The Dreaded Talk

A personal email was recently sent to Devon and I concerning having that dreaded “talk” with the kids.  You know, the “Mommy and Daddy Are Getting Divorced” conversation?  It was a new process for me to work through in answering Inquire-ee.  I had to think long and hard back to those days.  That time was kind of a blur, but I think we did some things right.  Here’s what I wrote to her.

This email will be a bit of a process for me because no one has ever asked us your very practical question.  In fact, I will definitely be blogging about it very soon.  I am thankful you felt comfortable reaching out to us.  I will be cc’ing Devon when I’m done with this in case he thinks of anything else to add.

I don’t know your situation, of course, so I can only speak from our own.  Here are some main points that I hope are helpful.

1.  Our biggest concern was making sure that each of the kids knew that they could ask questions at anytime during our process.  That being said, we did NOT tell them that Devon was gay.  That was difficult for me personally, because it was the ultimate reason we were getting divorced and the bitter side of me wanted them to know.  I didn’t, thankfully, because Devon needed to tell them when he was ready.  If they asked us something that would lead them to specific “why” questions, we told them that we would definitely let them know the reasons when we were ready.  We assured them that we would, but the adult nature of it needed to wait until Mommy and Daddy were both ready to tell them.  They seemed to accept that answer, with the expectation that they would eventually find out in due time.  We followed through with our promises.

2.  We always, to the best of our ability, presented a united front.  We sat next to each other when telling them things at our various family meetings.  We made sure the kids were cuddled up next to us when we spoke.  Sometimes we would go on a picnic. Sometimes we’d just be in our living room.  Never in an overtly public place.  We still do this and it gives the kids reassurances that we can all be together when it is necessary.  Let me tell you, there were times when I bit the bullet and didn’t exactly love it, but it was for the kids, and so I did.

3.  Devon and I always discussed in person (sometimes over the phone) some of the exact verbiage we were planning on using.  If an email is necessary for you, that’s ok, too.  It’s just good to practice meeting and getting used to talking together before you speak with the kids.  Be sure to decide who will start off the conversation and what you will say to begin.  Let it be somewhat organic from that point on.  Also, for yourself, you should write brief talking points you want to be sure to say.  It will help you to not miss your most important items.  I hope your spouse will do the same, but you can only control yourself.  Be the best example you can.  If he or she senses you trying to control the situation, there will be defensiveness.  Do your best not to be defensive yourself.

4.  Keep the focus on the kids.  Make sure that you both look them in the eye.  Most importantly, tell them specifically that they have done nothing wrong, nor will they ever in the future, to be the cause of the divorce.  It’s seriously the most important thing.  I guarantee in their simple childlike minds that’s what they’re thinking.  Reassure them and continue throughout your various processes to do so.

5.  Are you living in separate households currently?  If so, reassure them that not much will be changing except that you and Daddy will have some personal and specific stuff to deal with.  Be honest with them when things need to brought up, but not too much info.  Kids usually ask questions when they’re ready to hear the answers.  Too much info and they won’t be able to process things in a healthy manner.

Interjection:  I liken this to the three times when each of my kids asked me: “Where do babies really come from?”  They asked me this at different times, and each time I gauged what they really wanted to know.  One wanted to know how babies were created.  One wanted to know where babies came out and how.  One simply didn’t know what the hell he was asking.  I gave them each different answers.  Later, they asked follow up questions when they felt the need.  They knew I’d be honest with them, and today, they all know that babies are born out of the belly button and that kissing causes pregnancy.  Okay.  So please continue with the quoted email.

6.  During your talk they will probably have questions that you weren’t expecting.  Just answer them as truthfully as you can (without giving too much info).

7.  Both of you can ask them a day or so later if they have any other questions that may have popped up in their minds.  Talk with them each separately.  You will be surprised about how deep their thinking can be.

Keep in mind that I’m not a counselor.  This is what we did and it worked for us.  It started us off on the same footing and our children have adjusted really well.  Some of it may not apply to your situation, but my hope it that you can find a few nuggets of wisdom in my words.

