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Author Topic: Update 2: Telling the children about the divorce and who wanted it  (Read 720 times)
Enabler
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« on: February 14, 2020, 10:54:28 AM »

Mod Note:  Part 1 of this discussion is located here:  https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=342901.0

I agree with you all re the communication.... but the fact remains that my W IS forcing change in the cohabiting arrangement so how does this situation of being emotionally in the right place and communicating the changes that ARE going to occur mesh together.

The T actually said that NEITHER of us had geived for the death of our marriage, myself because i held out some degree of hope and my W because she had jumped into another relationship. She sent us a 'Stages of separation' document:

Holding on
Letting Go
Trying Out
Settling Down

My guess is that my W believes that I am in the 'holding on' stage (and I would imagine that people here believe that I am in that stage as well), and she believes she is in the 'trying out' stage. However, I would argue that she is cycling between Letting Go and Trying out and keeps going through the two. She's not gained enough momentum in the trying out stage to zoom off and actually really let go of what she had/has. She's still holding on to certain things and trying to avoid letting those things go...... like telling the kids but wants to change living arrangements. This is trying out, not settling down.  

I know some of you will chuckle if I suggest that in many respects I am more settling down that holding on, that's exactly where I am. Mentally I am in the new abode, maybe I am not trying out new partners yet, but then some people make a conscious decision not to do that for a while until they've got through the issues of the past. My hope for what I think is 'right' isn't a reflection of my inability to accept something new or an end of the marriage..... for one I am not in any more than 50% control of the end of the marriage.

Still..... not sure how she squares the circle of emotional calm to tell the kids required to tell the kids about inevitable changes.

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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2020, 11:01:17 AM »

Quote from:  Fian
I start with the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

There are adult children who have been devastated to learn their parents divorced and that infidelity was involved, to the point of cutting off the cheating parent, needing therapy and having a very enmeshed relationship with the 'injured party'.

If adult children struggle how do you think actual children will process such information?  Let the chips fall where they may?  

To what end?  Tell the 'truth' to what end?  



« Last Edit: February 14, 2020, 11:08:18 AM by Harri » Logged


Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth. ~ Pema Chodron
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2020, 11:04:26 AM »

but the fact remains that my W IS forcing change in the cohabiting arrangement


And this response is revealing of what I think the T is saying. There isn't a "we" here and perhaps the truth is, that neither one of you can see a "we" when the finger is being pointed at the other spouse.


 
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2020, 11:11:22 AM »

We talk a lot about empathy... being able to see others views and understand their feelings. Many members talk about it in black and white terms - empathy or no empathy.

Empathy skills, however, has been characterized by experts as falling into 4 levels of impairment. One of those levels of impair is only being able to understand someone feeling as interpreted through our own lens. This works well only when two people see and thing the same - which is rare.

You only understand your wife, the therapist, the affair partner, many of the members here, via your own lens and, respectfully, it is a very narrow lens.

You interpret most of what your wife says as foolish and confused, you interpret most of what the affair partner said as obfuscation, you interpret most of what members say her as unenlightened secularism, you interpret the mediation process as a proving ground, you interpret what happened in your recent therapy process as conflicted. You have many posts where you say "I am confused".  The back half of that sentence is "people are acting the way I think they should, seeing things the way I see them".  It's so pervasive, you even know ahead of time when you say something that others won't see it that way - this is, of course, because in your lens they are simply wrong.

Your marriage is over, your wife is in an affair with a married man, there a six kids involved in these two broken homes, and 2 spurned spouses. That's 10 people caught up in a toxic situation were the adults are stuck within their own righteous agenda. At the end of the day, all 4 adults are vying to be the protagonist and the hero of this drama and so you are all locked in your own personal priorities and unable to resolve anything together.

Surely, the affair partner is being told (and not listening) to resolve his marriage (save it or end it), take divorce recovery, date a bit, before starting another relationship. Your wife is hearing the same (and not listening). You are being told to own the marriage failure (you are a big part of it - not a righteous bystanding) and exit for the sake of the children and for the sake of yourself. You can learn from what happened and change and have another relationship with a different outcome.

