Judgement Not Welcome Here

512px-WGHardingRecently, I posted about a couple of my friends whose marriages have faltered.  Then I was notified about a couple of comments on the post, comments that were rather judgemental of my friends.  I know this person who commented may not realize how preachy her comments sounded, but they were unwarranted, and rather unwelcome.

Those of you who have gone through divorce can probably guess what they said, verbatim, because it’s just what a person in their situation does not need to hear.  The I-hope-you’ve-really-thought-about-this, and you-have-no-idea-how-this-is-going-to-impact-your-kids kind of crap that I heard, too.

First of all, there are enough single-parent households out there nowadays to prove that the world doesn’t end with a divorce.  Plenty of kids not only survive but thrive in a single-parent household.  This notion that a home without two parents is somehow “broken” is positively ludicrous, and needs to be sent packing, back to the Victorian age from whence it came.  My son has thrived since the ex left our home.  The idea that “staying in it for the kids” is better somehow, as if children aren’t negatively impacted by two parents who fight constantly, don’t ever speak to each other, do not show any sign of affection to each other, or contribute to an ever-present tension in the house is just plain wrong.

Second, I dare say that the great majority of people who decide on divorce did not make the decision lightly.  If you think that’s the case, you’ve been watching too much “reality” TV.  Divorce is a heart-rending, soul-breaking decision to make.  And there is enough hurt, guilt and anger in that decision already without having to also be judged by society at large.

Third, just like the old saying, “If you’ve met one kid with autism, you’ve met one kid with autism,” no two marriages are alike.  No one knows what goes on inside of a marriage except for the two people in it.  They may be over-sharers, but the outsiders are only getting one side of the story, and therefore no one really knows.  When I got divorced, my ex mother-in-law actually sent me a letter saying that they “never saw it coming.”  A perfect example, as the ex and I had both been miserable for the previous six years.  The two friends I wrote about?  I never claimed to know what caused either breakup, because I don’t know.  I even said that I didn’t think the autism, either father’s undiagnosed nor the son’s caused it, although dealing with autism in the household can strain any marriage.  My friend has never once said anything about it, and is not using it for “justification” of anything.

So why don’t we listen to the old advice, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it?”  Why do people insist on getting behind a keyboard to say things to people they would never say in real life?

Judging someone for their divorce is a big no-no in my book.  It makes one look small, and your unwanted “advice” only hurts.  I choose instead to support people whom I trust to make smart decisions and weigh all their options.  Being a parent to a child with autism has taught me that life is hard enough without having to worry about how others will judge you.  You lose nothing by supporting others in their personal struggles.

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Feelings… Nothing More than Feelings

Angry Talk (Comic Style)

You know what I don’t understand? When people say things like,

“Don’t worry about it!”, or “Don’t feel guilty, sad, angry, etc.”

Newsflash: We cannot control what we feel.  And you cannot change your emotions.

For instance, when we have a rough morning, and something has triggered anxiety in The Boy to the level that he is refusing to leave the house, I get angry.  I am not angry with The Boy, and as long as I don’t aim my anger at him, it is perfectly OK for me to feel that way.  I am angry because I fear I will not get to work on time, and I fear he will have a rough day at school. Reasonable, given the circumstances.

For instance, when I feel guilty that The Boy has no pets, but clearly has a love for animals, it’s OK for me to feel that way.  I can’t control it.  I feel guilty because I fear that I am not providing him with opportunities to develop his interest in animals.  As long as the guilt doesn’t overpower me, as long as I use it to spur thought about how I could help him more in this area, the guilt I feel is OK, and can even be a positive force.

The challenge is having the self-awareness to understand the basis of the emotion: where is it coming from? Can I do anything about that right now?

The other challenge in my life experience is to make sure that my emotions are not escalating The Boy’s emotions.  If he is anxious, and I am angry (and I express that anger), he will only get more anxious.  Therefore I need to (quickly) figure out my own emotions, so that I can avoid negatively affecting him.

Rather than telling somebody, “Don’t feel that way!”, try expressing your own emotions.  “It makes me sad when you feel sad,” is a  much more open, accepting, and constructive way to show how much you care about the other person, and sounds much less flippant and judgmental than “Don’t worry about it!” or “Don’t feel sad.”