After my recent post about my break up with Russell, I received several comments that asked the same question so rather than respond there, I thought I would respond here.
The comments had the same general theme along the lines of … the breakup sounds like it went okay for you Alexis, but what about your kids? How are they doing with it?
So I thought I would share more about that because it seems to reflect an important and fundamental misunderstanding about children and relationships, one I used to carry with me as well.
The sentiment I feel behind these questions is that we must be careful with who we bring into our children’s lives and when because children are fragile creatures we must protect from the heartache and loss of relationships ending.
I used to believe that too.
When I first got divorced, I wondered how to handle dating.
I was told to be very careful regarding the people I dated and when I introduced them to my children. The common sentiment was that I should wait until I was really serious with someone before introducing them to the kids or perhaps even wait a year or more to begin dating after my divorce.
But I thought it through and realized that advice made absolutely no sense to me. I was not protecting my children from meeting friends even though they would come and go throughout my life, so why would I protect them from meeting someone I was dating?
Now that I have had my own experience with divorce, dating and kids, I flat out reject all of the advice that says to wait. I understand it is well-meaning and good intentioned, but it is simply based on a broken paradigm.
Relationships, by their nature, are transitory. People come and go throughout our lives. We evolve, shift, change, die. Why do we want to set our children up with the false belief that relies on some concept of forever when it is simply not true in all but very, very, very few of the cases.
It seems to me that we are raising our children to believe in a lie because we wish it to be so. But it’s nothing more than magical thinking when we look at the reality of how life really is.
Friends, relatives, co-workers, colleagues, partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives … they come and go. It’s all constantly shifting and changing. At least in my life it is. Perhaps your life is different.
So why in the world would we want to teach our children that it is not okay to have transitory, shifting, ever evolving relationships?
I love that my children have had a steady stream of people come and go throughout their lives.
My kids know they have a core group of people who are there for them now and will likely be there for them forever –
- me and their dad,
- Tyson (who happens to be the first man I dated after my divorce and while we have not been in romantic relationship for more than 5 years is now running the Sacred Earth Retreat at Ali’s Farm and helping me care for the kids),
- Martha (my best friend who moved away from California to come to Colorado 5 years ago and is now back in our lives and lives two houses down),
- JoAnne (my other best friend who has been in and out of our lives for 10 years),
- my sister,
- my mom,
- my stepmom Amy (who is still very much a part of our lives even though my dad died nearly 6 years ago),
- my grandma.
But even we will all be gone one day.
I raise my children in community. People are constantly coming and going throughout their lives. And from what I can tell, they do not see it as a problem, something to be afraid about, or anything other than the way it is. It’s their normal.
I’m grateful to be raising my children with this healthy awareness of reality rather than a conditioned belief of the way it should be simply because we wish it was so.
I appreciate your concern about the well-being of my children within the context of these old patterns and beliefs and invite you to create another reality … one in which we do not need to associate the transition of relationship with painful loss, heartbreak, and trauma to ourselves or our children.
Instead, let’s create a new paradigm in which we can live in the truth of the moment and trust our relationships to express what is real and true on a moment by moment basis.
Let’s teach our children that it is okay to have relationships of any and every length and we do not need to hold on or experience trauma, loss or feel abandoned as these relationships transition and evolve.
Let’s teach our children to set themselves free.
Let’s teach that to ourselves first.
Have any thoughts about this? Think I am missing something important? Agree or disagree? I welcome your comments below.
After my mom & dad divorced, my mom only dated a little bit. And I always had icky feelings about it. Not because I didn’t want my mom to be dating but because it all felt so mysterious to me.
I think I would have much preferred your perspective on the transience of relationships. Yes, there are people we are bonded to for life (even if they are not our ‘partners’) but there are many, many more people who come and go – and add value for a short time.
I really, really appreciate reading about your personal journey on this aspect of life. Learning & thinking so much!
What about Dave Dee? Are you still friends?
I am also a single mom of a 15 year old son. While I agree with what you are saying…yes…friends and relationships come and go…we still need to be cautious about the men we bring around our children. Unfortunately, there are so many “jerks’ out there..ugh! Not to mention…predators. I have more friends that have be abused by boyfriend of their mothers…:(
I love that you teach your kids to “LOVE” the transition – and the people who come in those pivotal moments between the “breakdown and breakthrough”. This article produced a leap in consciousness for me – THANK YOU!