But you all struggle vying to be the protagonist and the hero.

We can only talk to you - there others aren't here. We certainly would have a lot to say to them too.   Being cool (click to insert in post)

I ask you to see yourself right now. You went to this "special" therapist, waited months to get in, to get have them confirm your need for your wife to be the sole owner of the divorce before the children. You also hoped that they would tell your wife that she was wrong to see you as abusive. Somewhere further down the list was the welfare of the children.

The therapist is telling you both, nicely, no progress can be made while you are living together - you wife feels helpless and overwhelmed and trapped, and you unable to accept that the relationship is over and doing everything you can passively to prevent her from leaving you.
Picture the protestor who is being kicked out of a senate hearing and is gone totally limp to make as hard as possible for anyone to carry them out. That protestor can say, I didn't resist at all. I didn't help them remove me, but I didn't try to stay either. They just didn't know what to do. Maybe they were conflicted. Maybe they really wanted me to stay.
The next step is that you wife is going to be advised to have a lawyer take the reins... she has likely been told that she needs to accept that she is not up to the task... but to give you one more shot before taking the dive.

In your lens, you are seeing her actions as irrational and uncertain - but that is because you are reading them through your lens.
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2020, 01:48:17 PM »

This is an extract of the mail my W sent to the mediator:

We recently went to see a Psychotherapist and independent social worker, to get support on working out how, what and when we talk to the children about our separation and divorce.  During our two meetings with her she observed that we are both at very different stages emotionally in the separation process, which made it very difficult for us to be in the right place to come up with a joint plan/agreement.  She inferred that if we are unable to keep our emotions out of this we will not be able to put the children’s best interests first; that we needed to get to the right place emotionally ourselves before being able to effectively communicate with them about our separation and properly support them.  She emphasised the importance of being ‘together’ in the way we deal with this, to always talking in the ‘we’, explaining it is something ‘we’ are doing together, to never putting the blame on either parent or denigrating them to the children.


This sounds like what the T would have actually said instead of "crossed wires". It isn't so much that you need to be free of emotions when talking with the kids; you need to be at a place where you are able to put your emotions aside and be able to put the kids in first priority. It's pretty standard co-parenting advice. (and good parenting advice in general) Many of the issues that are addressed over on the co-parenting board are due to emotions getting in the way of effective co-parenting.

The desire to blame the other parent indicates underlying emotions that have not been acknowledged and worked through. It is very difficult to work through the emotions while co-habiting because each person is continuing to have emotional reactions. It is also very common for couples to enter into therapy with underlying agendas - to make their spouse do something.

I suspect numbers are a familiar and easy world for you while emotions are more difficult. Divorce is a messy process with lots of emotions swirling around; it's not neat and tidy. The point of the separation is to come to a place of equilibrium. Each of you needs to work through your emotional world so that it doesn't get in the way of progress.

The reality is that you are both in the divorce process.
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2020, 03:19:14 PM »

What I see a lot on this board is people trying to predict the future based on their actions, and then changing their actions to have the best predictable outcome.  The problem is that none of us knows the future.  I see the same thing in the Bible where people do wrong things because they think it will result in a better outcome for themselves, but in the end the outcome is always worse.  So, personally, I have come to the conclusion that you start with doing what is right.  You don't do something wrong and justify it by saying it will have a better outcome (aka the ends justifies the means).

So in this situation, I start with "I am not going to lie to my kids."  Now that doesn't mean you have to tell them every dirty secret or where babies come from, but it does put guard rails on your communication.  When I see the word "we" that indicates that both parents have made a decision, when in truth only one has.  I don't think Enabler needs to protect his wife's image from her children.  This is her choice, she should own it, and suffer the consequences.

Now an alternative may be to let her present it, and she uses the word "we" and Enabler remains silent.  Let her lie to the kids.
 But that would only work so long as the kids don't ask him.
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2020, 04:10:32 PM »

"Mommy wants to live with another man" isn't the situation- I thought they had no plans to cohabit.

