Divorce is not a continuation of marriage. This should go without saying, right? The fact is obvious for those couples who are able to part ways and never see each other again. But for couples with children, it becomes a little more complicated. Although the marriage ends, the connection continues. And this can cause some boundaries to blur. It’s not unusual for Mom and Dad to continue their same old relationship across two new households.
As two people part ways, they tend to think of each other in the roles they played during the marriage. That’s why we hear phrases such as “he never changed a diaper!” or “She doesn’t discipline them!” It’s natural that Mom and Dad would make judgments and accusations based on their past experience. It’s all they know. The problem is that this kind of behavior is counterproductive and feeds old conflict.
As a family evolves, individuals change too. Mom and Dad will learn and grow as they tackle tasks that weren’t previously theirs to take on. This evolution presents many opportunities for each side to attack the weaknesses of the other. This makes it easy to slip back into the familiar roles of the bickering husband and wife.
It can be a challenge, but parents need to construct a new relationship as co-parents. They are no longer married and therefore past issues need not cause drama in the present. It’s important to remember that each person is struggling in similar ways with different issues. While he’s learning to cook dinner, she’s learning to cut the grass (oh, how I despise cutting the grass!).
It might be hard to believe, but Dad will change diapers when Mom’s not around. And without Dad, Mom will have to discipline the kids. In the absence of the other parent, duties change. In the absence of a lifetime commitment to partnership, the essence of the relationship changes. It’s important to remember this when a divorcing couple looks toward the future.