ASK JEANNE – Chapter 008
I am so angry that I might explode. How does a Mom get on with her life after divorce?
My son (13) continues to put up barriers to me dating men. His father and I separated a couple of years ago and the divorce will be final in a few weeks. I have attempted to date multiple times and he makes sure that they don’t want another date with me.
He is rude and outspoken to them when they come to pick me up. The whole date is clouded by his antics.
How do I get on with my life?
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Dear Please Help,
As I don’t know the circumstances of the separation and divorce, I will offer a few thoughts that might provide a perspective. I encourage you to read through this a few times and digest these thoughts.
As you do not reference any other children, I will assume that your son is an only child. If that is true, he is alone in this new path of reconstructing his life (yes, reconstructing HIS life). In multiple children situations, siblings can offer expressions of opinions to each other which can be an outlet for them. When this is the case, they offer a sense of support for each other in the new creation of the family norm – a journey that they share as children of divorce.
Often times parents who are dissolving their partnership become so consumed with the reconstruction of their own lives that they do not realize how much of a life-reconstruction curve that their children are experiencing. You are in the next stage of your journey as a parent, as a single, and as a family. You share this journey with your son, but from a very differing perspective.
In divorce situations, children do not have a vote. It is entirely the parents’ decision and they are forced to move into their new social, economic, emotional, and living situation (visitation or shared parenting). It is not unnatural for children to have resentments towards one or both of the parents from this occurring in their lives, especially if they did not support the divorce.
Much of this occurs when the transition is not a smooth one or if the parents’ split was more sudden. Whatever the circumstances are for you, acting out is an indication that something inside is “off” for your child and has been brewing for a while. As a parent, it is important to seek to understand before needing to be understood.
Yes, you have needs as an individual and want to move forward with your life. And … you are a mother whose son’s life feels unsafe with what is occurring.
His behavior reflects an undercurrent of anger, resistance, and dissatisfaction. As a mother, your responsibility is first to your child and his sense of security. What he is demonstrating is that he is insecure in the current situation.
Investing time in activities with your son and deepening that bond with him will allow for conversations to more naturally occur between you. Consistency of showing up for him will give him a stronger sense of security, just knowing that you are there and available just for him.
If you have not yet read THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES by Dr. Gary Chapman, I would highly recommend that to you. It is available in physical book form and also on audio book. This resource will be one that will help you in navigating any relationship, including with your son and your future partner. THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES FOR CHILDREN is also a book that will benefit your relationship with him, but I would start with the first book.
As you read this book, you will begin to realize the way that your son’s “love tank” will get filled – how he will most feel loved by you. If his dominant language is Quality Time and he is not getting enough of that consistently, his actions will demonstrate his objection to you sharing quality time with another.
This book will reveal all five, dominant ways that people demonstrate and receive fulfillment from relationships. Knowing your son’s “language” will help you to consistently express yourself in that way to him, contributing to filling his “love tank”.
Another suggestion is that you pause the dating path for a bit. The relationship with your son is the senior priority. He needs more of you right now. Your social needs can be met through being out together or planning social events when he is not under your care.
Also, when you do restart dating activities, I would recommend not bringing a man into your home until you know that this is someone who will be in your and your son’s life for a while. That includes not having any man pick you up from home. A more gentle introduction into his life is a better approach, once you know that the new relationship is a sustainable one.
I encourage you to take the pace of “go slow to go fast”, which is a principle that a mentor of mine once offered to me – and it is golden. Not forcing things and moving slower in a consistent direction is actually the fastest way to a joy-filled life.
As always, please do reach out with any questions or clarifications that you might need.