When are you planning on telling them?  I would love to have an update on how it goes.

Thanks again for writing us and giving us inspiration to continue helping others toward amicable relationships.

Blessings to you, your spouse and your children.

Devon didn’t think of anything else to add, so I guess it was spot-on.  My kids, whom I consult with daily regarding our blog posts, also felt the same as Devon once I asked them about it.  They are nothing if not honest.

Take what you can from that email.  I think we did a lot of things right and how we handled The Dreaded Talk was one of them.

The Rainbow Bench in one of our favorite parks holds sentimental memories for Devon and I. We still go there to have “talks” or to simply hang out together. Our kids are awesome.

Questions to answer in your comments:

1) If you have kids, have you told them that you’re getting a divorce yet?  How did they react?  What did you say and is there anything you wish you had done differently?

2) What information was helpful to you in this post?

3) What advice would you give to others who are about to broach this important topic?

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6 thoughts on “The Dreaded Talk

  1. Great post. Great way to deal with this subject. I admire people who can agree to disagree and walk away from a marriage that isn’t working rather than stay and fuss and bicker all the time. Kids are resilient after all and they adjust well if given the proper opportunities. Divorce can be great for kids if they can see afterwards that both parents are happier people now. When it’s all said and done that’s all the kids want and need is for the parents to be happy.

    • Ladywise, I’m assuming these issues have touched you in some way? I’d love to hear more.

      Your point about kids being resilient: I remember Devon used to say this (“kids are resilient”) when I first found out about his homosexuality, and it would piss me off to no end. I wanted to believe that the kids would feel exactly like I did about our issues. I was bitter. I was angry. I was heartbroken. I figured they should be, too.

      However, they weren’t MARRIED to him. He is their daddy and they love him. Now, did they have emotions? Yes. But their perspective was completely different than mine. It was foolish for me to think that they should have the same reaction as me.

      So on that note: Kids ARE indeed resilient. You are so right, ladywise. I would add that kids react, behave, and handle their lives according to how their parents handle theirs. So, if being amicable (or at least attempting to be so) is evident to the kids, they will adjust very well to the changes. Being amicable will help to make the divorce and changes “great” for them.

      Don’t be bitter. Quit being so damn angry. Quit placing all the blame all the time on your ex-spouse. If you’re unhappy, it affects the kids ten-fold. Your kids see those things and react accordingly. Set the example.

      Easier said than done, I know… but start making steps in the right direction now. Your kids need that.

      Lecture time over.

      Thanks for stopping by our blog, ladywise.

      Blessings, Emily

  2. You are right. These issues don’t affect them the way they affect you. You have every right in the world to be angry. My opinion on homosexuality is that people are born homosexual and they know all of their lives that they are that way. Your husband was too weak to come out early on and so lived the life of a heterosexual and married you and had a family. It was very selfish of him and it caused you a great deal of pain. Definitely reason for you to be angry.

    The children on the other hand, just see him as their dad and it doesn’t affect them the same way. They love him but they weren’t in love with him like you were at one time.

    I have been through the divorce. We were just married one day for twenty years and boom, the next day it was over and we didn’t speak for years. As far as homosexuality, well, my husband definitely wasn’t homosexual, but he has a younger brother that is and I watched what he went through all of his life, living in the closet. He’s been with his partner for almost thirty years but they were secretive about their relationship for most of those years. I wouldn’t blame your husband for being homosexual, but I would definitely blame him for marrying you and having a family with you knowing that he was. That was really a cruel blow for you to have to deal with now.

    First of all, I would say, stop beating yourself up for being angry. You have a right to be. Anyone in your situation would be.

    Second of all, I would say that you have done everything anyone could possibly expect out of you by working diligently to be amicable for the sake of the children. That’s great, but you have to deal with your own anger or you will suffer later for it. I would suggest that maybe you write your ex a long “truthful” letter about how you really feel just so you can let it all out. You don’t even necessarily have to give the letter to him, but you do have to let that anger out and get over it or it will eat you alive.

