Divorce and separation are always tricky experiences, especially when children are involved. The reasons two people decide to separate or divorce are often lengthy, layered, and private.
Or, at least, they should be. However, one dad recently decided to reveal the reason he and his wife are working toward their impending divorce … with the couple’s 12-year-old son:
“My wife and I have been together when we first met in high school. We were able to maintain a long-distance relationship throughout college and stayed true to each other. I truly thought we were inseparable. She gave birth to a boy 12 years ago, and since then things changed drastically.
“My son, unfortunately, has behavioral problems and it’s been very difficult raising him. He throws temper tantrums, gets in trouble in school frequently, refuses to listen to my wife and I.
“As a result, my wife and I started having disagreements about how we should handle him (i.e whether to punish more, let him get his anger out, etc). This created a wedge between us that kept getting wider. We both resorted to drinking more and wanting to be away from each other as much as possible to get some relief.”
At the beginning, it’s not too difficult to at least have a little bit of empathy for the man. Raising a child who has additional or unexpected challenges can take its toll on a marriage. However, healthy couples who love each other generally try to work through those challenges together. Sometimes, though, one partner or the other ends up revealing that that they aren’t willing to do so.
The dad goes on to say that his marriage has suffered:
“We started having more arguments and eventually it became so obvious that our marriage was deteriorating that family members started questioning it. So the topic of divorce came up and we both decided to go through with it.”
Instead of examining any fault of his or his wife’s that could have led to the divorce, or perhaps questioning if they have always responded appropriately to their son’s condition, he starts blaming his son:
“When I first told my son about it, he cried endlessly then started throwing fits about how unfair it was. I completely understand that a divorce is hard on any child, but the intensity of his fits kept growing. Since my wife and I are separated (not yet divorced) and because she can’t tolerate our son that much, we agreed that he gets to spend most of the week with me, unfortunately, so I see him a lot and have to put up with his yelling far more than she does.”
He says that their son was particularly upset one day, and the dad decided to just lay his truth out on his 12-year-old:
“Last Friday he started asking if my wife and I forgave each other and I told him that the divorce is happening like it or not. He starts crying and I got mad and told him ‘buddy, want to know why we are getting divorced? Because of you, we were happy before you were born but you always act bad and get in trouble, so stop arguing with me when you caused it, you have nothing but yourself to blame.'”
Predictably, their son is totally devastated. But perhaps perversely, the man has noticed that now his son’s behavior is more in line with what he prefers:
“This devastated him and I did apologize but I told him there was some truth to what I said. However, since then he’s been more quiet and behaved, even my wife, who was with him over the weekend, said he was much better. So yes, I think I am the [expletive] for telling him he was the reason we are getting divorced, but in some ways I don’t think I am because maybe it was just something he needed to hear?”
No matter what two adults believe about their relationship and its demise, many experts agree that blaming your child or children for the dissolution of your marriage is always a colossal, cruel mistake. Kids already internalize a lot of what they hear their parents argue about, and many children worry their parents are divorcing because of them. The last thing they need is a parent who refuses to accept his or her role and blames the child instead.
Pittsburgh divorce lawyer James Bogatay explains, “Never put blame on the kids. Instead, offer emotional support and positive reassurance that both parents will always love them, no matter what.”
In other words, divorce is never the fault of your children.
People were quick to point out that both the parents have failed here:
“You failed as a parent by not getting him the help he needs and being able to support him as a parent. Now you’re not just breaking up his home, but you’re telling him it’s HIS fault when the fault lies with you two adults? That’s horrific.”
Another commenter agreed and said it sounds like they have no idea how to be good parents:
“Honestly, it sounds like you have both been [expletive] parents. That’s the reason he acts out. Yes, there may be some physiological components, but it is your job as parents to get him help, not deal with it by drinking, blaming him, and fighting. This whole situation is a result of your failures. Seriously, this is one of the most horrible things I’ve seen a parent post on here.”
Thankfully, one person really laid it out for him:
“YTA for telling him the divorce is his fault. YTA for telling him you and your wife were happy before he was born. YTA for [failing] him as a parent and being a [expletive] person. YTA FOR BEING GLAD HE’S CALMER NOW AFTER YOU DESTROYED HIM WITH YOUR WORDS.”
That’s really the crux of the situation: The mom and dad have now put the blame squarely on their child, who is not at fault and who also doesn’t have the emotional tools needed to even begin to work through this attack from the two people he should be able to trust more than anyone.
A child psychologist also weighed in and really threw the gauntlet down:
“You’re taking your own issues out on your son and projecting it on to him. You two not being able to work things out, is not the problem of your son. If your son is having behavioral issues, most of the time it has nothing to do with the kid, but with the parents. Most likely, your kid has past issues or stress that he needs help dealing with and doesn’t know how to properly cope with them, because you never taught him how. Your son needs therapy, and both of you need to be a better parent to him.”