Tuesday, March 16, 2010
A few years ago I was having lunch with several fellow employees and the owner of the company. Moments after lunch was served, Owner received a call from his Ex. The school had called to say Daughter was not feeling well. Ex was in the midst of filling an order of gift baskets, and needed Owner to pick Daughter up from school. After a short conversation - snippy and rude at our end - Owner whipped his car keys out of his pocket and asked for a carry out box for his lunch. He then looked at me- the only woman at the table - and said: "Now I ask you, who is more important here; me, the owner of a multi-million dollar company, or Ex, who makes $9.50 an hour filling gift basket orders?"
I knew the answer he wanted to hear. I knew him well enough to know his question was more of a dare than a request for advice. I knew an honest answer would cost me, and I knew no answer at all would probably cost the same. I chose not to answer. Just looked at him. Perhaps raised my eyebrows a bit. He never spoke to me again, and I was "laid off" a few weeks later.
I know it wasn't just my answer - or lack thereof -that cost me my job, but it sure didn't help. I wish now I had just told him the answer. It's very simple: Who is most important in the scenario? The daughter. The daughter. The daughter!
The issues that confuse most couples - or ex-couples - are these:
During a marriage, the most important in the relationship, other than God, of course, are the husband and wife. During and after a divorce, the most important people are the children.
Children, in-laws, family, pets, hair appointments - all come second to husband and wife. A relationship is not static. We change, our needs change, our attitudes change, our interests change, we mature - or not, we are needy - or not. Because neither we nor our relationship are static we must consider the marriage and each other as most important. Always. The relationship/marriage/husband and wife is the project of most interest, focus and importance. If this works and the marriage thrives and grows - everything else will work - or at least be endured.
During and after a divorce - when the marriage is determined to be non-repairable- the focus must change to the children. This is a subject that would take days or months to cover properly. In short, though, the importance of caring for the needs of the children/step children/adopted children, by not using them as pawns, not pitting them against one Ex or the other, not ignoring their needs, not burdening them with problems, keeping them properly informed, and letting them know they are most important in decisions is where all the energy of the parents should be expended.
This focus will resolve many other points of argument in the divorce: who gets the house, who gets the Corvette, who gets the every-day dishes. Look at these questions with the children in mind. The answers are easy. What is best for the children. House? Check. Corvette? Not so much. Everyday dishes? Of course.
If there are no children, have at it. If there are children, step away from yourselves and give them the focus they deserve. A bonus here is you will keep the respect of your family and friends. You will serve as a good example to others. You will be doing the right thing.