Many couples decide to get back together after a long or short period following separation or divorce. While reuniting is exciting, it is also stressful.
Dr. Cara Gardenswartz: Many thoughts enter the couple's mind:
Will it last this time?
Will it turn sour again when we are living together?
Does my partner think about the other lovers?
Will he/she abandon me again?
How will our extended family and friends react?
Sorting through this emotional turmoil is hard enough; but when children are involved, it's a whole different ballgame. The primary concern for these couples is: How will this affect our children?
Perhaps the children were toddlers or preschoolers when the couple separated -- and now the children are in grade school. In such circumstances, the youngest child may not even remember his parents living together. An older child may have a clearer picture of the breakup and emotions he/she experienced.
Furthermore, while most children have a deep wish that their parents remarry, this wish coming true can be confusing. Children will wonder: Is this real? What can I rely on? Will they stay together this time? Should I let myself believe they will?
Likewise, parents' fears about whether this will work out may make them reluctant to emphasize that the reunification is permanent. Other parents may overly underscore that "this time it will last" in order to decrease their child's fears. The reality is -- there is no absolute when it comes to whether the marriage will last the second time around. And there is no perfect formula as to how to best handle this situation. Nonetheless, here are some rules of thumb that may prove useful if you are considering getting back together:
Move slowly. Gradually date your ex-spouse and see how things develop. If it is moving in a positive direction, you can become more serious over time.
Attend couples therapy once you are seriously considering getting back together. Explore what led you to separating in the first place in a candid and honest manner. Talk about how you will handle and resolve future conflicts.
Date for several months (I recommend at least six months) before moving back in together. You want to be sure you have as much information as possible before making this important decision. When you first start "dating" again, do not tell your children you are doing so. There is no point in giving your children false hope until you are 90% certain that you will be taking the next step.
Talk to your couple's therapist about how to approach the topic with your children and how to make the move as seamless as possible. This will be one of the most important transitions in your child's life.
Expect your children to experience a myriad of emotions: happy, elated, confused, sad, angry, withdrawn, and fearful. It is only natural for your children to wonder if you will separate again. Be on the alert for nightmares or changes in your child's behavior. If you witness any signs of depression or an ongoing negative shift in their behavior, seek professional help. Consider child or family therapy.
Let your children's teachers know what is going on in the family so they are extra attuned to changes in your child's behavior.
Continue couples therapy after you have moved back in together. These first few months are critical to your relationship and will shape your future together as a couple and as a family.
|Dr. Cara Gardenswartz is a licensed clinical psychologist who provides therapy to individuals and couples and runs psychotherapy groups. Her expertise include relationships, depression, anxiety, life transitions, trauma and addiction. She has over 16 years of education, training, and experience in her field. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and went on to earn her Master's and Doctorate in Psychology at the UCLA. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.|