Raising children after infidelity, divorce

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Dear Mary Jo,

I want to know, can adults truly change?

Thanks, Debra

Dear Debra,

Yes, adults really can change. They have to be motivated to make changes, though. A primary motivator is the fear of losing someone or something they value. Adults react to behavior patterns and those are influenced by genetics and environment. What they saw their parents model for them when they were children influences their patterns of behavior. One word of caution: you can’t change personality disorders or cure addictive behavior patterns but you can gain insight and begin a recovery program to manage the behavior. With the help of therapy and medication, personality disorder symptoms can be minimized and more positive behaviors can be learned. 


Dear Mary Jo,

How do you get past infidelity and divorce, and raise two kids at the same time? Learning to trust all over again and date.

Thanks, Rachel 

Dear Rachel,

What a confusing, painful and overwhelming time this must be for you. It’s important to understand that cheating and divorce don’t just happen; there is usually 5 to 7 years where signs of brokenness occur. This includes lying, excuses, and a breakdown in communication and trust. Cheating is a choice, and your husband made a bad one. Don’t take responsibility for his choices, but do take responsibility for your own moving forward. 

  1. Join a divorce support group. They are free and open to everyone.
  2. Find a therapist you can work with. Members of a support group can often lead you to qualified, knowledgeable therapists. You’re going to need emotional support and a trained person to help you move forward.
  3. Stay in the present as much as possible. Focus on caring for your children AND yourself. You need time alone so you can think and process what happened.
  4. 4. Dating should not happen for at least two years after a divorce. It will take that long to reclaim who you are without your partner.
  5. Don’t expect to trust easily, but do remind yourself that all humans are fallible. Your ex made a bad decision, but you cannot control that. It doesn’t mean you make poor choices in all men; it just means someone you loved and trusted betrayed you. That’s his character flaw, not yours. Therapy will help you build confidence and the ability to assert yourself in the future so you can easily talk about things when something doesn’t feel right.

Give yourself time to heal. Moving on after a divorce is a process, and the way you feel today is not the way you’ll feel tomorrow. With time, you’ll grow stronger with more understanding and capacity to love again. 

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