Children can smell authenticity and truth a mile away. This affects them deeply as well as the relationships in their life.
I think it’s great for children to understand that life is change and there is great pain in the illusion of and clinging to permanence. People, jobs, houses, pets, they all come and go over time. However, I also believe that with a marriage, there is and should be a belief that this is a life-long commitment, even if it doesn’t always work out that way. Of course that isn’t the case when you’re just dating someone 🙂 If I truly believed I was making a lifelong commitment and got married, even if it lasted less than a year, I might have regrets but I wouldn’t feel I had done wrong by my kids. It’s another lesson to learn – despite all your beliefs and intentions, sometimes things don’t always turn out as you plan and it’s better to face your mistakes and deal with them then compound them by not doing so. I would never enter in a marriage without that belief. I’m not accusing you of doing one or the other, just framing how I things.
Hello sweet wonderful Alexis. I love your writing, your thoughts your honesty and your shift from old to new! People do come and go! Some go forever some for a little while and some stays, the circle of Life so to say! When we allow children to be children and meet them where they are and not expecting them to be” little adults” they so are there with us .Dating and people coming and going is nothing bad it is natural and it is the truth I applaud you for speaking up and being a voice for so many single moms and dads. To be honest to our children to speak from our heart and to include them in our choices and life is much better than lying and so called protecting them because we have fears and the old beliefs is much more harmful…our children feel in their hearts that we are not honest and that scares them and that’s when they get insecure.My opinion of course and I stick to it for now and that is how I have done and 4 kids later I feel I have followed my instincts in many ways and changed my believes accordingly to that and so far so good! Lots of love to you and yours
Hi Linda, yes Dave and I are still friends. He lives across the country so we do not get to see each other now that we are not in the same kind of relationship, but we have deep love for each other. And I hope he will have a relationship with my kids again in the future. He loves them and them him.
I have also heard that many children are abused by boyfriends of their mothers — I handle this by teaching my kids very clearly not to let anyone touch them in any way that is not appropriate and I let them know that if at any time anyone tells them not to tell me something it’s a sign that they should immediately tell me.
Thanks for your comment.
I think the MAIN distinction here is that you are COMMUNICATING with your children! They need steady and reliable love, assurance and communication from at least one parent/adult guardian, and with those things I believe they can get through just about anything. I’m sure your kids are handling this break up just fine, thanks for sharing from your heart this pretty private slice of your life! We have so much to learn from each other this way. Sending you love and see you soon!
Hi Alexis, Loved your post and I totally agree. I have two boys (I’m divorced) and while I am selective as to who they meet now in my life (they have yet to meet my current g/f only because of logistics), I believe children are very familiar with people coming and going out of their lives. Think of school teachers (some they like and some they may not), who might be in their lives for 9 months and then they move into another class. Friends who move away… etc Children are very adaptable and they most want what is best for their parents anyway (until they turn 14 and forget about you all together except for paying for their cell phone bills and rides to the mall…. LOL).
I loved your last post – and I love this post! Thank you for shedding light on divorce, children + new partnerships. It’s refreshing…but most of all it’s honest. I recently separated from my husband + we both have new partners…and my partner is a woman for the first time ever. The dynamics of our family have changed heaps, and through it all, our kids have been amazing. we always believed, that as long long as there is lot of LOVE surrounding our kids + each other, than all will be well 🙂 When we learn to move out of our own way, magic happens. Thank you Alexis…you are beautiful! xx
Perfect. Thank you Alexis, this is something that all of us single parents should be aware of. We all live in outdated beliefs around most areas of our lives and particularly around divorce and caring for our children. I truly appreciate your willingness to share with your readers and perhaps plant a see of a new way of parenting. x Anne
I love your comments about the transitory nature of ever evolving relationships – in fact I wish my own parents had created this paradigm in my mind so that I did not get caught in an “all relationships must last forever” paradigm, even if they no longer serve everyone involved!
