Co-Parenting : Forgiveness Required

I may need to do a search through all the posts on this blog to find it, but sometime back in 2011 I wrote a piece about forgiveness. The act of forgiveness, how and why and the importance of it all. Four years later I can finally report back.

Four years ago I was still rather bitter about getting divorced. Hurt and angry, but I had decided that maybe forgiveness was the approach for me. So, I took a deep breath, said many prayers and chose to forgive my ex husband for his behavior while we were married.

This was not an easy choice.

There is something that happens in a break up that makes everything seem worse. Everyone you know chooses a side. You may think that I mean his side or my side, but I don’t. They decide how each single parent should co-parent when the other party hasn’t lived up to their end of the bargain during the marriage.

The most popular among my peers was the one that removed my ex-husband from not just the marriage, but from our life. As though POOF I had two kids and POOF I magically get a check every month to help cover their living expenses.

I was so angry at the time that I do have 100% parental custody. I could fly to China tomorrow without my ex-husbands permission and he would just have to deal with it. I won’t…but I have the ability. Anger makes us do so many things.

Then I thought about simply arranging supervised visitation. Only I was so poor. We were barely scraping by so there was no way to cover the cost of providing supervised visitation. I was quite irrational at this point so I maintained our distance. We saw my ex-husband about once every few months and not for very long, a couple of hours at most.

Then something I found sadder than the possibility of having to see my ex-husband on a more regular basis. It was our sons. They didn’t know him.

As a child of a single family home I know what that is like. My father was not a good person, at least as far as his behavior back in 1985, but we were raised by my mother and maternal grandparents. I had a relatively happy childhood. We had our drama, but what family doesn’t? Perhaps we had more drama than average, but I think we are all more interesting to talk to because of it…anyway. That’s a different story. I didn’t know my father. I knew what other people thought of him. I knew where he was from and what I thought of the people from that place. But I didn’t know him and that is a great cloud over the happy times. All of those times I saw my friends with their dads were sad times for me because I had never known what that was like.

As I became an adult I tried looking for my father to no avail. He didn’t want to be found in the digital age and therefore had no digital footprint. That didn’t mean the sadness was gone. “Who was he?” “How was he?” “Did I have other sisters or brothers?” “Did I have a step mom I didn’t know about?” Always having those questions is sad. I didn’t want that for my kids. Who was I to make that choice for them?

That is what I found to be this sad thing. I was an adult who had lived in a set of circumstances that made me mad. So mad that I thought it a good idea to remove the person that held the other half of their DNA in his genes.

But was I so angry that I couldn’t find it within myself to forgive a man for his behavior? How could I call myself a good person if at the first test of faith I proved to have none? It is no secret that I am a Christian, perhaps a different breed than the ones you read about, but I try to have a simple faith, based on love. In our church we are taught to love and forgive.

I was faced with two options.

One my kids didn’t really remember who this guy was that we sometimes saw really was, so we could just gently fade away and he could become a memory.

Two embrace the pain, and allow them to fully know their father and make the decision for themselves.

To do the first would have been the easiest choice for someone as angry as I had been. He didn’t know where we lived, who we hung out with, where I worked, all I would have had to do was change my phone number and we would have been done. Simple. Clean. Heartbreaking for him and for me. I would be setting my kids up for the same thought process I always had. Always wondering why I wasn’t good enough to be loved by the people who are supposed to love you the most.2015/01/img_2354.jpg

So I embraced the pain. The hardest and easiest choice on so many levels. The cold aloof anger has been replaced by hesitant resolve. Hesitant because everything we went through leaves a mark on the psyche, but resolve because it has turned out to be the right thing to do. My kids are 4 and 8 now. They know their father. They’ve seen where he sleeps and we know how he lives, where he lives, and why he lives.

Over the last four years we have fought and cried and been angry for past ills all over again, but there has been so much forgiveness and contrition. So much of what we have worked through together has made us better people for our next partners. We know more of how each of us failed the other that we will continue to work hard to not make the same mistake. We know that finding that next perfect person for our new selves will be hard, we each have a longer list of must haves…okay at least I do..but I am optimistic about the prospects.

