Following a divorce, it may feel like you’re the only one getting the raw deal, but everyone loses out.
A parent loses experiencing at least part of their child’s life.
A child (or teen) loses the security of living in 1 home with everyone they love.
A stepparent loses the experience of being a 1st time parent with their spouse.
All of these are valid losses, and all of them have their struggles.
It’s impossible for us to compare our losses. “You wouldn’t understand” is a common way of communicating when a Stepparent, Parent, or Child of divorce is hurt, but is that fair?
Let’s stop comparing. Let’s start accepting that yes, there are negatives after a divorce, of course, on all sides, so we’re all needing to work together to turn them into positives.
Now, let’s break down what losses a Parent, Child, and Stepparent, can feel, and how to lessen the negative feelings as much as possible, and focus on the good.
After The Divorce: The Parents
- Even though you knew it was coming, you will feel like a single parent, and it will hit you like a ton of bricks. Especially after losing the companionship of your spouse.
- You will have to navigate depression as you keep raising your child. It never stops.
- You will likely struggle with certain aspects of dating. Even the idea of dating.
- You will make mistakes, you will not like how you act all the time, you are dealing with the loss of your marriage.
- You might feel like a failure, and even dread telling your loved ones about what’s happened.
- You’ll have to realize what areas of parenting you need to improve on and what your partner took the front seat on before your divorce.
- You will either struggle with having to pay what you feel is too much child support, as well as lose out on tax breaks, etc. or be on the other end and have to manage the funds for child support and make sure your child’s life is consistent throughout the months and years. Either way, It won’t seem fair.
- Lastly, and most important of all, you will lose time with your child. You will miss “Goodnights” and “Good Mornings”, you will miss out on half the holidays, you will miss out on hearing the latest news in your child’s life some weeks, you will miss some hard times, and you will be jealous of the person who gets to be around during those times. This will be an extremely difficult challenge.
How to Make It Better
- Try to establish new routines with your child, and allow your child to miss their other parent.
- Do not take it personally when your child’s missing your ex-spouse, especially during the first few years. They’re used to having you together.
- Realize that the struggles you’re going through will eventually be looked back on by your child, as an adult, as either a time when things when rocketing downhill, or a time when you carried on strong and happy for them.
- You will have the chance to parent how you decide is best; maybe your ex-spouse did something differently than you would have, you now have the opportunity to change that.
- Be wary of how soon you try to implement change – do it slowly, as the child is already adjusting to a huge life change.
- Ask for support. Start a class. Join a support group. Go to counselling. Do whatever healthy things you need to do in order to be happy for your child. Your child needs you to be happy, and they know when you genuinely aren’t.
After The Divorce: The Child/Teen
- That sense of security you once felt in your home will all of a sudden be gone.
- You will feel that you have to pick sides sometimes.
- A hope will exist inside you that one day your parents end up back together, and that hope may even make you go so far as to sabotage any new person that comes into mom/dad’s lives – whether you mean to or not.
- You may not be able to relate to your friends with two parents who live together anymore, and you may gravitate toward a different crowd at school, who fit better with how lost you feel.
- You might feel depressed and prefer to be alone, or be anywhere but at one of your two new homes.
How To Make It Better
- Realize that how you’re feeling is the direct result of the world as you knew it being completely turned upside down.
- Start a new sport, or join a new club. It sounds lame and cliché, I know, but starting a new routine will make you feel like you’re controlling one of the new changes of your life. And you will be. If home life has to be different whether you like it or not, maybe it’s time for a change that you can control.
- Your parents may try to make you talk (for them) too much, if they do, let them know.
- If they’re unknowingly making you the go-between (what did you do at Moms? Did Dad get you to practice on time? Did you do your homework?) then tell them that even though you’re in two homes, you don’t want to repeat everything twice.
- It’s up to your parents to communicate if they want to ask specific questions about your routine. Let them know you’ll share when and what you want to, but it’s a bit painful to be reminded that your parents have to use you to have a conversation. Tell them you have enough changes to deal with.
- If you don’t feel like you relate to your old friends, give it time. You’re going through a huge change, and I know it seems like it never will – but the dust will settle, and you will start to feel like yourself again, and you’ll want your friends back. Just join an activity, and take some space from them without making it personal. Just be busier for a while.
After The Divorce: The Stepparent
- When you step into a new family, you will feel just that. You will feel like you’re stepping into someone’s house, and stepping into lives that make you feel like an outsider.
- You won’t know how to do things the way that the family is used to, and you will only add to the changes that the child/teen has had to deal with already.
- Your spouse and your stepchild may have some unresolved baggage from the divorce, and you will quickly become acquainted with it and its’ triggers.
- You will quickly realize that you missed out on the experience of having your partner’s baby, that your partner’s child isn’t a baby anymore, and that their child is not your child. It will hurt.
- This will continue to hurt for a while, and that hurt will show up at unexpected times, in unexpected ways. They won’t understand.
- You may be made to feel (and you may even make yourself feel) like you are the barricade that’s holding back a family from being together.
- You will quickly realize that you feel vilainized and judged often, and will not know if it’s just your own insecurities, or if it’s real. Especially at school pickups and drop-offs.
How To Make It Better
- Even though it’s so easy to do – do NOT isolate yourself from everyone except your new family. You need support.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional – coach, therapist, etc. No one knows how to prepare to be a stepparent. There’s so many books for when you’re expecting a baby, not so much when you’re walking into a ready-made family.
- Even though there are people who will always view you in a negative light, remember that it says more about them than it says about you. Always remember what’s important – you and your family’s happiness.
- If you’re all happy, you’re doing great.
- Remember that the family of origin did not work out for many reasons. Think about any breakups you’ve had – remember that there were always many contributing factors.
- Remind yourself that you are part of this family now for a reason, and be the best that you can be. Take care of yourself.
Yes, everyone loses out in a divorce.
It’s not a happy time, it’s a terrible time. A time of huge changes in the home, when emotions are high and tempers are rampant.
But if we can all start to be aware of each other’s struggle, maybe we won’t feel so alone.
Maybe we can be easier on each other.
Everyone struggles in their own way, and that’s okay.
If you’re really struggling, don’t hesitate to email me here and ask some questions about TFT coaching services. Also, our forum/community is launching soon, and you can already create a username and be notified when it has launched.
Our community will be unlike any other forum for Stepfamilies you have seen! Everyone will find the support they need. Create your username here! The more interest we have – the sooner we’ll launch!
Take care of yourselves, and have a happy day. 🙂