Missing the family unit after a divorce is not a reason to go back to your ex.
Most of the time, the decision to file for divorce is a lengthy process. First there is suffering for a long time, internal strife, loneliness, and resentment. When kids are involved and there are stakeholders in the relationship working out — a sense of duty and obligation are tossed into the mix making us really struggle to find clarity about what to do. It comes down to a choice and the internal dialogue sounds like this:
Do I have a right to be happy? Don't I get to have a relationship where I feel joy and love? Do I get to experience a relationship that is satisfying and to be with someone who hears me?
I made this bed and now I am stuck here. How long until my kids are grown? I can do this — struggle through this unhappiness for the sake of the kids. It's not that bad.
I work with men and women who are in this pain and I have watched my best friend navigate these troubling questions. As a therapist and coach I encourage everyone to do whatever work they need to do in order to know they’ve tried everything before calling it quits.
When I was pregnant my favorite thing to say was "It's amazing what we can get used to," speaking of discomfort. As I watch and support people through this process I push them to go to their deepest part of themselves where they know the truth — when they are done, it's done; and the relief is like pulling a thorn out of your side that has been there for so long, you'd become used to the pain.
Finally making a decision instead of thinking about whether to stay or go every single day — sometimes all day is such a relief. And the freedom that comes with not having to labor over what to do anymore is euphoric.
So it is no surprise that once they find themselves on their own this new found sense of freedom is titillating and intoxicating. I am filled with joy as I witness the lonely finding-connection and the attention-starved feel significant in their first dating experiences post separation. I am even envious of the time they have to themselves and away from their kids for weekends at a time.
My husband and I sometimes look at each other and comment about what a great arrangement that would be when we are "on" with the kids, it's intense, but then we have time to spend however we choose. How liberating!
Unfortunately, this is the honeymoon phase and it often doesn't last. Eventually when the newfound sense of freedom and the relief of being apart from the painful dynamics of the marriage fades, what is left is a profound sense of emptiness. I've shed tears with clients as they express the pain of not seeing their kids everyday. Nearly everyone, my friend included, even clients with horrible ex's will consider going back to alleviate this pain only a parent can understand. They will consider selling their soul to go back to their ex because they miss the family unit.
If you find yourself relating to the words in this article I want you to know that this is a natural part of moving through the divorce process. I know how much it can ache to not see your kids and to feel guilty or selfish for putting everyone through this very sad time.
In those despairing moments, remember that this is all a part of the transition. These feelings show how much you love and value your family and are a lingering trace of the difficult decision you labored to make. It doesn't mean you made the wrong decision.
Most people don't take the decision to divorce lightly and often stay long past the due date. If you truly did your best to make things better and you struggled to make the decision to leave, then these feelings are not intended for you to undo what you've done but to carry you through the long dark tunnel so you can come out the other side feeling whole and at peace with your choices.