For over a decade, I have seen some of the most brilliant professionals in the DC Area make some of the worst mistakes in their personal lives. I have learned to appreciate that a mathematical genius may have the emotional IQ of a pea– because love is NOT logical. My brother teases me that lately it seems I am trying to “tick off the right boxes” when I meet someone, but what I have tried to explain to him and others is that when I got married, I completely went with my feelings and did not analyze the situation at all from a clinical perspective. I married my best friend, who was smart, cute and kind– but he was Ferris Bueller. The things that made me laugh initially, eventually ceased to be funny as we got older, and often he would tell me in the end that I had lost my sense of humor. I lost far more than that in the end, but together we had a child, and so for the rest of our lives, we will be tied together, so that although we no longer live under one roof, we are still a family.
My experience with shared custody over the past 6 years helps me with my clients because I understand intimately what their challenges are trying to co-parent with a former spouse, who may not see the world the same way. The best analogy someone shared with me recently is that a child is like a new house you are building, and each parent is building one half of that house. For that house to be solid, it needs to be able to appreciate and love both its designers. I can tell you first hand what happens when one of the architects/builders goes missing– it creates a hole in the child’s heart.
These past six months, that hole in my heart is finally being filled with love by a family I have always longed for, and for the first time in my life I do not feel like I have to tackle life’s challenges all by myself. Through my brothers, father, step-mother, aunt, uncle, and cousins who have all entered my world this first half of the year, I am finally learning to appreciate something most people have taken for granted their whole lives– that the family fabric we create is there to act as a beautiful emotional safety net. Every child should be able to experience this and grow up with this feeling– regardless of whether the parents stay in an intact household or not.
We all have choices to make in life, and sometimes we are defined by the choices we make. Severing all ties with a family member should only be done in extreme circumstances. Absent an extreme situation, I encourage everyone to appreciate the importance of family ties, and to work together to make the best family connections possible, not just for the sake of our children, but for everyone’s happiness and well-being.