Thank you for sharing this….it takes being true to yourself to stand up to traditional thinking on these kinds of subjects. When I got divorced after 30 years I had 3 older and on their own kids and one 10 yr. old. When I started to date I got all kinds of coments like the one asked you. It was my youngest that was the one who was handling it all so well in the every day life with me and the new people in my life, while my older kids thought I was doing everything wrong. One even moved away and didn’t talk to me for 2 yrs. My married daugters husband wouldn’t let my grandkids be with me if I was with my new sweetheart and still won’t after 5 yrs. of being with the same man. My other daughter decided she just did not like him and only would see me without him. I had to let go of what they thought and everyone else thought and be happy for me…loving me….and as I did, they saw my joy and my love still there waiting for them and have come to see how truely happy their mom is. And who can resist a loving mom?
Trust your heart. My grown sons are now 25 and 30 years old. I raised them in community and they picked my second husband. I was told by many at the time, “too many people were in their life, that my lifestyle was crazy”, etc. I became a teacher and taught where they went to school until high school. They are great men who still learn from “too many people in their life.” Now, some of the men I dated ask them for advice! Our favorite TED Talks is a current family activity.
No one is happy unless mommy is happy!
Thanks for being such an inspiration to so many!
This post strikes home with me because my mother who I love and respect deeply is going through her third divorce. I would love to say that as the daughter I see it this way and possibly over time I will. But my initial response was anger, disappointment and sadness, if I’m being honest. As my mother’s friend and a woman I can empathize and see the need for her to move on from this relationship. My stepfather will still remain a part of my life and my mother has made it clear that she supports that. They may even stay friends themselves. The other two marriages did not part on such good terms.
I guess what I’m saying that from a rational point of view I totally agree with this approach and I always think honesty is the best approach with kids. I know when my mom thought she was shielding us from something we always picked up on it anyway. Somehow I can’t help feeling the pain and anger with the split, but that’s within myself, and I am working on sorting it out for myself. Somehow this third divorce put me back to feeling like a hurt 5 year old.
Thanks for this Ali. Generally I strongly agree. Our children are much more resilient and in-tune than we often given them credit for. Our attempts to shield them from the realities of the world can end up leaving them with false ideas about life. That’s definitely true about the transitory nature of relationships. As long as there is a core person or group that is (relatively) stable in their lives, what a beautiful thing that they learn the natural flow of human connection. Here’s the one place where I think some caution may be needed – when the dating is happening soon after the separation from the child’s biological parent. For me, I wanted to be sensitive to my son feeling like I was just going out and “replacing” his mom. And yet maybe I was overly sensitive here – perhaps communication in that situation is still enough. But I still think that’s the one area where some breathing room can be good. Thanks for your writings – I love where you are coming from.
Alexis, I have been following you for a couple of years now. I love your truth-telling, your transparency, and your insight and wisdom. I have learned greatly from you in business, and now also in life. In complete truth, I must say I am feeling conflicted within myself in reading your last two posts. I have fought to retain an almost 21-year marriage that has been difficult off and on for many (though not all) of those years. I have 19-year-old and 16-year-old sons. Throughout the years, I have fought for the marriage on behalf of many different things: my faith, my sense of “right and wrong”, for the security of my kids, out of guilt, out of fear, out of immense love, and probably “because of” other emotions and situations. I personally know of kids who were greatly affected by a failed marriage. I know of others who were wounded from their parents’ incessant fighting. In the Money Map program I asked about incompatible goals and philosophies about money with a spouse and you recommended I do everything I can to save the marriage before looking for a way out. I am back in therapy trying to figure out what truly IS my truth and the path that is right for me. I do know, and believe, that marriage is hard work. I have seen the fruits of that labor from time to time with my husband. I believe my kids are better for us staying together, though now that they are older, I know the older of them would understand, and I believe accept, if we broke up. The other I believe would be devasted. He struggles with change, and I want to help him with that. All is complicated by a very busy, demanding life — working a full-time job while running a separate business that I wish to grow into my life work (leaving the corporate job). The Money Map is giving me the path to do that — but it will definitely take some time.
Anyway, I think my kids have benefited from seeing me fight for my marriage — fighting for something I believe in — and fighting to live up my vows “until death us do part”. They have seen me hang in there in the midst of great adversity. They have seen me do “the hard work” of making something work that is difficult. They have also seen me cry and disappointed when things aren’t “working”. I think there is value in that, as well as in your paradigm of evolutionary relationships. Somehow, whether it is a limiting belief, or whether it is my truth, I see marriage as set apart from all other relationships. It is the core — second only to my relationship with my Creator. So, I fight for it. I think I want to continue to fight for it. I think it would be easier to let it go. There are days I’m inches away from just doing that.