Forgiving him has taught me more about my faith than any pastor could ever tell me. Forgiveness is not something that you do once and it is done, it is something you do every time you wake up and face the day. It’s choosing who you are and not wavering from that path every single morning. Choosing your words and actions before your emotions, and never letting the bad times get the best of you.

It’s also choosing to put the best choice instead of the popular choice.

Special note…A physically abusive spouse should be handled differently. An alcoholic husband or wife who did not exhibit abusive traits is very different from an abusive spouse. Alcoholics tend to only want to inflict pain on themselves though they learn to manipulate what they want out of people to get what they want. That’s how so many nurturing people become enablers. It’s like they can smell your ability to empathize on your sleeve don’t fall for that either.

Renewal

Despite everything I have been through I am a hopeless romantic. I think there is one boy meant for me and I think that I am meant for him. I think that our experiences and trials will make us each perfect for the other.

I am strong-willed and strong voiced. I have issues with my past, but I am willing to put them aside for my ideal. My mother-in-law who is absolutely precious to me has presented me some tips from Al-Anon on the next steps in my journey…I think I will share them with you all.

I am, honestly, not sure if I can follow them, but I will try.

For starters, after the end of an alcoholic marriage there should be a waiting period of a year. During this year you are supposed to find yourself, get reaquainted with yourself, and learn all about the new you.

This is the step with which I find most reason to give pause. This is the problem.

I have been waiting a year. It was not a great year of self-discovery, but it was a year of contemplation. A year of thinking about the past and working out the hatred. Lord how I hated my husband for the things he had done.

My time for hatred is done. This is now time for renewal. Time to forgive past injuries and work toward making life happy again. Forgiveness, at least for me is a major step in regaining control of my life. I have to forgive and let go in order to move forward. I am swallowed in darkness when I am unable to forgive.

It is in forgiving and moving on that I find the light.

She also presented to me the concept of a list, figuring out what I want. Write down a list of characteristics that I hope to find in my ideal person. (No I am not sharing that list.) 🙂 I think I have some idea to what I want, but the list is long.

Definitely want someone who, like me, can communicate.

AND someone who can over look certain character flaws, like my incessant need to mess things up even when we are good fit.

OR the words that come flying out of my fingers and land on emails that should be edited before being sent to save them from being hurt and never talking to me again.

Oh hindsight you are a devil.

It is in our darkest hours that we find the light, and when that switch is flipped it is hard to turn off. Even when you have no business accepting an invitation you do and then you get stuck. It is us that want to live in the light who constantly try to bring back the darkness.

In my meeting a week or so ago a woman said, “Sometimes you create the chaos that has to be fixed because you know how to do that. You don’t know how to live without the chaos. You can’t allow peace to reign over your life.” I wrote it down and have tried to read it and think on it every day. This is so true for me and my life and my God in heaven I hope you can allow me to let the peace in.

So I am learning. I am growing. I am trying to not rush. I am trying to stay away. It’s not that I want to, but it’s what may save me in the end. I am nothing if I am not for myself.

Pause – Forgiveness

I am going to post Day Nine later today, but I have been thinking about the day 8 challenge since reading and posting Friday. What common thing can I do as if I were doing it directly for Jesus? The thing that keeps coming back at me is to forgive. Forgiveness is something we all yearn for from people we have injured in our pasts and it is something that we can to do free ourselves and our loved ones from the pain of guilt. To forgive is to free the person who wronged you, to let go. By letting go you are allowing God interceed. You are allowing God to take control of your life. You’re allowing God to be God. God is a God of mercy and forgiveness and from what I have seen the only people who say otherwise are unmerciless and unforgiving themselves.

Karma is not a Christian principle, but the idea is well within the confines of the Bible and I for one know it exists. You get back whatever you give. If you send out bad juju, you get bad juju. How can you receive the forgiveness that is offered to you if you do not seek to forgive those who have wronged you? This does not mean forget. Forgive and forget is the wrong lesson in my book, because sometimes you do that and you get stomped on. Just forgive and move forward with life.

This is why I am pausing for a moment to tell you what I have been thinking about for the last four days. Forgiveness will bring you closer to God and it is one thing that you can do directly for Jesus.