"Abusive" is also ambigious and open to interpretation. I don't think children are capable of comprehending the various forms of "abuse". They may think their mother says that E is beating their mother, because that may be what they think abuse it. It's not true - he isn't beating her.

I don't think the discussion is about doing the right thing vs the wrong thing. I think it's about considering the variable ideas of what is "right" in this situation. If E can't honestly own a part in the decision, he can at least consider that he has a role in the breakdown of the marriage over the time that has led to it. Marital breakdown almost always involves two people, even if one person caused it more than the other. For one spouse to take on the role of blameless, innocent, victim isn't completely true and saying this to the children is triangulation.

While it is important to be as honest as possible- consider here that "truth " is influenced by the emotions of both parties. Each has his or her truth. If it were possible to come up with a statement that aligns even a part of the collective truth to tell the children, perhaps that is less damaging than a divisive statement from each parent. The "we are getting divorced" isn't about who chose it and why. It's an action statement. If one person is divorcing the other, then both are getting divorced. But arriving at any kind of "we "statement won't work well if one is upholding the right/wrong dichotomy.

Yes, the wife committed adultery. In some era that would mean she deserves a public stoning, but does that make it the right thing to do? Depending on how literally one takes the Bible, stoning might mean being humiliated in front of her children and the hurt that might cause. But if being right means she did it, and should suffer the consequences - then that is one way to look at it.

Or is there another? I don't think anyone is asking E to lie. Maybe to look in the mirror at whatever could be his part in the marital breakdown before he throws "stones" at the wife. Then perhaps he might find a way to also own a little of the "we" to present to the children.






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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2020, 04:39:07 PM »

One of the principal lessons we teach on this site is reducing conflict. Fian, when, on another thread, you advocated "letting the chips fall where they may" as a justification for blaming Enabler's wife for the divorce when telling to the children, you were advocating a situation which could lead to more conflict as well as difficult coparenting for years to come and great distress for the children, possibly for life.

You speak in absolutes about "right and wrong" and seem to think that full disclosure is appropriate.

Do you think wounding the children with information they're too young to comprehend about the marital difficulties that led to their mother's infidelity is a "right"?

Or would it be "wrong" to say something that could forever more alienate them from their mother?
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2020, 04:57:19 PM »

Yes, we have very different definitions of right and wrong.  If you tell the truth, that isn't "wounding" another person even though it may cause wounds.  I would also strongly disagree with the false equivalence between Enabler in his wife.  While he may have left the toothpaste out, it is not equivalent to what his wife has done to destroy the marriage (of course, we base this on Enabler's side of the story).  Your arguments are truth is malleable, and right and wrong are malleable.  The end result is it let's you do whatever you think is best- the moral code never makes you stop and say, "I can't cross this line."

As for reducing conflict, I don't agree that is the purpose of this board.  The book that everyone has read is "Walking on Eggshells."  That is the approach people take when they want to reduce conflict, but in the end it doesn't work.  One of the things that is taught on this board is to not save a pwBPD from their choices.  When you help cover up their actions, it never ends, and it can take you away from who you are as a person (aka lying to your children).
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2020, 05:00:37 PM »

One compromise that wouldn't involve lying.  "Mommy has decided that she doesn't want to live with Daddy any more."  Factually accurate, without bringing up other stuff.  Is that better?
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2020, 05:07:59 PM »

I do not see truth as malleable. At the same time, I don't think it's appropriate for parents to discuss marital situations with their children. I'm not advocating lying to the children, but at the same time, they love both their parents and their parents will need to peacefully coparent them for many years.

We do not know Enabler's wife's story and marital breakdown isn't the complete responsibility of one partner. Now it may be that one partner is much more responsible for the cause of marital dissolution, but we cannot assume that the other party is blameless.

