We Are Never Getting Back Together
BY ERIN SILVER
PHOTO © skynesher/Getty Images
Jul 10, 2017
The other day my ex came to pick up my boys for an activity. I happened to have a hot dog in the fridge, and since their dad has gone carb-free, my kids offered him one. They were thrilled to see their dad accept the food.
Later, my boys slyly suggested that I always have hot dogs on hand for when their dad shows up. If they could wink, they would have done it then and there. They seemed to hope the hot dog would be the spark that rekindles our love; that our relationship status would suddenly revert from divorced to married again.
This is nothing new. Since we divorced four years ago, my boys have dreamed their father and I would get back together again. They have asked me at various points why we got divorced, whether we still love each other, and if there’s a chance we’ll get remarried.
"Children can get ‘stuck’ in the thought that their parents may reconcile."
If you've seen the classic movie The Parent Trap, you’ll recognize the common thread: kids of broken families often have reconciliation fantasies. They hope their divorced parents will “restore” their marriage, or, in other words, fall back in love with each other and remarry. It would be a lovely fairy tale, but it’s not an idea we have ever entertained. In our case, “we are never, ever, ever getting back together.”
I don’t mean to make light of the situation by referencing Taylor Swift lyrics, but that’s the gist of the message I’ve had to relay to my ever-hopeful school-age boys on several occasions. I’ve explained it softly as we cuddle together at bedtime. I’ve done it kindly and gently, getting down on my knees to meet them at eye level after the hot dog incident. I always explain that their father and I are divorced, that sometimes parents get divorced and that it’s never the kids’ fault. I tell them parents can never divorce their kids or fall out of love with them. I promise them that their father and I will always love them no matter what.
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As for my feelings toward their dad and the potential for their reconciliation fantasy to become reality, I say unequivocally: “Daddy will always be special to me because he gave me you, but we won’t be getting married to each other again.”
I tell them parents can never divorce their kids or fall out of love with them.
According to Stella Kavoukian, a mediator and therapist who works with children and adults experiencing a variety of issues, including separation and divorce, I am taking the right approach. “Reconciliation fantasies are fairly typical for children of any age, but younger children are more likely to have the fantasy and to hold onto the fantasy longer,” says Kavoukian, who says she has only seen a reconciliation happen twice in all her years of practice.
Her best advice is to be direct, and explain in simple terms that the marriage is over, that mommy and daddy will never get back together, that it’s not their fault, and that they will be loved no matter what. Basically, I said all the right things in the right way.
It’s a good thing I did. “Children can get ‘stuck’ in the thought that their parents may reconcile,” says Kavoukian. “When this happens, they have difficulty accepting the reality, grieving and finally moving forward.”
She suggests talking to your kids sooner rather than later. “Pick a time when you feel your child has absorbed the news of your separation and processed it to some degree, and then let your child know about its finality,” Kavoukian says.
For now, my kids have dropped the issue and moved on. Finally, I can enjoy a low-carb meal without any winks.
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