I saw this image posted on Facebook a few weeks ago and in the last few days I was reminded of it. In recent months I have encountered a few situations in which an ex, or soon-to-be-ex, was talking either to their children or around their children about the childâ€™s other parent. In most cases when this happens the parent is respectful and mature enough to not bad mouth their ex or, short of that, they are at least somewhat strategic in the words they use or how they deliver their thoughts. I think this is important because defaming your kidsâ€™ other parent is both vicious and damaging, and will ultimately end up harming the kidâ€™s relationship with their other parent.
While I think itâ€™s important to treat everyone with respect, I think it is especially important to treat the parent(s) of your kids with respect, even if you have to struggle through doing it. And along with treating your ex with respect, I personally think it is equally imperative that you speak respectfully of your ex in the presence of your kids. I know you might not have any ounce of respect for your ex. And I know that your ex may have hurt you beyond imagination and because of that you canâ€™t muster even the slightest positive thing to say about him/her. But that doesnâ€™t give you license to harm your kidâ€™s relationship with your ex.
If your kids are within earshot please have the courtesy to speak well of your ex or, at the very least, not speak of your ex at that time. If something happens to come on in a TV show or a movie that reminds you of your exâ€™s shenanigans, keep that to yourself for a bit. And if your kids have the unction to ask you about why you and your ex are no longer together, itâ€™s ok to be vague to a degree. Saying things like â€œyour mom liked other men more than she liked meâ€ or â€œyour dad is emotionally abusive and detachedâ€ might make you feel vindicated in the moment but can cause all sorts of confusion in your kid. There is nothing wrong with saying something like â€œwe just couldnâ€™t make it work and to make things as good as we could for you, we decided to splitâ€. There can be a deeper discussion about that later, or even at that moment, without going into specifics. But at that moment the best thing you could do is protect your children and their relationship with your ex.
Now please understand that I am not saying that you need to lie to your kids, or that you need to keep them in the dark forever. But when they are still kids, or are not yet capable of completely digesting your anger toward, or hatred of, your ex, I personally believe it is best to shield them from potential harm to their relationship with your co-parent. It pains me when I hear people talking smack about their ex without even considering the words coming out of their mouths.
Some things come at you hard and fast, and hit you in the face like a rush of ice cold water on a hot summer day. Others wrap their arms around you and tell you it’s going to be ok while coaxing you into a peaceful calm. Still others reach into the very core of who you are and add value – strength, courage, determination, resolve – to an otherwise broken and fragile being. This poem, by Rudyard Kipling, is one of those that just encourages and strengthens me.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!
If you are interested in learning more about this poem or would like to socialize and connect with folks who have delved deep into this piece, check out All Things If, a blog dedicated to this poem.
This post is being written in response to the following email I received today:
I came to you site via a search for something about chronic fatigue.
Based on your posts it seems your wife was doing pretty poorly and
over time has greatly improved. I also have CFS and it is really bad
right now. I wondered if you’d be willing to share with me anything
your wife did to help her improve (medical treatments and self care,
lifestyle changes etc.) I am desperate and rarely see anything posted
online about people who’ve improved so I really would love to know
what you wife did, didn’t do etc. I really appreciate the help if
you’re able to share some info. Thanks soooo much.
There were a lot of changes made in her lifestyle, my lifestyle and our family dynamic that have contributed to her (continuing) recovery. It would be unfair to say that she has completely recovered from this dastardly illness, but she has made huge improvements and advancements when it comes to her health. Several things have contributed to her improvement, some of which are:
- She saw a doctor who prescribed different medications for different symptoms of her illness. Out of respect for her I won’t go into that publicly (feel free to email robert [at] robert-gonzalez [dot] com) but the medications she took helped her tremendously in the way of sleep, piece of mind and overall physical health.
- She became more physically active. I don’t know if this was a matter of willpower or a renewed sense of energy but activity actually helped her get more active which continued to help her improve.
- She took on a hobby. Last summer she got bitten by the theater bug and began to devote an extraordinary amount of time to it. The demands of performing and rehearsing required her to devote all of her resources to it and, without really being able to NOT commit (without letting down her theater family) she just continued to indulge in her passion. This alone, I think, has sparked a tremendous amount of recovery for her.
- She has taken on a new outlook on what is and isn’t important in life. That might sound almost lame to have to say that, but one of the things that seemed to cause her a lot of stress was worry over the things that were going on at home, with the kids, with our money and with our family. As she began to find peace in where we were, right where we were, the stress that she was feeling began to gradually minimize, freeing her to live without the burden of having to “perform” in order to maintain order in her life.
- She prayed. A lot. And so did her friends and family. If you are a religious/spiritual person then prayer will be invaluable to you. It was to her, and she would attest to that fact.
- Lastly, and probably most importantly, she had help. Lots and lot of help. From her family (the kids and I), her extended family (sister, parents, in-laws) and her friends. Many a night were we served by friends bringing meals over for us or family helping us clean our home or take the kids somewhere. I’m sure it wasn’t easy or convenient for them, but in the end they showed our entire family what true love was all about by really stepping up and helping us out in pretty much any way we needed it.
I’m sure there is plenty more that has help contribute to my wife’s recovery over the last few years. And while she has made tremendous strides in healing, she will admit that she still has bad days here and there. Still, she has plenty more good days than bad and she strives everyday to make each day count. She has become incredibly active in the kids’ lives, education and hobbies. She has taken a renewed interest in learning and teaching and she has developed a penchant for spirited fun and adventure. She has also gotten some semblance of control over her sleeping patterns, started to watch her diet and began talking a lot with her friends and family.
Essentially she has gotten to the point where she is able to live life again in a healthier way that allows her to continue to live each day as fully as she can. Again, she still has bad days, but at the end of the day, she is doing worlds better now than she was just two years ago.
Thank you for the email asking this question. If you have any other questions feel free to email me directly at my email address that I posted inside of this post. Thanks.