Fian, If you haven't watched this short video on ending conflict https://bpdfamily.com/content/ending-conflict , it's well worth a look.
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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2020, 05:14:33 PM »

We do not know Enabler's wife's story and marital breakdown isn't the complete responsibility of one partner. Now it may be that one partner is much more responsible for the cause of marital dissolution, but we cannot assume that the other party is blameless.
One side doesn't have to be blameless for the other side to be responsible.
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« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2020, 05:26:26 PM »

One side doesn't have to be blameless for the other side to be responsible.

I think we can agree on that. She chose to end the marriage. She chose to pursue an affair. She is responsible for beginning divorce proceedings. Enabler didn't want that.

But what we don't know are what were problems in the marriage which led to these decisions?

Enabler admitted in the past to having a temper and behaving in what might be considered a controlling manner. From that, perhaps his wife extrapolated that he was "abusive". Now abusive can mean a lot of different things to people, ranging from a mere expression of anger to physical violence.

Whatever her experience, she made the decision to get involved in a relationship outside her marriage.

I think most people would judge that as "wrong" though she might justify it by her feelings. Remember for pwBPD, feelings equal facts.

Holding her to account in front of the children would likely be more evidence in her mind that Enabler is abusive. Would you want to create more "evidence" in a courtroom where a judge who is unaware of her personality disorder would mediate more in favor of the woman?

Case in point--my husband's law school friend is representing a lesbian in divorce proceedings. As "evidence" of her being "abusive" an email was presented in court. Basically what it said, was Don't ever touch me again. That was the totality of the evidence. As a result, she is now required to attend 52 weeks of batterer's retraining.

Words have consequences.

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« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2020, 09:45:08 PM »

As for reducing conflict, I don't agree that is the purpose of this board.  The book that everyone has read is "Walking on Eggshells."  That is the approach people take when they want to reduce conflict, but in the end it doesn't work.  One of the things that is taught on this board is to not save a pwBPD from their choices.  When you help cover up their actions, it never ends, and it can take you away from who you are as a person (aka lying to your children).

This may help. The purpose of the board is here:
https://bpdfamily.com/about

1. Preserve the Family

We are about preserving families. The more marriages repaired, the more mother/child relationships reconnected, the more children we help grow up in a loving home, the better.

2. Healthier Healing of Failed Relationships

Relationship failure is also a reality. People with personality disorders have inherently instable relationship skills that both attract and overwhelm those who love them.

When failure happens, we help one another recover in an emotionally mature way. This includes grieving, detaching, and developing the skills necessary to have a more rewarding life, a less traumatic custody battle, a less resentful co-parenting relationship, or a less costly divorce.


Isn't the issue about how to recover a bad situation in an emotionally mature way?

The wife, with the therapist's support, said the cohabitation needs to end.

There are a lot of practical things that have to happen pretty quickly to do that in an emotionally mature way.
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« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2020, 10:00:18 PM »

Excerpt
Now an alternative may be to let her present it, and she uses the word "we" and Enabler remains silent.  Let her lie to the kids.

This is what I chose to do while my h made his speech to our daughter saying that "we" were going to get a divorce. She didn't really ask me about it.

The reality is that Enabler is cooperating with the divorce process, in effect, seeking a divorce. Therefore, "we" are getting a divorce would be appropriate and truthful. Both parties might not "want" a divorce, and yet they are both participating.
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« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2020, 10:18:55 PM »

Words have consequences.

I agree that words have consequences.  Let's put it in another way, even if you do what is right, you may still suffer negative consequences.  Where I disagree with you, is that you let consequences dictate your actions.  If you don't like the consequences, then you change your actions to try and get better consequences.  The alternative, is to figure out what is right, and do that, regardless of the consequences.
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« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2020, 03:27:02 AM »

the fact remains that my W IS forcing change in the cohabiting arrangement so how does this situation of being emotionally in the right place and communicating the changes that ARE going to occur mesh together.

Isn't it most accurate to look at this as
     you went to specialized therapist and the therapist is encouraging you, as a couple, to end the cohabitation because it is non-constructive.

She heard you both out, privately, and she encouraged and supported your wife to make her statement. Therapists generally like to speak through their clients rather than tell them what to do.

