While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On using gifts as overtures to peace: My ex-husband apparently slipped a gift under my tree while picking up the children.
I spent the next 24 hours talking myself into not touching it — not on Christmas Eve, when it would stir unwanted emotions, and not in front of the kids, in case I say something snide.
It hit me what was missing: the apology. Sure, maybe my ex had woken up on the right side of the bed for the first time in 23 years. But to jump from meanness to a gift without a bridge of apology is a cheap way to go about reconciliation. It’s what I have struggled with all along: being asked to suck up all those feelings and smile when a kindness is finally offered. Sure, it’s the “nice” thing to do, but it’s also another form of abuse.
On people who go wild after a divorce: After a long, hard marriage I had to “find” myself again. And while this was happening things were scary, hard, depressing and lonely. I lost my head for a while.
My married friends all said, “Enjoy being alone,” but even if they were divorcing they had kids to come home to, I didn’t.
So to all the people out there who think, “Wow this person has lost their mind,” yes, we do lose it. We are lonely, scared, depressed and trying to figure out our lives again. Don’t judge us. Just be there for us when we are crying or laughing or even doing stupid things. It takes time.
On angles you might not want to consider but should anyway when deciding to be a stay-at-home parent: My husband encouraged me to stay home with our infant, but I worked one mile from home and did not want to give that up only to listen to him tell me a year later that it was time to go back.
As it turned out, he ended up leaving me for a woman he had worked with only a few months. My job outlasted my marriage and I shudder to think how much more helpless I would have felt during this devastating time had I not been employed.
Divorced but Employed
On couples who disagree about having children: My mother wanted children. My father most definitely did not. She badgered, pestered, and finally convinced him to “cooperate.”
My life was spent torn between an overly enthusiastic mother and a resentful father. My father disliked me for taking my mother’s attention and devotion away from him. My mother forced me to take the place of the multiple children she always dreamed of. I was a nuisance to one and the center of all existence to the other.
I married at 18 to escape that toxic environment and had two children before I was ready to become a parent myself. My parents spent the remaining 40 years of their lives in bickering, miserable discord.
Children change everything in a relationship. Parents should either be on the same page, or divorce and find a partner whose need to procreate matches theirs. Otherwise, the result is wounded, confused offspring who are never sure whether they are wanted or despised.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.