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Separating with a 3-year old

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dbellanon posted 5/18/2013 10:32 AM

Hello everyone. I'm fairly new here. I only discovered my wife's affair a few weeks ago. You can read my original story on the "Just found out" forum here:

However, things are moving rather quickly. Today, my wife is down in the city looking for apartments for her move out on July 1st.

She has agreed to try to do some marriage-building in the month or so leading up to her departure, as a kind of olive branch to say that she tried, but it is a hail Mary pass, and many of the things necessary to actually begin a recovery (such as her actually feeling remorseful for the affair), just aren't there. For this reason, while I am still doing everything I can to try to stop the separation, I know that the chances are small, and I need to start preparing for this separation, and probably divorce.

I could use some guidance in this process.

We have a 3-year-old daughter who is, at this point, the only reason I am still fighting to keep us together.

In the event of divorce, it is not likely that we will have any battles over custody. I think that we both realize that it will be better for her if we don't make it a battle over here and if we can both be equally involved in her life.

Still, I can't imagine what it will be like for her. How do kids deal with this kind of thing, especially at such a young age? And how does it affect them later on? My wife seems to think that it will be easier on her since she is so young. I wonder if it will just take longer for the effects to show up. She will eventually realize that her family isn't like other families, and she will wonder why her father and mother aren't together. What can we do to keep the negative impact to a minimum?

Another question is: How quickly do I burn my bridges? I don't know if separation will be the absolute death sentence for us. Some couples do get back together, but is it really possible to have a healthy life separated from your spouse while leaving that door open? I worry that the lingering emotional attachment would just produce too much hurt.

How do you deal with the reality of constant contact with your former spouse, drop-offs, birthday parties, holidays?

I guess I'm just looking for some vision of the practicalities. If I can see it in my head, maybe it will help me mentally prepare.

SBB posted 5/18/2013 17:34 PM

My girls were 4.5 and almost 2 when final S happened.

I have a 50/50 arrangement on a 2/2/3 cycle. I set the schedule so all handovers are via daycare and now school specifically so I would not have to see him.

On the rare occasion that I do have to see him I pretty much ignore him and focus on my girls. I had to share DD5s first day of school with him and I was able to fake my way through it. I was so excited for my DD that his presence didn't ruin my enjoyment of it.

We do separate birthdays/christmas etc. There is no 'joint' anything - we are no longer a family so we don't do things together.

All comms are via email/text. Nothing but kids/finances.

You need to start working on detaching friend. I understand the desire to try to keep the family together but as they say kids would rather be from a broken home than live in one. You can't do the heavy lifting and you can't stop S on your own. If you think about it you wouldn't really want to given her lack of remorse.

My girls are struggling - not directly S/D related but because their POS father is falling apart at the seams. Irrationally angry at me for no longer letting him control me and self-destructing in a spectacular way.

He also keeps changing their world. He has gone down the insta-family route with OWUmpteen - who is 24 to his 40. His lifestyle of booze/drugs on his 'off' time (apparently) doesn't make him a very tolerant or effective parent. He is also doing weird things like telling my 5 year old that we're still married (WTF?!) and that mummy kissed other men which is why our family isn't together.

Divorce cured the shit husband problem but unfortunately not the shit father problem.

The damage isn't S/D related - its his fuckedupness related. It will be the same in your situation.

Truth is he would be doing most of this and more damage if we were still together - the difference being I would be a puddle on the floor so they'd have two fucked up parents.

Read about NC/180 in the healing library.

Close the bakery friend - don't let her cake eat emotionally or physically. She is not remorseful, there is nothing you can do to make her remorseful. NC/180 is your friend here. Use it and stick to it.

Love yourself more than this. Keeping the door open is you accepting the position as her plan B, her safety net. That's not a position you want. She'll come running to you when her life falls to pieces then months/years down the track you'll have yourself DDays2, 3 4, 5. Until she addresses what made this OK for her she is not a safe person to be around.

Rather than work on trying to keep your M together focus on you and your daughter - 100%. A healthy/happy you is what your daughter needs.

