Painful topics are just that, painful. They dig up hurt. Let me state from the outset, that this is not the intention of this post. The divorce rate of people with children is lower than people without children, but many children are dealing with the issue of divorced parents. While statistics vary, most of what I have studied shows that about 40% of children have parents who have been divorced. This affects a large population of our culture.
Divorce doesn’t come from love, but problems. I’ve never met anyone who said, “My marriage is awesome. I’m deeply in love. I’m taken care of and shown great love by my spouse, so I’m thinking about a divorce.” Divorce mostly results from anger, hurt, pain, hatred, and other things we would never want to experience.
So how should a divorced parent act in relation to their ex? There are usually three ways that I’ve seen exes interact. The first are couples who hate each other. Someone who was going through a divorce told me if their spouse was on fire, they wouldn’t pee on them to put the fire out. While this may seem extreme, we all have seen “messy divorces.”
The second type of divorced people don’t hate each other, but tolerate each other. They would like to show some hatred, but don’t do so because their kids are watching. They don’t want to be seen by their children as hateful. So they try to show kindness, even though they don’t want to, because they are trying to take pressure off of their children. This position is to be respected, but let me advocate for an even a better position.
The third are divorced people who show genuine love to each other. I’m not talking about the same kind of love they showed each other when they were married. I’m talking more about just love for another person as a human and individual. I have witnessed this kind of love, even from people within our church. Former couples who years ago divorced, but now share meals together at holidays, not just tolerating each other, but appreciating each other. Parents showing acts of kindness for each other despite divorce warm my heart as a pastor.
My word of wisdom is to the first two groups regarding your children. In some ways, I give the second group credit for tolerating each other for their children’s sake. I’m sure this isn’t easy. In other ways, there are things which the first two groups share which really are not very different.
A divorce puts children through a lot. I don’t think I need to explain this to parents. After working in the counseling field with children for over a decade, I just want to make sure we are on the same page. Even if a couple “hides” their fighting, a child can see the affection or eros missing in a parent’s life, and notice it eroding over time. This affects the way they interact with their children. After divorce, a child may lose the security of his family unit, or worry about his future security. Often children get frustrated when personal belongings may be at the other parent’s house. That feeling of being displaced is disruptive for them at best, not to mention feelings of sadness and maybe even guilt. Many adults struggle with “feelings”, imagine a child trying to cope.
So how can a couple hating each other, or tolerating each other, develop a different perspective which will help their children flourish? I believe, toleration of your ex is not the goal, love is. I’m not talking about getting back together as a couple, but loving that person as a person. I tell divorced people all the time, “You should be rooting for your ex to succeed.”
This is often hard to do, but think about your children. Would your children have a better chance at winning in life if your ex was successful or if your ex was a failure? Would your children feel better loved if your ex was miserable or happy? Therefore, you can’t just tolerate your ex, you must root for them. There will be times that if your ex fails, your children will fail. So if you really want to see your children succeed, you must hope for your ex’s success.
The other advice that I give to divorced parents about their ex is how to show love. This will take a long time. Most likely the divorce happened because trust was broken, hateful things may have been done or said. First, love them as a person. We should wish no ill will on anyone. God is the ultimate judge, and He will make everything right one day. If you are a Christian, this is not a practical suggestion, but a command to love everyone.
Second, to love them is to speak kindly to them and kindly about them. If you are constantly cutting down your ex in front of your children or in front of others, you have not forgiven them. Not only will you not be doing your child any favors, but now you are harboring bitterness in your soul which will start to eat at you. If you hate your spouse, this will start to bleed into other areas of your life, including how you treat your children.
Lastly, if you are a Christian think about how God loves you unconditionally. God does not excuse sin, but if you are His child, He forgives it. We have sinned against God more than any individual has ever or will ever sin against us. Start praying to God for healing. Pray for a spirit that is able to forgive and love your ex as a person. It is the best thing for everyone involved.
I hope these couple thoughts help you examine how you think about your ex. If you are newly divorced, you are probably thinking, “I can never attain any of these.” But remember, how you think about, react to, and treat your spouse will ultimately have an affect on your children. And if you are a Christian, you have an obligation to show compassion and love for your child’s other parent in the long run.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, Pa 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.