Heal the Wounds of Marriage Breakups
- Friday, November 03, 2000
By Bobbie Reed
The breakup of a marriage is almost always traumatic. The ripple effect goes out in all directions as family members and friends stand on the sidelines in despair. At the center is the relationship between the former husband and wife. If they can resolve issues, then there is a strong inclination that others will be able to deal with the situation in a positive manner.
To those single parents who want to resolve an adversarial relationship with former spouses, consider these suggestions:
Don't use the children as spies, means of manipulation, or message carriers for negative issues. This is cruel to them and only causes greater friction and disharmony. The children's best interests need to be foremost in both parents' minds.
If legal arrangements have been made - and broken - use the proper channels to correct the situation. Seldom can ex-spouses discuss things rationally and come to an agreeable solution on legal matters, particularly when an adversarial situation exists between them. Work through the court system where changes in the original legal documents can be filed and handled properly by an attorney.
Use a mediator if both parties can agree to do so. A pastor, Christian counselor, or church elder might be considered to act in a mediation role.
Do not criticize, belittle, or talk negatively about ex-spouses, especially in front of the children. This is often the hardest guideline to follow. Verbal bashing and accusatory ridicule in front of the children might feel good at the moment, but it only hurts the children and can cause irreparable scars which they'll carry into adulthood and into their future relationships.
Frequently remind the children that the divorce is not their fault. Children need to be encouraged to talk about their feelings especially in the months following the family breakup. The one issue common among children is their belief that they caused the divorce by their behaviors, attitudes, or shortcomings.
Learn to forgive. This is the greatest healer, especially in adversarial situations. Holding on to your anger and bitterness does more to destroy your life than to remedy the wrongs that may have been done to you.
Accept whatever responsibility you may have had in the marriage breakup. Reflecting upon personal shortcomings might help your healing as you look forward to future, healthier relationships.
Live one day at a time. You cannot change your ex-spouse, but you can change, or have responsibility for, your own attitude. Realize that the greatest hope is knowing that you have a Creator God who will stick by you and offer hope forever.
Remember that professional Christian counseling or therapy might be advisable in the initial stages of divorce. Part of this counseling should focus on the specific tools for dealing with the adversarial ex-spouse.
Attend worships, seminars, or read material on building a positive self-image. Learning the appropriate places to look for love and self-validation are important.
From Baker Handbook of Single Parent Ministry edited by Bobbie Reed. Used by permission of Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Mich. Copyright (c) 1998 by Network of Single Adult Leaders. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Book House Company.
Bobbie Reed, the author of 33 books, including Guiding Strong People, has been a single parent, and serves as a workshop/conference speaker. She holds a Ph.D. in social psychology and a D.Min. with an emphasis on single adult ministry.
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