LCSW, is in private practice, and hosts several weekly call-in radio shows. He’s also the author of a best seller self-help book, Alive

Post-Marriage Loneliness

After my divorce, I moved into my parents’ home. Though surrounded by people, I’m so terribly, devastatingly lonely. Once I experienced that close connection of marriage — with its positives and negatives — there’s no going back to being single and feeling satisfied with that.

 

Watching my married siblings interact on Shabbosim and Yamim Tovim only exacerbates my loneliness; I’ve got no one to share with. In that in-between place, where I am neither married, nor really single, I wonder if I can ever feel comfortable anywhere. Baila, a recently divorced woman

Costs to Children

Children whose parents have a messy divorce often suffer difficulties in school, have behavioral problems, feel blamed for the divorce, and have to take sides. This can lead to future difficulty in relationships and trusting people. Young children may regress developmentally, e.g., start sucking their thumbs, wetting their beds, etc. I’ve also seen children develop facial and body tics, as well as various anxieties such as social anxiety, separation anxiety, etc.

In adolescents and adults, I see difficulty with shidduchim — either having a hard time making a decision because they’re afraid of divorce or jumping in too quickly because they want to get married. They may also have difficulty opening up, which doesn’t allow for more than a superficial relationship.

Sarah Kahan, LCSW, is a family therapist and maintains a private practice in Midwood and Boro Park

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