Friday, November 15, 2019

Divorce Games - Nobody Wins

Divorce is painful, and people who are hurting often act in ways that hurt other people. They may play "divorce games" in which they attempt to use or manipulate someone in order to gain control over their lives, but the games aren't fun and they're not good for anyone involved. The games are usually not intentional ‑ they sort of just happen unless one recognizes them and avoids them.

In the beginning of the divorce, people may actually "win" at one or two of the games. They then feel that they got something out of the mess and have some kind of control over the situation. However, divorce games result in the players feeling guilty, untrustworthy, and depressed, and children are hurt. No one wins in divorce games.

Games Parents Play

 I Spy
A parent sometimes asks a child a lot of questions about what is going on in the other parent's home ‑ questions about whether mom or dad has a boyfriend or girlfriend, if the new boyfriend/girlfriend is spending the night, if mom or dad is drinking or using drugs, if mom/dad asked questions about him or her.

Sometimes the questions are to satisfy curiosity, but sometimes they are to hurt the other or to hurt the parent asking the questions. Sometimes the questions are to help a parent feel better about himself or herself ‑ that the other parent is not doing OK without the relationship.

Enlisting the children to play this game complicates and confuses the relationships they have with both parents and is damaging to their emotional well‑being.

Tug of War
Parents sometimes continue their conflicts after the divorce. Each side looks for support for his/her side because then parents can assure themselves that they are "right" and "okay" because the child is on their side.

Children are caught in the middle and feel as though they are being ripped apart. Children usually lose respect for both parents and themselves because children are a part of both parents.

Warring parents can't stand to talk to each other and sometimes don't want to take the chance of making the other parent angry. So they ask children to take little messages to the other parent ‑ "you are two weeks behind in child support and when are you going to pay"; "the house is still half mine and you better make sure the furnace is repaired"; "If I don't get Christmas this year, I won't pay child support."

Children should not be involved in parent's fights. Children need to love both parents because it makes them feel better about themselves.


Games Children Play

I'll Be On Your Side If You Give Me What I Want
Children sometimes tell a parent what the other parent has given them or the places the other parent has taken them to try to gain similar advantages from that parent. Children sometimes tell a parent the grievances they have about the other parent to make that parent play into their hands.

Parents need to realize that children are not always accurate reporters and that they do try to manipulate situations to their advantage.

But Mom (Or Dad) Said Yes
This game also is played by children to get their own way at the expense of one of the parents. Children know the kinds of events or activities that one parent may allow but not the other. This game particularly works well if the parent who allows the activity is outside the home. The children enlist that parent's support and if the other parent says no, children drop the bombshell ‑ "but dad/mom said it would be OK". This also works when parents have different rules or responsibilities for the children.

If possible, divorced parents should continue to try to present a united front to children and try to determine the position the other parent may take. Children need to know that while each parent may have different rules, the rules of the household in which they are residing when an issue arises should be followed.