((dbellanon)) We've all been where you are now. I was paralysed by hope for some time but that hope is well and truly dead. He has shown me exactly who he is and I believe him.

It gets easier, I promise. Until you detach you'll be stuck in limbo hell - try not to stay there too long friend. It is soul-destroying and you can't heal in limbo. Work on healing you - work on accepting this and surrendering to it. You didn't cause it nor can you stop it.

[This message edited by StrongButBroken at 2:54 AM, May 19th (Sunday)]

crazynot posted 5/19/2013 01:38 AM

My brother separated from his partner when their twins were 2. They're now strong, healthy fabulous 15 year olds with excellent relationships with their dad. The S didn't come because of infidelity, and the two parents managed to maintain a good working relationship around everything practical. So from a parenting point of view, it's utterly possible for kids to grow up happy, secure and feeling loved by both parents even when they're not together. For your emotional wellbeing at this really tough time, your best bet is to detach from thoughts of 'leaving doors open' etc. Think of the separation as the end of a chapter, not a limbo. I am actually certain that this detachment makes R more, not less likely, if that's what you and she want some day. But in the space you create, you'll also have time to properly heal the pain of the cheating and the loss of the relationship. I know this to be true - it's the last thing you feel like though, and hard to do.

FirstLoveGone posted 5/20/2013 00:38 AM

My XH left me for OW when our DD was 3. I immediately got her into play therapy when she started exhibiting signs of emotional distress. She was in IC for about 1.5 years. It was the best thing I did for her.

She still wishes her dad and I were married (XH married the ow and dd now has a step-sister and half-sister), but she knows that will never happen.

Aside from the upheaval my asshole XH put her through, she is doing quite well. I made sure to provide her with a stable, firm, loving home. I have amazing family and friends that she has known since birth and I think that helped with stability. She knew her life with me would not change.

She is doing well in school and has a blast with friends. She has come through this storm with flying colors.

XH has her one weeknight a week and EOWS. He is entitled to another weekenight, but chooses not to take it. As far as I'm concerned it's his loss.

I only communicate with XH through email about logistics. He has access to DD's teachers, school, and extra-curriculars. I don't communicate any information to him that he can obtain himself. It's up to him to be an engaged parent.

There is no constant contact with XH aside from drop-offs and pick-ups. No birthday parties or holidays are shared. We are divorced, which means seperate celebrations. DD accepts this as her reality.

Your DD will follow your lead. If you choose to accept your reality with dignity, grace, and strength, so too will she.

tesla posted 5/20/2013 18:18 PM

My Teslet had just turned 3 before D-day. It was hard. going through divorce, finding work (was a SAHM), dealing with an unremorseful ex-shat...but I will tell you this...getting him out of my life meant that I could focus on Teslet's and my emotional well-being. I got myself into IC and Teslet into play therapy. In play therapy, Teslet learned to articulate his emotions and I learned techniques to help him calm down and express himself verbally. Ex-shat only sees him every other weekend, a week over Christmas and 10 days this summer. He talks a big game but is very uninvolved. I don't care about making him be a good dad anymore. I don't care about the quality of Teslet's relationship with his father. I only care about how it makes him feel and how I can help him cope with having a fairly uninvolved guy as his dad.

I also focus on us being a family, having dinner together, doing household chores together, having adventures together, reading books together. Notice, absolutely nothing to do with my ex.

Teslet is 4.5 and we are doing great. He is beginning to ask the tough questions and I have and will continue to tell him age appropriate truths.

dbellanon posted 5/20/2013 20:32 PM

Some of you have been mentioning emotional distress on the part of your young children and having them in play therapy to help them with it. I wonder if you could comment more on this. What was the nature of the emotional distress? How did it come about?

