Monday, February 8, 2010

"I'll never let you go." The post divorce saga.

Divorce is about cutting ties and moving on, right?

But suppose that, even though the parties are divorced, the ties don't cut and there's no moving on. There's not even moving.

We see that often, the ex-spouses who have divorced but won't, or can't, let go.  They are still almost as connected to each other as they were when they were married and their on-going relationship has not worn those years gracefully.

The destructive connections continue despite time, despite new relationships, despite new children.  Sometimes even the new spouses become enlisted in the age old struggle.  These cases arise as contempt actions, not over monies due or actions required to facilitate settlements, but over a grudge or just enduring spite.

In one case that comes to mind, the parties are still fighting over anything and everything.  At this point, their fight centers on the exchange of the children.  She won't stay indoors when he arrives.  He won't stay in his car.  The new husband won't stay out of it; he wants to push his 6'3" linebacker frame around.  The parents aren't fighting over the kids. The kids are an excuse for the parents to stay in relationship with each other.  The kids are just a convenient tool.  I can imagine how much the kids must look forward to Dad's arrival or to returning to Mom's house.  "What's in the best interest of my children?  Not right now.  Can't you see I'm having a good fight with my ex?"

Another case stems from an early 1990's divorce.  Many financial ties held the ex-spouses together, but these ties were finally wrapping up, one by one.  Just when it seemed there was nothing left to fight about,  the parties found something, a paper, a single piece of paper.  He should have given it to her.  She wanted it.  He didn't want her to have it.  It just didn't matter.  The parties couldn't say goodbye almost 20 years after their divorce.  A couple of new spouses and several new kids later, they still clung to each other.  You might call that a death grip.

You might think these people are frivolous for fighting in court, but we can probably agree that they are not ready candidates for couples therapy.  I'd be the first to say that litigation is woefully inefficent for working through these issues, but sometimes the energy of resolving the legal issues can open opportunities for self reflection, particularly if your attorney is telling you, "you don't want to go to trial over this."

How about this for a litmus test:  Can't let go?  How do you feel about reconciling?  It makes you sick?  Okay then, what are you holding on to?

Let go.

Michael Manely

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