After years of my teenagers begging me to divorce their father (because the relationship was so unhealthy and the household environment was toxic), I did so. At the very end of the marriage, around the time I filed, I kissed a married male friend and one of my teenagers saw it. Now everyone, including my ex-husband, seems to have forgotten that our marriage and family environment were miserably unhealthy and everyone is obsessed with their interpretation that I had an affair because of this kiss.
I had not at that time, but the relationship did progress during time time of my final court proceedings. My male friend has also since filed for divorce (not because of me, but also because of years of an unhappy marriage). Granted, our timing was bad, but truly both marriages had been over long before we kissed.
My teenaged children are angry and refusing to interact with me. How do I correctly address this situation with them once and for all, and start to rebuild our parent/child relationship? I was virtually a single parent during my entire marriage, so temporarily being shunned by the children is devastating.
Thank you for your letter. First of all I would like to congratulate you for making a decision that you felt was the right one for yourself, and also your children. If you deep in your heart know that a divorce was the right decision for you and your family, you must stand strong in that decision as other people respond to you being clear and conscious about yourself and the choices you make.
Now let me address the unfortunate situation you are in in regarding your children. First of all it is of utmost importance that you confront yourself and go through the whole episode that has been unfolding with your male friend. You have to be completely honest with yourself, and please note I specifically write with yourself, and analyze if everything has happened exactly as you explain in your letter. Please be aware that I, of course, believe you, so it is not about convincing me, or at this point anybody else, but you first of all have to believe in your story yourself. So, if you with all honesty can say everything happened as you have explained in your letter I see the situation as follows:
Even if your children were aware that you and your husband/their father were living in an unhealthy relationship, they feel betrayed in the situation where they see/realize you are kissing another man and in that situation they target all their frustrations at you. Maybe they had previously targeted all their frustrations at their father when you were living together, perhaps blaming him for all the unhappiness. But the minute they see you doing something that interrupts their image of who to blame they turn all their frustrations at you.If they were to believe that you had been having an affair for a long time, maybe it was then you who were to blame for all the unhappiness. This is a normal reaction for any kid in a frustrating situation they cannot control.
What you can do now, knowing in your heart that you did not have an affair, you can sit them down and explain the situation as it is. Simply outline that you can see why they are frustrated and why they would think that you could have had an affair but that this is not the case. You cannot force them to trust you, and this you also say to them, but you can ask them to listen to you and find in their hearts to believe in you. Tell them you love them and that they are the most important persons in your life. Tell them that you would never lie to them (only if you mean it) and that you therefore are worthy of their trust. Then say that you love them so much that you are ready to wait for them to believe in you. Say you do not ask for their forgiveness because you have done nothing wrong so there is nothing to forgive but say that you ask of them to trust you. Say you were not happy in the marriage and that you have now met a man who makes you happy. Ask them to trust your decisions as an adult and as a parent.
The reason I emphasize that you first of all have to be honest with yourself is that this suggested way to address the situation only is relevant if you are honest. You should never ask anyone to trust you if you know what you say cannot be trusted. If you, however, do speak the truth, you will stand strong as an honest person and other people, especially (your) children, see and relate to this. Maybe your children are not entirely ready to let go of their anger and frustrations so give them time. Talk to them and maybe write them a letter saying exactly the same as when you talk to them. That you love them and ask of them to trust that you have not had an affair and to trust your adult decisions.
Find strength in that you have stood up for the decisions that you know are the right ones for you and then be patient and have faith in that being truthful, honest and loving towards your children will change the situation and help them regain their trust in you.
I wish you all the best,