Why I’m going on and on here is beyond me. I have so much going through my mind as I read your posts. I believe your path is right for you. I believe the path I’ve chosen is the right path for me. If I’m completely honest, what I believe makes that decision for me is my faith. I cannot let go of the vows I made before God. I guess I’m look for some confirmation and to stop the conflicting feelings I have when I read your posts.
Thank you Alexis for all that you are, and sharing it with us (me).
Thank you M, I am grateful for your sharing of yourself here. This thought has often helped me in times of deep conflict (whether external or internal) – every conflict is our greatest opportunity to be more of who we really are. Whether you let go or keep fighting is not what matters at the end of the day, what matters is who you are being through it all. Keep holding on to you and discovering more and more who that real you is — then fearlessly be that even if it means bucking convention or what other people may think is the right thing to do. God loves and supports you no matter what you decide to do. Blessings on this journey.
I can only say that we can color it any color we want to
This is wonderful and very well-stated. I couldn’t agree more!
Thanks for sharing this Tara. So interesting that you had icky feelings about your mom dating due to the mystery. I know I felt that a lot as a kid too – both repelled by and attracted to that which was hidden from me. Created such a charge. I guess that’s part of the reason I am so transparent with my kids. Even though it is hard sometimes because there is such disagreement about it by many people, I know it serves because it is what I would have wanted as a kid myself.
It sounds wonderful in theory but I think you are missing one point. You may be done with a relationship and ready to move on but the children may not be, they are not ending the relationship but are having the end forced on them. While I’m not saying that you can’t have relationships I think you are being naive in thinking that the loss of the relationship (not all of them but some of them) does not have an impact on the child. It needs to be acknowledged and worked through. I know I still resent a number of relationships my mother ended and others she began — the same with some of her friendships. Also there is nothing worse than asking a child to communicate their feelings then completely ignoring them with your actions. Everything is remembered in some shape or form.
Alexis, again I see such strength and power in your posts about your recent breakup. Love for yourself and love for your family. I send you love and clarity, so you truly know what path is truly right for you – so you can truly hear what your heart is saying. Many blessings.
I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for this!! amazing insight!
Thank you for speaking your truth. No one knows what is best for us, or for our kids. Anyone who says that kids are not “mature” enough or can’t handle it…that is only one opinion.
I think they can handle it and I think each soul comes here with certain lessons and things to learn.
Who are we to make an assumption that it is too much for kids to witness a parent changing relationships? Maybe that is precisely what their spirit wanted.
I was told not jump into a relationship after my divorce..but my heart said yes! We have been together for 7 years and it has been the best possible outcome for me.. and I believe for my kids too.
I stayed in a miserable relationship for 13 years because I was afraid it would damage my kids.
On the contrary, it would have killed me…how would that have impacted them?
The feelings of shame, guilt and sadness that come from a divorce and then having the peanut gallery giving you their two cents….is just not helpful. Listening to our truth is where it is at.
Good for you for standing in your truth….even if others don’t like it. After all, we are not here to make everyone else happy.
Jumping in and out of committed/intentioinal relationships when the fun and ease of new and exciting wears off is emotionally and spiritually immature. Real love is expressed in the surrendering of expectations, in the accepting of differences and in the weathering of storms together. I agree that forever relationships are magical thinking unless you choose to make that your reality, one day at a time. Without a model, children certainly have less of a chance of creating a lifelong relationship or knowing the possibilities that are inherent within one.
“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust
Ultimately it comes down to where your commitment is. If it’s to God, then the bible is clear about marriage and divorce. And in marriage, God has very clearly defined roles. As a husband, I know I don’t deserve my role as the head of the household, God gave it to me and I’m to accept it and serve my wife as Christ served the church (Christ died for his bride, the church). I wanted to run from my wife and now I’m glad I didn’t. If it helps, I posted an article that is meant to encourage and talk about a very controversial part of Christian marriage. It will infuriate some, and encourages others. My hope and prayer is that it helps you in your difficult situation. http://www.chrisgoegan.com/marriage-a-gift-from-god
I love this!! As a child of a divorced parent, and at times the most dis-functional functional family at times 😉 I think the biggest suffering came from the attachment of what we thought a family should look like, instead of recognizing the beautiful dynamic of love that is all around us at any time, and of course- accepting the one principle that is ever present and that is change 😉
Also- I read your post about feeling sad you have nothing to say.. I honor that- and not to change that- but when I have nowhere to go- I think the best place- is gratitude..and I know you have tons of experience with expressing that..