And isn't this consistent with what the clergy at your church has said too.

And isn't it consistent with what many members here have said?

I said I felt like I didn't have a choice here and felt like I had a gun to my head again. T pointed out that I do have choices and whatever choice I make I have to 'own' that choice and communicate my ownership of that choice to the children.

Let's unpack this. What is the therapist saying here?

I think she is trying to make it clear to you (and to your wife) that you two no longer have to agree on things to do them. This is her point about boundaries.

She is saying to your wife that Enabler can ignite the "mommy is doing this, daddy wouldn't ever do this" fire. You two are no longer bound to agree. Accept that. There is going to be pain going forward - if not with this, the with something else.

She is saying to you - you've gotten good advise on this topic - make your play. And most importantly, own the consequences.

Thirdly it's an opportunity to force control by Triangulating T into saying "Enabler, this is something you SHOULD do".

Maybe the therapist isn't weak and gullible - maybe she is the skilled professional you thought she was - she just doesn't agree with you.

This was a big question to you before you went it in - would you listen and take her advice? Or would you diminish her if she said things you didn't want to hear>

The therapist is challenging you to have boundaries with your wife. You and your wife cannot agree. What you want to do might be inconsistent with the expert articles members here have posted. It might be inconsistent with what your wife wants. But make no mistake, you have the lighter (the voice) and you can ignite the fire. And there are members that agree with doing that.

Your wife is likely goingto say "we". And while the kids are sitting there with their eyes welling up and feeling their world coming to an end, you can correct your wife and say, "no, you (wife) are bringing this down on this family, not me".

            And maybe they kids will scream "mommy mommy don't do this". And maybe your wife will fall to her knees in tears. And maybe your wife will recant for a few months and sooth her children. And maybe one or more of the kids will be angry at mom for life.

Or maybe she won't recant. I think the therapist is telling her to stand her ground and not be intimidated by this (you). Boundaries. To accept that she cannot control you and not let you control her.

And who knows, maybe the kids will rise to defend her... or maybe  they will side with you... or maybe it will only impact the oldest and blow over the heads of the little ones. Maybe it will be forgotten in a day.

Make the call. You have 100's of posts from members telling you the pros and cons of this.

The therapists is saying, "boundaries", the two of you should start making your own choices without seeking/demanding agreement from the other party and let the chips fall where they may.

I'm not a betting man, but if I was, I think if your wife stands up to you on this, you will not throw her under the bus. When all is said and done - yo your credit - you will not do anything to break the hearts of your children.

You have a good therapist here, Enabler. I have certainly learned something profound from her (about myself) that I will carry going forward.
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« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2020, 07:56:05 AM »

I don't think anyone is proposing not telling the truth, or stretching the truth. There is truth, and then what are you going to do about it- dishing out the "punishment" so to speak.

The wife is the one who wants a divorce and wants to live separately. That's true. Nobody is denying it.

But then there's the decision of what do do about it and in a sense, telling the children this is puntive and hurtful. On one hand, there's the proposal- she should face the consequences, and the other argument is to show some grace for the sake of the children and her relationship with them.

Yes, she did it, but do you have the right to be her judge, jury, and to carry out the consequence?

Even a criminal is entitled to a fair trial. And in a trial, the sentence is determined by looking at all the possible facts. If there is proof, the truth doesn't change. But the sentence might.

A first offense might be treated differently than a long record of crimes. Harming someone in self defense is considered differently than pre-meditated.

How we perceive a situation can be influenced by our feelings. Enabler sees the situation from his point of view. His wife might see it from another point of view. We don't know what that is. I don't see where anyone is advising to stretch the truth, but to temper the response so to not do/say something with possible long term consequences to the relationships with the children.

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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2020, 12:29:43 PM »

I do agree that parents want to keep the war between them (and not the children) as much as possible, and parents should not be playing games with the children where they tear the other parent down when they talk with the children.  If your motivation is revenge, then that is the wrong reason to be doing something.

