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The damage women do

April 11, 2009

I’ve got a new obsession – it’s that HBO show “In Treatment” that began its second season last weekend.  While I once imagined there could be nothing less interesting than listening in on someone else’s session with a therapist, the recent episodes were riveting. I’m now officially hooked.

What most caught my attention was the session with an overweight young boy who feels the strain of his parents going through a divorce.  Having eaten my way through my divorce, a process I describe in the chapter called “Eating and Drinking” in Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey, I could of course immediately identify with this 8-year-old boy for whom food is solace.

When the therapist invited in the boy’s parents for a group session, the family dynamics – particularly between the divorcing couple – were excruciating to watch.  Here were parents who just didn’t get how they were damaging their son, whom they both adored, by airing their frustration, anger, and most of all, lack of respect for each other, in front of him.

What bothered me the most was how the boy’s mother, in being protective of her son, belittled the boy’s father’s living arrangements.  The result?  The boy refused to sleep at his father’s apartment. A frustrated father walked out of the room.  And a child’s relationship with his father was damaged.

I have seen this time and time again.  When women create rifts between their ex-husbands  and their children, it’s not the fathers who end up punished. It’s the children.

Despite how I felt about my ex-husband when I was going through the darkest days of my divorce, I always knew that the greatest gift I could give those boys was permission to love their father, and doing everything I could to support the time they would spend together.

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