I am also interested to know how you explained it to the young children. I am worried frankly about trying to convince my daughter that this is normal. Do I act excited, as if it was a great thing happening, "Yay. You get to go to Mommy's special house this weekend. Isn't that fun?" Or do I try to acknowledge that what is happening is a sad thing but that we'll be okay. As much as I want my daughter to remain as innocent as possible, I don't really want her to accept this as normal, because I don't want her to carry that attitude into her future, into any marriage of hers that she might have in the future. How do you strike a balance?

One thing that doesn't seem to match up with some experiences mentioned here is that I anticipate that my wife and I would have more-or-less equal involvement in our daughter's life. Even if our relationship has gone off the rails, we still do both love our daughter very much. But this higher level of involvement with her also means a higher level of involvement with each other. My feeling is that the two of us would be more attached to each other whether we wanted it or not.

And of course, the other issue with joint custody is that we are geographically tied to one another. We have to be able to agree on where to live, and we end up being limited in our career moves as a result. Apart from being an emotional nightmare, it seems like a practical mess as well. Any insight anyone can provide is, as always, appreciated.

nomistakeaboutit posted 5/20/2013 20:51 PM

My kids were 3 and 5 when my xWW and I divorced. They've done pretty well. I have primary custody, so they're with me 80% of the time. They're both sound asleep right next to me right now.

The breakup of our "happy family" is unfair to them, but like you, i had no choice. You can't stay married to a woman who isn't remorseful and who really doesn't want to be married to you any longer.

For what it's worth, my xWW and I see each other at T-ball games, Ballet performances, etc. Today we both went to my daughter's Kimdergarten "Portfolio sharing" event, and sat on each side of my daughter. We walked out together and agreed on a time that she would take them to lunch on Saturday and then said, "OK. Thanks. See you later." That's it.

Detaching after divorce has been more of an emotional/mental thing, versus never laying eyes on each other. I thought she would probably come back to me with apologies and a mea culpa after she realized what a huge mistake she had made. Wrong. Six months after we were divorced, she's tried to set me up with her neighbor because she thought we might really hit it off. Go figure.

You have asked many good questions in your post, but they can't really be answered well because each situation is truly unique.

Like I said to you in a previous reply to one of your posts, your wife has metaphorically shot you and left you bleeding. My xWW did the same thing. I have started healing my wound and am getting much stronger, as will you. My focus now is to protect and nurture my children, knowing that they will be emotionally affected by this -- for the rest of their lives. I love them and am the best parent I can be. Let's hope, for their sake, that's enough.

Good luck.

[This message edited by nomistakeaboutit at 8:55 PM, May 20th (Monday)]

tesla posted 5/20/2013 21:11 PM

I found Teslet a play therapist when my ex-shat starting taking him around his stripper whore and they were playing happy family. He was having nightmares at the time that I would leave him in the middle of the road alone. Also, he was having a hard time transitioning back to my house after weekends with Disney dad...he was throwing epic tantrums and I couldn't discern what was normal toddler behavior and what was the result of our divorce.

Hopefully, if you and your stbxw are consistent in your house rules, the transition will be easy. Perhaps you will be one of the few that can coparent with a WS. Doesn't seem to happen too often around here.

As far as how do you talk about the sitch with your little Teslet likes to know what the schedule for the next day is going to we always go over it. So every other thursday night the conversation goes like this:

Teslet: What's the plan for tomorrow, mom?

Me: Well, I'll drop you off at daycare. Then you are going to school. Then daddy is picking you up and you are going to stay at daddy's Friday night and Saturday night. Then mom will pick you up Sunday at dinner time.

Teslet: Yay! Daddy's picking me up!

Me: Yup. What neat thing do you think you will get to do at daddy's?

Teslet: (this varies but I get a lot of insight into how he is feeling about the impending visit)

Me: Well, I'm going to miss you but you are going to have a good time at dad's.

And that's how I handle that. Not too overly excited...just more of a statement of the facts. When he gets back, I don't pump him for information but we have gotten in the habit of sharing what we each have done on our weekends.

You'll play it by ear and figure out what is best for your kiddo. The most important part is to make sure you are always listening to your kiddo...there isn't really a formula. And unfortunately, many of us are parallel parenting with douchebags...

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