However, I don't think Enabler needs to give his wife cover for her choices either.  In the simplest terms, they can say, "Mommy has decided that she doesn't want to live with Daddy any more."  It is honest and it doesn't expose her real failings (adultery) to the children.  In my opinion, if Enabler says, "We have decided to get a divorce," it is not being honest with the children, because he never made the decision to get a divorce.
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« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2020, 04:56:27 PM »

I just wanted to say that I really appreciate all your thoughts here and I’m taking some time to consider everything before commenting.

One thing. I think my original point here was that I got the impression my W was under the impression that nothing would be communicated to the kids regardless of the narrative until ‘we’ were both emotionally in the right place....... and that to get in the right place we needed to be physically separated. I suppose I wondered how that logistically (and rationally) even works. Maybe a lack of empathy but I’m seriously thinking that’s magical thinking....... and adult moves out and NOTHING is said!!!
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Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner’s ex
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« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2020, 06:06:24 PM »

Enabler, you are right -- that doesn't work from a logistics standpoint.

But it's "your impression" of "her impression." You both have things to clarify with each other and the T.

 the only other comment I would make his that language matters. If you are wanting to avoid a conversation that does not assign blame, you can use something like, "Your mother and I are moving into separate houses, and we will be divorcing. I know you will have questions about how this will work for you, and we want to answer your questions the best we can right now."
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Who in your life has "personality" issues: Ex-romantic partner
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« Reply #21 on: February 15, 2020, 07:20:34 PM »

... and adult moves out and NOTHING is said!!!

From everything I've read, I don't think this is her intention.
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ct21218
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« Reply #22 on: February 15, 2020, 07:31:24 PM »

One things that was always helpful for me and gave me peace in a number of situations was being told that it is not my job to be an arbiter of justice.  I am not God, I don't get to decide what the consequences are for someone else's misdeeds.  It was reassuring and I was able to figure out how to find my own peace rather than thinking that I need to decide someone else's karma.  I can be the calm in the storm and minimize the drama.
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Notwendy
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Who in your life has "personality" issues: Parent
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« Reply #23 on: February 16, 2020, 08:32:33 AM »

CT21218,

That's the conclusion I have arrived at too. There's a higher judge than me. Some things are not completely black and white in terms of what to do. In the case of where someone has committed a crime- we have a legal system to deal with that. When it comes to exposing others - potentially causing humiliation or damage, the decision is not always easy. 

I think there are options here. Some people have suggested " we are going to live separately" That avoids the who wants to do this issue. Maybe include some plans for the children. " We are going to be living separately but you will have a home with each of us, a special place for you, your toys, your clothes. Even if we are not living together we are always your parents and love you very much" 

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Enabler
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Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
What is your relationship status with them: Married - Cohabitating
Posts: 2446



« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2020, 08:42:09 AM »

Enabler, you are right -- that doesn't work from a logistics standpoint.

But it's "your impression" of "her impression." You both have things to clarify with each other and the T.

 the only other comment I would make his that language matters. If you are wanting to avoid a conversation that does not assign blame, you can use something like, "Your mother and I are moving into separate houses, and we will be divorcing. I know you will have questions about how this will work for you, and we want to answer your questions the best we can right now."


What if their retort is “Why?”
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Notwendy
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« Reply #25 on: February 16, 2020, 09:17:43 AM »

Is there some way you can word it that is honest for you too?


"That's a complicated question sweetie, but we are having problems getting along with each other and so will be living in seperate places".

It's true for you too, you are having problems communicating with your wife. The kids don't need to know all the reasons why.

Chances are, the kids know more than they have let on.

You can present yourself to them on  moral high ground but that puts your wife on moral low ground with your children. Can you find some way to not do this?

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Cat Familiar
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« Reply #26 on: February 16, 2020, 03:18:41 PM »

Staff only This thread has reached its maximum length and is now locked. The conversation continues here: https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=343109.0
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“The Four Agreements  1. Be impeccable with your word.  2. Don’t take anything personally.  3. Don’t make assumptions.  4. Always do your best. ”     ― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
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