One night as I was reading Jessica a story while snuggling with her at bedtime, she began asking me why I had gotten divorced from her dad. I was rendered speechless and totally unprepared for this discussion. I knew I had to deal with this topic carefully because I had promised myself not to say any negative things to Jessica about her dad's behavior during our marriage. Believe me, this was an extremely difficult promise to honor. I obviously didn't satisfy her curiosity because her parting comment to me was, "Mommy, if you really loved me, you would get back together with Daddy." I was flabbergasted! How could I be honest with her about his current choice of lifestyle, his lack of desire to be financially responsible, or his open-minded beliefs of casual drug use? I repeated my promise to myself over and over again.
After that night there were countless times Jessica would engage me in similar conversations. I began to comprehend her feelings about being the only person she knew who had divorced parents. You need to remember this was back in the 70's when divorce was quite uncommon. When I grasped the depth of her sensitivity, I was greeted with a sense of guilt for making the decision to marry so young...growing up with a strong Catholic mother meant that guilt was never far away. I was able to realize though, this had been a decision from the past and the guilt did nothing to help solve this problem I was facing at the present time. What I needed was wisdom to help me make the right decision for now. How could I best help my daughter? I was too involved to make a solid decision by myself, so again I turned to a professional who could assist us in sorting out our emotions and points of view. I was not financially able to return to my first private therapist, but I discovered our county mental health professional charged on a sliding scale so that is the route I chose.
With the help of the therapist, Jessica and I were able to progress to the point of a mutual understanding and acceptance of the other's feelings. As with all things worthwhile, we put many hours into this process. We found ourselves in new and unfamiliar territory, a place in which we were invited to share honestly, openly, respectfully, showing consideration for the feelings and ideas of the other. We each had our own individual time with the therapist and then we came together and were given the opportunity to put into practice our new-found rules for sharing. Using these communication techniques certainly made our discussions flow more freely and easily. By the end of our time working with this therapist, Jessica had a better understanding of why her parents were not able to continue in their marriage, and I was better equipped to listen to her questions and feelings without taking each and every one of them as a personal attack.