Resources for Single Christians

Divorced and Single with Kids – How to Deal with Your Ex-Spouse

Divorced and Single with Kids – How to Deal with Your Ex-Spouse – “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” – Charlotte Bronte.  Loneliness, sadness, depression, and suffering can sum up the feelings that divorced parents go through.  Coupling those feelings with also the awesome responsibility of caring for children when you are newly single can easily exacerbate an already fragile situation and relationship with your ex-spouse.  Those feelings bottled up will eventually need an outlet and often this is where parental alienation is born.

Divorced and Single with Kids – How to Deal with Your Ex-Spouse

Tragically, the statistics for divorce are not helpful.  There seems to be more and more families going through the crisis of divorce and becoming single again.  These newly single parents now have to deal with the harsh reality of coping with being single, raising their child without their ex-spouse being involved daily, and learning how to communicate with their ex-spouse during visitation periods, pick-ups and drop-offs, and those now difficult holidays.

The Danger Of Allowing Parental Alienation To Exist In Your Relationship With Your Ex-Spouse:

Parental alienation is the process, which results in the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent or other family members.  If you are divorced, single, and carrying for your child, you need to guard your heart and tongue against parental alienation.  There are a litany of warning signs that parental alienation may be seeping into your relationship with your ex-spouse, and here are few major ones:

  • Temptation to claim you are the “good” parent and your ex-spouse is not good;
  • Repetitive negative comments about your ex-spouse;
  • Allows no flexibility in visitation schedules;
  • Interrupts or constant calling while the child is with your ex-spouse;
  • Loaded comments or describing negative stories about your ex-spouse;
  • Prohibiting gifts, mail, e-mails, or other communication with your ex-spouse; and
  • Uses religious, racial, or other differences to discourage the relationship between the child and your ex-spouse.

Scripture warns us about our tongues and speech.

James 3:5-12 describes the power of your speech perfectly as “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

When a child is subject to this poison, it can have a severe impact on their emotional growth, psyche, and spiritual growth.  Parental Alienation can also adversely impact the parents in the same way.  Parental Alienation is sin.  As all sin does, it eats away at your relationship with the Lord and it manifests itself negatively in your emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Aside from the negative impacts on your child, yourself, and your relationship with your ex-spouse, the Family Courts will take control of your relationship with your child.  If the problem is systemic, the parent engaged in the alienation will be restricted from seeing their child and your visitation schedule will be negatively impacted.

Struggle Well In Your Singleness Rather Than Dwell In Alienation:

So, if we recognize that being divorced with children is painful, that we will struggle, we will look to lash out at our ex-spouse, we can begin to pray that the Lord guards our tongues and our hearts.  We know that struggling with divorce, parenthood, and singleness will be difficult.

First, we need to recognize that being single with children can be difficult.

Dealing with our ex-spouses, their emotional baggage, potential new romantic partners, and our natural emotional concerns will likely trigger strong emotions.  Recognition is key.  You will struggle.  You will despair.  You will endure pain, sadness, or panoply of negative emotions.  Ecclesiastes 3:4.  However, remember that this is likely a season and your recognition of that will help your ability to cope with that season of finding the new normal.

Second, guard your tongue when you are communicating with your ex-spouse.

Your tongue is the most powerful part of your body.  It has the power to build-up your relationship with your ex-spouse or destroy it.  When in doubt, offer constructive comments vs. engaging in a verbal battle with your ex-spouse.  Proverbs 15:1 gives us the simple answer to any difficult conversation with our ex-spouse — “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Finally, you can and should learn to struggle well with your ex-spouse!

Secular wisdom tells you to focus on your feelings, your desires, and your circumstances.  However, by doing so, you will only get more and more frustrated and your relationship with your ex-spouse will fray even more.  If you and your ex-spouse are solely focused one each of your own internal desires, problems in communicating will only grow.

James 1:19-20 provides us with the key to any difficulties with our ex-spouses.  

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”  This Scriptural directive is hugely instructive in every communication you have with your ex-spouse.  Instead of our natural tendencies to criticize, condemn, or complain about our ex-spouses, you can do something different.

It is very likely that your ex-spouse does not like to admit fault, nor will he or she respond well when criticized, humiliated, or shamed.  In order to have a productive long-lasting positive relationship with your ex-spouse, practicing James 1:19-20 is essential.

Practical Resources To Help You With Your Communication:

Struggling with loneliness, being single and divorced with children is real.  It is not in your imagination, and very few people can “white-knuckle” it through this season.  Here are some practical resources for you to help you through this season in life:

  • Biblical community. If you haven’t joined a church, it’s time!  Simply going to church anonymously is not what we are talking about.  Instead, it is time for you to get plugged into the church, a home group, recovery group, or seek counseling from the church staff.  Many churches are equipped, welcoming, and expecting to care for people who are exactly in your season of life.  Don’t delay, get plugged in.
  • Independent Christian counseling. Your city likely has a number of Christian organizations that will provide deep, meaningful, Gospel-centered counseling that you can take advantage of.  Counselors with specialized training, expertise, and focused on your problems can be a huge help in overcoming this difficult season of life.
  • Accountability group. Begin (or continue) to develop close meaningful friendships.  Friends who you can be totally transparent and vulnerable with are essential to your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.  Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  So, be selective in those friends who genuinely care for you and are wise.  They will be a great resource to you in this difficult season.

You don’t have to struggle alone.  There is a giant community of other single divorced parents out there that know exactly why you are struggling.  My prayer for each of you is that you Struggle Well and you find God’s Grace in this difficult season of life. Divorced and Single with Kids – How to Deal with Your Ex-Spouse. For more about Dugan Kelley please click here