    All the stuff about the homosexuality aside, you are going through a divorce period. That means everything you knew as your life yesterday, is totally changed today. That’s one thing in life that still perplexes me when things can change completely overnight and I’ve had it happen several times in my life. You have so many decisions to make now and those decisions will have great impact on you and the children. One more reason you have to get over the anger and get busy making those decisions. I’m sure you have, but you have to put things in perspective.

    You also have to get over the anger for yourself. You will want a new relationship at some point in your life and if you start dating and spend the date venting about your homosexual ex husband, well, you’ll stay single a long time. Your friends and family will tire of hearing about it too so you’ll end up alienated and in the mean time, he will be with a new partner and having a grand old life. You can end up in a huge downward spiral is my point. Don’t let that happen to you. Get that anger out one way or the other.

    My sister in law sent her son to live with us one summer because he was having such bad temperament problems at home. She lived in the city and we lived in the country and thought the change of pace might help him some. The first day he was there I took him to the barn, grabbed up an axe and said “Come on, let’s go for a walk.” I think it scared him death that I was going to take him out in the woods and chop him up or something. lol Anyway, I told him that when he got frustrated and angry I wanted him to go and get the axe and come out here to the woods and pick a tree. I showed him specific ones he could cut and told him to take that axe and just beat the hell out of that tree with it until all of his anger was out. He was out in the woods so he could yell and scream and cuss or whatever but he could take it all out there by himself without doing harm to anything. He cut three trees completely down that summer. A couple of years later his mother called me having a fit because he had gotten angry back at home and cut down a nice little cherry tree in her front yard that she had planted herself years before. She laughed though and said “At least he didn’t tear my house up.”

    My point is that you have to find a way to get your anger out. It’s there and it’s going to be a big obstacle for you in the future. The kids will pick up on it no matter how well you work to hide it. Your ex on the other hand is all excited because he can finally live his life the way he wants to and his happiness will make you even more angry if you haven’t adjusted.

    There are so many facets to this story that is your life right now that I could write for hours about it. You’d get tired of reading it all though. I’m old. I’ve been through lots and seen even more. You aren’t perfect, and no one expects you to be. Know that for sure. You are making every effort to make this all work out alright for the children, but don’t forget about yourself in the process. You are the caretaker after all and if you aren’t happy and functional, then you can’t take care of anyone else.

  3. Wow. Ladywise, I wasn’t expecting so much wisdom! I can honestly tell you that most of what you’ve said is very spot on. I just wanted to clarify that Devon and I are completely reconciled. I have gone through all of the anger of which you speak and am over all of it… finally. It’s been 6 years since his big reveal. I am happy. He is happy. I’m glad that he’s happy.

    Hasn’t always been like that, but now it is.

    One of the biggest reasons we started this blog was to bring awareness that after time and effort, amicable relationships are possible with your ex. Thankfully we both had the desire for this.

    Ultimately, I just want to make sure that you and future readers understand that while all wasn’t always good, everything is now.

    Blessings, Emily

    • Sorry. I didn’t know it had been that long. Well, I’m really glad then that you’ve both come through it and I didn’t realize you were both writing this together. That is truly impressive. You did put a lot of effort into being amicable then. I’ve been divorced for twelve years and my ex and I still can’t carry on a decent conversation. Of course our children were grown when we divorced so that wasn’t an issue for us.

      I am truly impressed with the both of you. That’s a difficult situation to go through and your children will really appreciate what you’ve done and how you did it one day. You should pat yourselves on the back a couple of good times.

      • Thanks, Ladywise. I think that a lot of what you wrote will actually be extremely relavent and helpful for readers who stop by needing general advice. I’m so glad you shared that stuff.

        I hope that someday you and your ex can start to have a better relationship. Feel free to add your wisdom and experience here anytime…

        Blessings, Emily

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