Love YOU!! Sending you lots of blessings and celebrations this week..Can’t wait to hear what happens!
As always, an interesting post. I think things get much more complicated when your partner is not “evolved” … and I’m not sure how you can really know that when you first meet someone. They can say all the right words, but you don’t know their wounds or their “pain body” or ego yet — which every human being has … I don’t care if they spend all day meditating on a mountaintop, they still have an ego … it’s just a part of being human. My main concern with transient relationships is the safety of the children in bringing people into their lives that you don’t know very well. It takes quite a long time to really get to know someone — their character, their vulnerabilities, their shadow, etc. Also, VERY little of what children learn comes from what we tell them. Instead, they form their core beliefs from watching us and the personal and emotional experience this creates within them. I think it’s really good that you are conscious and deliberate about what you are teaching your kids (I am assuming this did not happen as an after-the-fact band-aid to your choices, but because you really mean it), as the biggest mistake would be to do what’s right for you and not be aware of how it affects them. There are definitely benefits to children of being on the transient path. I don’t think the forever path is necessarily wrong, or less evolved, though. There are some people who want the forever path because they are terrified of being alone or vulnerable, and the ego is seeking security. But I think for many people the forever path allows them to have a highly evolved spiritual experience, and is often a sign that they have transcended the ego. This is not necessarily true for everyone, though. By the same token, the “why” behind the transient path is especially important. Is it to avoid the vulnerability of the ego, or is it because the person has truly transcended the ego? There can be huge perceived security in impermanence, which satisfies the ego’s fears but doesn’t really satisfy. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Alexis, we are in a new paradigm for relationships and you are leading the way (you go girl). This way requires deep self love and respect for all. I think Daphane Rose kingma’s book
“The Future of Love” really lays it all out there. I am struggling in the new paradigm because it causes me to let go of the ways I think it “should be” and be with what is. Choosing and being with the what’s so, not the storybook fantasy. Thank you for being True to yourself. Peace and Blessings.
To MichS, something you said really struck a chord “I see marriage as set apart from all other relationships. It is the core — second only to my relationship with my Creator.” I too have been through good times and struggles in a long marriage and am happy to report it is healthier than ever, but ONLY after I realized one essential truth and shifted into living it:
YOU need to be at your core, and no one else. You.You really can’t truly love an “other” until you are living “in” love with yourself first. And when you are embodying true self-love, then of course it is reflected in all your outer relationships with other people because they are mirrors of how we see ourselves. Even if some of those relationships shift and end, they will do so lovingly and with a minimum of drama/trauma (as Alexis has modeled).
I would argue a healthy relationship with self is primary to ALL other relationships, even a relationship with one’s Creator (unless in your belief system you recognize yourself as such). Maybe your relationship with your creator is a kind of relationship to self, and if that’s the case then you are at your own core already.
But aside from self/god, as we relate to other humans we can get really tripped up by fear, uncertainty, or change, and then all of a sudden we’re not at our center anymore; instead our stake in our relationships with those people becomes the compass we steer by, and we get lost.
What led me astray, after years of thinking I was beyond it (and should’ve known better) is I started relating to myself through the eyes of “other”. Whether my husband, parents, etc. it didn’t matter, all of a sudden I wasn’t self-centered, I was other-centered, and as a result I wasn’t centered at all because of course we have no control over others.
What I perhaps love most about you, Alexis, is your ability to remain true to and centered with self, regardless of the changing outer circumstances or risk of condemnation.
MichS, I don’t mean to be giving offhand advice and obviously we don’t know each other so take what I’ve offered if it helps you and chuck if it doesn’t, but your comment triggered something that inspired me to respond in the small chance this resonates. I join Alexis in wishing you many blessings and fearlessness in your journey into your truth.
