When marital problems begin, the emotional intensity of the conflicts that arise can cause a wave of disappointment that can sweep over you. The marriage that you thought you were going to have when you said “I do” just is not happening. With the amount of conflict and how often it occurs, it begins to become clearer and clearer that the marriage is not sustainable and does not function the way it needs to.
That is when the disappointment shifts from the marital problems to the act of a divorce.
Understanding disappointment, marital conflict and divorce
Throughout life, we, as individuals, face a variety of disappointments. From burning your toast inside the toaster to facing your first break-up, the training that we, as human beings, face in handling disappointment is never-ending. However, despite all of that training, divorce is a disappointment that few are ever ready for.
Disappointment can sometimes cause the marital conflicts that eventually lead to a divorce, subsequently causing an even greater level of disappointment. Much of the disappointment that people experience during marriage is due to unmet and sometimes, unrealistic, expectations, according to Psychology Today.
Sometimes, individuals enter marriages with a clear picture in their head of what the experience will be like and how that experience will reflect the new stage in their relationship, and when it does not occur, resentment can begin to build.
This level of resentment can transfer into the divorce experience, once the marriage combusts. It can cause the individual in question to make decisions out of spite, that may not necessarily be in the best interests of any dependents, such as shared children.
Children of divorce
Children often can find themselves in the crossfire of one or more parents lashing out and making decisions fueled by anger. The disappointment in the marriage not working the way that they wished it had clouds their judgement, and the shared children are forced to deal with the fallout.
This can lead to many parents being separated from their children, as well as the deterioration of many parent-child interactions, according to Robert E. Emery’s “Cutural Sociology of Divorce: An Encyclopedia.” Many parents find themselves struggling to adjust to life after a divorce, due to the stress and physical symptoms that can surface, that they no longer act like their previous selves, losing their identity in the process.
Other parents overshare their disappointments with their children. According to the New York Times, a surprising number of well-functioning adults reach out to their children for help with their grown-up problems. Many parents find that because the children are too young to fully grasp the situation, they actually are better listeners, because their opinions are not fully formed yet.
One situation described in The New York Times’ book: “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce” by Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee involved the child becoming the caregiver.
A parent described their unluckiness in a relationship to a child and was startled when the child, who was four years-old, comforted the grieving parent, whose significant other had just left.
“He shouldn’t quit in the middle,” the child said. “That’s not right.”
Dangers of child disappointment
This poses a direct danger to the child’s development. Dealing with these disappointments at such a young age can stun their development and cause them great amounts of mental and emotional anguish.
However, when a child becomes a little older and is not privy to the emotional ins and outs of a parent’s confession, they are allowed to be disappointed with a parental divorce, and parents should understand that. Their emotions should be taken seriously, especially if they begin to question everything that they once knew.
In their eyes, the family that they once came home to and relied on for everything is irreversibly changed, and from that perspective, how long is it going to take before the people who no longer love one another stop loving them? These are real questions that divorced parents need to address with their children, who are dealing with the disappointment of the situation.
Whether it is one-on-one time with a parent or through professional means, they need to be made aware under no uncertain terms that both parents will always love them and will always be there for them. Even though their marriage did not work, it does not take away from what they feel for their child.
Even if they do not have children, divorced individuals also need to avoid this level of jaded thinking. They need to understand that while they may be suffering from the disappointment of a failed marriage, this is not the end.
There are other aspects to life ahead for them, and while they once saw the failed marriage as their future, their future is no longer written. It’s not set, and it is out there for them to create for themselves.