By ERIC LEGETTE
The statistics don’t lie: Over 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Many of these unions produce children and once parents “go their separate ways,” many become involved in a new relationship. These, in turn, often contribute to additional failed relationships. Some produce children born out of wedlock, short-term relationships and various additional burdens of “the blended family.”
In fact, research predicts that soon the blended family will represent the majority of families in the U.S., as opposed to the “traditional family unit,” with a natural mother, natural father and their natural child(ren). Because of this, today there is a greater chance of connecting with someone who has a child, bringing with it the likelihood of some involvement with the alternate natural parent of his or her child (ren)—and the drama that comes with it.
Pile that onto the issues from failed relationships that we often carry into new ones, it’s no wonder having meaningful connection is such a challenge. Whether our baggage comes in the form of past abuse or abandonment issues, alcohol or chemical dependencies or repeated failed relationships, moving on without receiving counseling makes it more difficult to maintain a functional relationship with a new partner and his/her child(ren). We all have issues. So now the question begs, “What can I do to cope with my issues properly?”
I asked myself that question 10 years ago, after discussing a problem with a childhood friend of mine. She happened to be involved in a relationship with our mutual friend, “Mark,” whose ex-girlfriend, “Sheila,” caused so much stress their relationship was being threatened. Adding insult to injury, Sheila would not allow Mark to see his own son. Sheila hated that Mark had moved on and that he found someone else. This is a typical move by ex-partners, but is in no way limited to the female former partner. Men are often at fault as well. For instance, some men will accept employment that pays “under the table” so as not to pay the court-imposed child support due their own child(ren). There are also men who refuse to participate in the child’s upbringing because, in their own words, “No one told you to have the baby.” And he’s okay with that—until the ex finds a real man who wants to enter a solid relationship with her and raise her child as his own.
And therein is the start of the drama. They are direct assaults on the new relationship, and, if not handled properly, those assaults can and will destroy what could have bene a happy union. If faced together, though, you can prevail.
Fortunately, you have help in that area. You see, I am a hopeless romantic. I believe “true love” does exist and that sometimes the best love is met with the severest of opposition. I believe that it’s difficult to find that one person on a planet with so many billions of people, who truly “gets you,” and I believe that once you find that person, you must fight with everything you have to keep them there.
In knowing that, I am going to give you a taste of what is needed right now for your relationship: Hope. And that hope comes in the form of my new book, The Couple’s ABC Guide: How to Face Conflicts With an Ex-Spouse Together. Here, I present rules A and B:
A is for ACKNOWLEDGE
Acknowledge the problem. Failure to recognize and address a problem in hopes that it will somehow just “go away” is like thinking that merely wishing hard enough that there is a Santa Claus will one day produce a Santa Claus. Or like allowing a wound to go untreated in hopes it will heal on its own, without proper medical attention. The wound could become infected and can even prove fatal.
“Relationship drama” touches the very core of your soul. It affects the beat of your heart—and worse, that of your child! You MUST join forces and acknowledge that (1) the problem does indeed exist; and (2) that you will not succumb to the pressure to give up on your relationship—that you will remain united to fend off any negativity the drama might produce.
Acknowledging the problem is the first step to relationship success. Once you acknowledge the problem, you can plan how to properly address your reaction to the problem. Remember: The goal of the drama is to conquer, divide and destroy your relationship so that you can be just as miserable as the person bringing it. At some point, you will have to decide which is more important: feeding into the drama or keeping your relationship healthy and alive. Which will you decide?
B is for BELIEVE
Don’t stop believing and never, ever underestimate its power. Believing is the anchor of hope; it is the root of faith. Believing has kept parents hopeful after being told their kidnapped child would never be returned – only to have that child brought back to their arms. Believing has strengthened the mother who kept vigil, knowing that one day her prodigal son would turn his life around and become a responsible man and father. Believing brought down the Berlin Wall, brought an end to apartheind and slavery in the United States.
In my own case, I truly believed that one day my own drama would end and that I would gain sole custody of my own daughter – and I did! Keep believing.
Eric Legette is the founder of Fathers With Voices, a program that provides consultation and resources for divorced fathers who wish to win visitation with and custody of their children. Today’s article is an excerpt of his ebook, The Couple’s ABC Guide: How to Face Conflicts With an Ex-Spouse Together. Purchase the book at Eric’s website, www.fatherswithvoices.info or connect with him on Twitter at @Esay32.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.