There Are No Winners In A Custody Conflict!
I am able to sit back now and look back on my 'single parent years' with detachment and objectivity. I also think of the single parents I know or have known. Perhaps the one issue that stands out as being a scar or sore that spoils the lives of parents and kids is that of the acrimonious split, the custody and access battles and a fall out that can become permanent. So many negative emotions and feelings can be unleashed – anger, uncertainty, bitterness, confusion, lies, hatred, paranoia. I know what it's like because I went through it. Like being in a state of war you become the one with truth and justice on your side, fighting a good fight. The ends justify the means. The other parent becomes dehumanised. It's about coming out on top, to the victor the spoils. I remember thinking that to have custody of my young son was absolutely everything. At the time I believed all I did to achieve this was right – but looking back I know I acted with ruthlessness. The fall out is horrendous with friends and family badly affected, usually having to choose sides, often becoming diplomats or shock troops. I look at other single parents I know and their battles are much worse. It's horrible. It's a miracle if kids don't suffer real psychological damage.
So having experienced all this and witnessed it around me a kind of quasi-religious revelation has slowly dawned. It is that in the vast majority of parent conflicts the only option is to let in tolerance, forgiveness, understanding, peace and respect. These emotions and thoughts have to supplant all those negative ones. If it's not possible to achieve this straight away then it should be the goal over time. Communication, however difficult or limited, is essential. So is turning the other cheek. This is about what's best for your child's psychological well-being as well as your own. It's also a moral point too.
I wouldn’t suggest that violence, bullying or control is easily forgiven or forgotten (or should be) but to harbour hatred or bitterness makes no difference to those being hated – the one harmed is the one doing the hating. The kids will likely suffer too, becoming pawns or caught up in emotional blackmail. There's no good that comes out of your life becoming a bad soap opera. The past cannot be undone, it's happened - you can only understand and deal with it and then move on.
One of the great tragedies of custody conflicts is that there is perceived to be a winner and a loser. The winner is in a powerful position to make life hard for the loser, who will usually hold deep resentment. Plenty of parents do co-operate and relations improve over time. But if it's about the children then there's a massive responsibility to do what's right. Parents have so much to think about and deal with anyway that the effects on the kids can be overlooked. Sometimes it's convenient to create an 'enemy' to avoid tackling other issues. To do what's right is not easy – that's where organisations like Single Parent Action Network do such good work!
So my message of peace and understanding is a genuine one. My relationship with my son's mum is great – it's very open, honest and co-operative – but it took a lot of healing.
Written by single Dad Seb