Emotional Tug-of-War



One of the most common issues I hear about from other blended families who don’t run smoothly is when one or more parents play emotional tug-of-war with their children. I think sometimes we don’t even realize what we say and how we say them will impact our children.

Here are a couple of examples. A single dad I know had plans for his weekend with his daughter, which had been in place in advance and the other household had been notified of the plans. The week of the plans the child’s mother and grandparents planned a party at their home. They told the child about the party, that she would be missing a night of fun because she had to go to her father’s house for the weekend. The little girl felt conflicted about going to her dad’s house, when it was his scheduled weekend. The father felt guilty for taking his daughter, but did not want to miss out on his time with her and the plans he had previously made.

Another example is a divorced couple I know. The father called the children and talked about everything fun going on in his house while they were at their mom’s house. Once they hung up the phone, they would act up for their mother because they felt like they were missing out on all of the fun. If the mom was unable to afford to do anything fun that weekend, she had crabby kids. This was his way of sabotaging her, but the problem with sabotaging the other parent is when you try to hurt them you also hurt the child in the process, even if the child doesn’t realize it. The kids begin to feel like they can’t enjoy time with either parent without disappointing the other parent.

One example is something I have had to tell myself not to do. Especially when you have older children with today’s technology it makes it so easy to text, Snapchat, send a FaceBook message or call your children every time they enter your thoughts. You want to tell them you miss them. Send a quick picture of something funny the dog did while they were gone or simply let them know they are in your thoughts. When the children are at the other house, every time you contact them it pulls them away from whatever they were doing. I still communicate with my girls while they’re with their father, but I try to keep it to a minimum, especially in the beginning stages of our separation and divorce. I do however, make sure that they know I am always available if they need me regardless of whose day it is, and their dad and stepmom know that as well. I try to put myself in my ex’s shoes and to remember on my days with the girls he keeps his calls and texts to a minimum. More than anything I think of my kids. I don’t ever want to make them feel guilty for spending time with their father. It is never my intent to make them feel as though they have to choose a side between either parent. They can love us both at the same time for different qualities. I know there isn’t another soul who could ever take my place, and I know they miss me when they leave my house. I also know their time with their father, their stepmom, and their brother and sister is just as important as my time with them. Those relationships teach them life lessons and dynamics from different perspectives that Bob and I are unable.

Emotional tug-of-war also does nothing for either adult involved, not really. It’s exhausting emotionally, and stress wreak havoc in your life.

For more on blended family kindness. What are some of your experiences with emotional tug-of-war? How do you overcome it in your blended family?

Trish Eklund is taking a nontraditional approach to parenting children after divorce and remarriage. Raising her two daughters of twelve and fifteen with her husband, ex-husband, and his wife, they consult one another on all parenting decisions. Trish is the owner and founder of Family Fusion Community, and Abandoned, Forgotten, & Decayed. Trish has been featured on www.playground-magazine.com,  www.bigblendedfamily.com, and, www.herviewfromhome.com. Follow her on Twitter: @trishiewriter, Google +, Pinterest, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


2 thoughts on “Emotional Tug-of-War

  1. Beautiful insight! I wish everyone was this emotionally healthy. When my step kids were little, their mom called constantly when the kids were with us. I distinctly remember exactly what you said- the kids felt tugged and had to physically refocus their attention back to our home after each call. It was disruptive for everyone. My husband always wanted to call and check in when they were with their mom, and I told him it was better to not call so often, to let them know he was always there for them, but to allow them to have their time with their mom and stepdad. The households were run so differently, readjusting for each visit was difficult enough, let alone having to do so after every phone call. The healthier the parents are, the healthier the children will be…

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