This post comes from our friends over at singlemommyhood.com, a blog for single parents from all walks of life.
Many of us (our hands are raised …) can relate to the confusion, panic, and despair that’s inevitable when a spouse or partner announces that the marriage is over — especially when the news is totally unexpected.
A distraught husband and father recently wrote to us after hearing just that kind of news:
“My wife announced two days ago —out of nowhere —that she’d met her soul mate. And now she is filing for divorce. She packed her things the next morning when our 9-year-old boy and 13-year-old daughter were at school,” he added.
So far, this dad has made up excuses to explain their mother’s absence. He’s still reeling from the shock. And, frankly, he doesn’t know what to say to the kids. His soon-to-be ex has suggested that he tell the kids: “Mom and Dad simply drifted apart.”
This dad strongly believes that the kids deserve to know the truth.
Honestly, we don’t agree —at least for now.
Here’s why: Sadly, what kids deserve—and what life dishes out—are seldom the same thing. These kids do deserve (and Dad can do his best to make this happen) to be treated with as much respect and sensitivity as humanly possible during this terrible experience.
Here’s our top tips…when you’re suddenly a single dad:
1. Listen to Your Own Feelings. You didn’t expect to be told that your wife was leaving you for someone else. You are not unexpected to handle this life crisis alone. Seek out a psychologist or other mental health professional who can help you. You probably feel your wife needs therapy (lots), but you’re the one trying to cope with the fall-out from her choices. You deserve a safe place to sort out your feelings.
2. Protect the Kids. It’s tempting to tell the kids the lurid details of your wife’s affair. We understand. But, what do you expect them to do with this information? Especially if you have a teenager, information about adult sexual behavior (or misbehavior) will only add to the natural confusion and uncertainty of puberty.
3.Try to Get Organized. Your wife might be in la-la land, but the kids still need clean clothes and nutritious meals. Use the resources you have to keep daily life on track. Ask your family for help, if they live nearby. Neighbors and friends will gladly rescue—at least temporarily—a domestically challenged man.
4. Seal your lips. Resist the urge to tell all to anyone who will listen. You don’t want to be the topic of neighborhood gossip. A simple statement like “My wife and I are no longer together; the washing machine is a mystery to me,” will get you the practical help you need. No one has the right to know (or can really understand) the pain you’re feeling right now.
5. Pay Back Is Not Fair Play. It’s natural that you’re considering having an affair, too. Wanting revenge is not surprising. Unfortunately, random hook-ups motivated by “pay back” will only bring exactly more of what you’re dealing with now: confusion and chaos.