I’ve been reading about several divorced dads and the varied connection they have with their children. What are factors within the divorce process that make it so difficult (or easy) to provide good parenting? Is one spouse 100% to blame? Is it possible that some of these fathers are good parents in horrible circumstances?
Mothers influence the children’s relationship with the Father, even after divorce.
It’s important to understand the origin of situations like these in the constellation of the divorce process; many times it’s the mother that gets the benefit of the doubt, and the father has to prove his worth. It’s possible for a good father to lose his cool after repeatedly being isolated and demeaned. According to a review of literature on divorced fathers, Nielson (1999) reported that “the single most important factor [for parental relationships] is the mother’s attitude towards the father. That is, fathers and children usually remain close only if the mother actively encourages and facilitates their relationship…too many divorced fathers end up with little or no relationship with their children in part because the mother has not been supportive.” In other words, mothers still have a responsibility in nurturing and prioritizing their children’s relationship with their father after the divorce (provided there is no legitimate reason to separate them), even if it pains the ego to do so.
Sometimes my ex still tries to act like my spouse. Why?
Looking at a case study supplied by Baum (2004), divorced parents have to outwardly sever the identity as a spouse, but inwardly those roles may remain joined. This results in psychological “residuals” of the former identity as a spouse, affecting the man’s ability to create a new identity as a fully transitioned ex-husband and present father. Worse yet, the more these residuals remain present, the easier it is for reminders of that former life to trigger strong emotions previously experienced by the marriage (something referred to in the paper as “refueling”). This may in turn bring up old fires and ways of dealing with each other. Both sides need to work to let go of the psychological identity of your former life in order to relate to each other in a decent, humane way.
Why does it matter who the children are close to- as long as they have one of us? Read more about the consequences of cutting the kids off from the ex-spouse, here.