“Going to a movie w Beth. Beth wants Sammie to come. Do u and Sammie and your son want to come 2?” My cell phone showed the latest message from my daughters best friend’s Dad.
My daughter’s best friend has a divorced Dad. Who is lucky enough to be able to work part time during the day and be home for his daughter the rest of the day. Which leaves me–a married Mom with two kids in an interesting predicament. We are like most families. The kids play in the afternoon, and go do things together. But we leave our evenings open for me to spend time with my spouse and family, and him with his daughter.
During the summer months our kids ride bikes together in the cul-de-sac and we talk about the day–much like I do with the other Mom’s I know. Our kids go on outings together, and are still young enough that they want their parents to tag along. My husband works long hours some nights, so often I’m taking the kids to the park in the evening during the summer, or taking them to the cul-de-sac by myself. During the snowy winter months, we take the kids to places like McDonald’s so they can play on the indoor playground while we sit on our cell phones making business calls or furiously typing and sending off emails from our Blackberry’s. Once in awhile when we look up from working we’ll tell a funny story about one of the kids, what my husband and I did over the weekend, or how his latest date went.
We’ll have weeks our daughter’s hardly see each other at all, and some weeks they are inseperable. And both girls have other friends they play with regularly in addition to each other.
But sometimes it causes my husband a lot of stress.
“How would you feel if I was a stay at home Dad and hung out with a divorced woman and her kids?”
Good question. Wouldn’t I be alittle mad? Irritated? Upset? Jealous? Or all of the above??
The TV show Parenthood covers this exact problem. A stay at home Dad with one child and a wife who works long hours as a lawyer. He plays a handsome hunk SuperDad who is involved in his daughter’s day to day activities for his child–often coming into contact multiple times a day with stay at home Mom’s of the opposite sex. The show dabbles in the issues of this married couple and this exact same situation I am dealing with now.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the recession has changed family dynamics–a lot. In our own neighborhood I can count families who are now seperated or divorced because of financial strains. I can see the families that now have Mom working full time because Dad lost his job. So Dad now stays home with the kids. Or Mom’s like me who now work from home or even part-time while Dad stays home with the kids during the day.
Unfortunately, TV and movies portray cheating as almost ‘normal’ in a lot of situations. Especially in the sense of married couples. That we’re all unhappy. And unfortunately those feelings can trickle down to a marriage–whether or not what the TV is portraying is even true or not of regular society.
So what are some tips and advice you should take with the situation I (and many of you) are in?
Marriage and YOUR Family Come First
Friends should never get in the way of a family. Whether you are divorced or married, your own immediate family needs to come fist. Some who are divorced often look for good examples of other women or men for their children to replace their former spouse who is absent in the child’s life. But the research still shows that you the parent are the most important thing to that child. If you are married, remember that the marriage started with the two of you, and then the kids. Focus on your marriage and continuing to strengthen it by being honest and considering the feelings of the other spouse. If you are missing time with your significant other or spouse consistently because the kids and you and this person are hanging out, it’s not appropriate. Continue having date nights with just your spouse or significant other, and encourage your divorced friend to do the same.
Never Be Alone
I have always focused on never being alone with my daughter’s friends’ Dad. The kids always accompany us.We drive seperately to activites, and go to busy, public places where we aren’t alone–and don’t have a chance of ever being alone. During movies we sit on seperate sides of the kids–never together. It’s a degree of respect that he has for my husband, and I have for my husband.
Would You Say it if Your Significant Other Was There?
I read a lot of sites where spouses had “opposite sex friends” and then ended up cheating on each other at some point down the road. It became depressing, but soon I noticed a pattern. Time after time all seemed to start with opening up to the friend about problems or troubling situations one or both of the friends were having in their relationship and how that “friend” helped them through that tough moment–not their spouse.
One psychologist made the best statement when it came to these types of friendships. Her advice was “if it’s something you wouldn’t say to that person if your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other was in the room, IT’S NOT APPROPRIATE TO TALK ABOUT!”
I’ve had those times where my friend has overheard me get irritated at my spouse over the phone about something. We all get upset at times during our marriage. And he has extended the offer to be a listening ear if I ever need it. I just smile and tell him thanks, but I’ve got it covered and quickly change the conversation. I know he’s innocently offering his help and advice, but I don’t want the door opened. Even if our marriage were to not make it down the road, I wouldn’t want it to be because I opened up to someone else instead of my spouse about our problems.
How Would you Feel?
My daughter started gossiping this year. My standard answer when I hear her talk about someone else negatively? “How would you feel if this person was saying this about you behind your back?”
It’s elementary, but it’s a simple rule. How would you feel if your spouse or significant other was confiding in someone else about your relationship behind your back? Or talking about your relationship and all the things that are wrong? I would feel terrible if I knew that my husband was talking about me that way. And I’m sure he would feel the same way. Respect each other, even if things aren’t so great at the particular moment in your marriage. Marriage is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, sometimes more downs than up.
My house is often filled to the gills with different neighborhood children, and various help I extend to other neighborhood widows and friends. I have a lot of friends of all different varying situations, backgrounds, and religions. I love talking to people and hearing their stories. But sometimes my friendly, happy nature can be misinterpreted. I also grew up with mostly guy friends. I only had guys that lived near me growing up, and even into my college years I was often the only girl attending a sporting event with the guys. Several years ago I had a good friend at work. We talked in the brief moments during work, and never outside of work. When my husband came up to visit one day, I introduced him as my friend.
Later, my husband laughed and said the guy liked me.
When I went back to work, my coworker came over and told me that it was great meeting my husband.
“Seriously, my husband is funny. He thinks you like me.” I started laughing until I saw his serious face.
Crap. While I often think of myself as just “one of the guys” when it comes to having a guy friend, I can forget that I am still a woman. And that guys love having a girl that would rather go to an NBA basketball game over a sappy romantic movie, but can still dress up and look good when going out. My husband is one lucky guy. Until I outburp him. Than he looses. But I love hiking, running, exercising, and playing sports. All things my husband hates–except for the playing sports part.
The point is, my husband recognizes this about me, and is great to point it out. He knows that I am careful, but don’t always realize that a guy–especially a single one–might begin to have feelings. To me, I have the same conversations with my single guy friends as I do my married. I just fail to remember the single ones might be looking for someone like me. When you get to that point where he confesses he likes you, or you feel that your feelings may run deeper, it’s time to be honest and end the friendship if necessary. There really, really, really is NEVER an excuse for cheating on your spouse. It’s thoughtless and cruel to the other person to not just end the relationship and allow them to move on as well.
I can say that I am grateful for my spouse and appreciate the unwavering love he has for me. I couldn’t go through this journey without my friends and family–married and single. They are invaluable to me.