The Ex-Wife’s New Role
Recreating familiar, friendly or emotionally intimate responses can lead the ex-spouse and the children to false hopes. When they remain in bondage to such hopes, they have no chance of emotional maturity.
“I hated it when my ex-husband wouldn’t come in and visit for awhile,” Sharon told me. “I’m not going to bite!” I just wanted to know how he was getting along and tell him about my folds’ 50th wedding anniversary party. It’s been so long since we’ve talked about anything on a friendly basis. Is that so bad?”
Sharon’s comment is typical of divorced spouses who would like everything to seem “okay” again. After the fighting has calmed down, people seek the familiar. Many divorced women, like Sharon, feel that if they can resume some level of intimacy with their ex-husbands, he must still care or at least is no longer bitter. No one wants anymore rejection.
However such feelings are artificial and incomplete unless the ex-husband reciprocates in that old friendly way. If he doesn’t, the ex-wife remains in emotional bondage, seeking affirmation of her self-worth from her ex-husband.
With time, our memories of unhappy times fade. We block the pain and tend to remember only the sweet times, often exaggerated in our minds. A man laughing and recalling better times with his ex-wife may suddenly feel the strong emotions they once shared. Thoughts of love, old embraces and nights of passion can ignite a spark in his mind.
When he begins to entertain these thoughts, they can move to memories of bringing children into the world together and all the powerful bonds of marriage. Suddenly he’s filled with doubt again. Do I still love her? Did I make a mistake? Feelings of failure and regret rise within him. This can cause him problems in his current marriage, or tempt him to renew levels of intimacy with his ex-wife.
My husband shared a “word picture” of how he regards his ex-wife. When we don’t know how to categorize our relationship with someone, it’s helpful to say, “He’s like a father to me,” or “She’s like a sister.” My husband thinks of his ex-wife as the “Daycare lady.”
Imagine a nice lady who lives down the street. She owns the daycare center in your neighborhood. Every morning she drives to your house to pick up the kids. Sometimes you might drive to her house to drop them off. They get in her car and she takes them for the day. You relax and don’t worry about them because you know she loves them and takes good care of them while they’re with her.
When they come home and report something fun or nice the “Mrs. Daycare” did for them, you appreciate it. You don’t feel jealous. You know you’re their parent and they will always love you, but they have room in their heart for her too. You’re glad that your children have many adults in their lives to love, teach and care for them.
You and “Mrs. Daycare” sometimes smile and wave to each other in the mornings. Once in awhile she’ll take a minute or two to report trouble with the kids’ behavior and tell you how she’s handling it during the day. You may stop and tell her about the children’s rashes and leave the ointment with her for the day. You don’t spend a lot of time talking to her when you pick the kids up, and you don’t socialize on the weekends.
You consider your relationship with her the same kind you’d have with a child’s school teacher. While she’s a trusted caregiver for the children, you have your own life, circle of friends, and have no need to know more about or get involved in “Mrs. Daycare’s” personal life. You don’t tell her how to run the daycare center and she doesn’t tell you how to run your home. You have agreed to trust that you’re each doing your job.
Every month she sends you a bill and you mail her check out on time. That’s the extent of your personal relationship with her.
This picture helps my husband honor his ex-wife for the role she has as mother to his son, and helps him encourage his son’s loving relationship with her. It also helps him realize he doesn’t need to be any more emotionally involved with her than he would be with “Mrs. Daycare.”
The above article is from the book, How to be First in a Second Marriage by Rose Sweet published in by College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, Mo. This book is excellent in giving very practical insights in to how to resolve conflicts in a second marriage.