“Why did you and Daddy get divorced?” the Boy asked me about a month ago. Good question, I said. I told him I don’t know how to answer that right now in a way he can understand. But that I’d give it some thought and will get back to him on it. I promised I would eventually answer him. I asked him why he asked. He voiced some frustrations he felt about his father, and asked me if those were some of the reasons we got divorced.
That kid has some sort of Spidey sense. He just knows certain things. But see, I think we all know certain things, we feel them, our guts nudge us. I think as we age, we aren’t as connected to our gut feelings as much, as society tells us what’s expected, as responsibilities mount, as we mature. He knows something, he just doesn’t know what. I don’t want to lie to my kids. I also don’t want to overshare with them.
I had no idea what to disclose to them. A friend pointed out that my son’s relationship with his father is different than my relationship with their father, and that even if some of the frustrations are the same, it’s also different. I understood what she was saying. But I still didn’t know what to tell the kids.
Until today, when my gut, my Spidey sense, told me there’s a difference, and yet there’s not. So this is what I’ll tell my son. I will tell him that this is the only father he’ll ever have. I will tell him I will always encourage him to have a relationship with his father, and I will always support him in trying to have a positive relationship with his father. I will tell him that yes, many of the issues he’s identified about his father were indeed issues for me in my marriage. But that my relationship is different than the relationship he has with his father.
And this is what I’ll tell him. That sometimes relationships and good intentions don’t work out, despite trying really hard and hoping for the best. I will tell him that there’s a lot of reasons people break up, and that it’s never just one thing, or one person’s responsibility. And that each person in the couple will have different answers to this, especially as time passes.
I will tell him that the issues he’s identified about his father as frustrating, were in fact things I too had noticed. And some of those were frustrating to me as well. I will tell him that I made a decision after years of trying to ignore my gut, to instead change the relationship I have with their father. That I had to decide I was no longer able to or willing to remain in the same dynamics with him. We tried to change the dynamics by ourselves. We tried to change the dynamics with therapy. The dynamics and conditions of our marriage were no longer dynamics or conditions I was willing to live with anymore. So I divorced him and changed my relationship and dynamics with him, as I cannot sever my relationship to him.
I will tell him it was heartbreaking to decide that. I will tell him it was the hardest decision of my life. I will tell him that when he asks his father why we divorced, that his answer will likely be very different. But I will tell him this is my truth.
I will tell my son that he needs to write his own truth. That he can never sever the relationship of father and son. But that he can, throughout all the years of his life, decide what dynamics and conditions he is willing to tolerate with his father. That he can decide to honor his feelings in respectful ways with his father. I will tell him we all decide how much trust and value and expectations we place in all of our relationships–with friends, with family, with colleagues. I will tell him relationships come in all levels and types. I will tell him he will need to sort out what his gut tells him so he can write his own truth. I will tell him he may not know what that truth is today. I will tell him that his truth will change as the days pass into years.
I have learned to know when today is not the day to know something or to do something. And to be patient and wait in that unknown. And sure enough, one day, one moment, if I’m patient enough, I know. I will tell him today is not the day to know his truth of his relationship with his father, and he will know when it is.