This is a truly beautiful post, thank you Karen
I think you are handling your divorce and dating very well. I left my husband when my daughter was 4 and my son was 8. We could not live together happily, and I thought is was better that we not live together since we were fighting all the time, and I did not want my children to continue to experience that. My daughter, who is now 27, apparently was not happy about our divorce, but I did not realize that until about a year ago when we started talking about some of her anger at me.. We arranged that we would take turns with the children so we each were with them 50% of the time (every other night, at first, and every other weekend) – it was a strange arrangement, and it changed over the years, but both of my children are well adjusted and in good stable relationships, and as they were growing up, they had both of us, albeit separately. I usually introduced my children to men I was dating as they were part of who I was, but until is was a serious relationship, I kept most of my dating to the times the children were with their father. My daughter was apparently jealous of the first serious relationship I had since my divorce, which started when she was 12 and which I am still in, but I started spending a special night every week just with her, when we went out to dinner and shopping or other things, and that helped our relationship. I’m sure I didn’t do everything perfectly. I would have preferred to have been able to have a happy relationship that could have continued with their father, but it didn’t work between us. I am happy to say that now I have great relationships with both of my children.
I not only love your post, but I love the dialogue that has been taking place around it. As a divorced single mother of two teenage boys and as a Divorce Expert and founder of the D Spot, where I work with hundreds of women who are moving through and after divorce, I relate to all that you have shared in addition to all that the others have shared as well.
Here’s the thing about divorce….there are no rules.
There is no right…or wrong.
There is only the journey…the journey of self discovey, growth and deliberately creating the life that you imagine and deserve.
I understand this journey because I am on my own…and I work with women as they begin theirs.
What we know is that children never WANT their parents to get divorced. However, helping ourselves and our children get comfortable with change and transition is such a wonderful resource. My boys now view life as a journey, because they have watched me move along my own. Welcoming in new relationships with friends and romances, communicating around conflict and deliberately creating a ROCKIN new life.
They watch our every move…it is our joyful responsiblity and obligation to teach them how to design their own IDEAL life…whatever that means for them.
Alexis, I appreciate the opportunity you have created to have a dialogue around this as divorce is not just a transition, but a catalyst for growth and transformation…not only for the ones going through it, but for those around them as well.
beautiful article Alexis, love your goddess sis, Ani
Hi Alexis ! I think it is great that you listen to your heart and put the interest of your children. As mothers we are the first teachers and models for our children on what is healthy and acceptable in relationships !
If Mom-Me is happy then the children will be fine. If Mom-Me is unhappy to make everyone else happy the children will suffer. Bravo to you my friend. You can maintain the relationship with dad as dad and the children will experience and love their father. At the end of the day, it is your life and you must be happy to be your best for both yourself and your children. Who really cares what anyone else thinks.!1 Trust YOU!
I agree with Moe and Rubisatir. While I believe children can survive, and thrive, after divorce, I think they prefer to have their mother and father together. The problem, in my humble opinion, is that people have children without thinking of the consequences. Marriage is not for the adults once you have children. I don’t care what anyone says. They like having both around unless it’s a constant argument or abusive situation.
Given that 50% or more of marriages end in divorce, I have questioned whether people are meant to be with one person their whole life, and I guess that depends on each individual. But, I think kids like structure and security, and they don’t get that from the situation you present.
Communication, or lack thereof, is ultimately why I think marriages fail. Alissa Bowman just published a great new book on saving marriage (hers). It is very well written. She was planning her husband’s funeral, and they ended up working it out. Check it out http://www.ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com.
Couldn’t help but post what arrived in my inbox today. I think this says a lot too: http://www.allprodad.com/pod/viewplayoftheday.php?date_pod=2011-05-10
Couldn’t help but post what arrived in my inbox today. I think this says a lot too: http://www.allprodad.com/pod/viewplayoftheday.php?date_pod=2011-05-10
I am glad I scrolled down the comments, and found this MichS great reply. I place god, marriage, and my kids in the order I just listed for priority. I really don’t believe in trasient relationships with marriage I do believe in eternal marriage. I think there is a new age of people that get lacadasical and do not want to put in the work it takes to make marriage work. I think there could also be some sort of addiction to the feelings of a new relationship. But I really do not want to judge I just really liked that someone stood up for marriage.