Life coach column: She loves me, but not my kids
Vail CO, Colorado
Being divorced with young kids offers many challenges. One of the most difficult situations is balancing parenting with dating. At first the two can be separate, but at some point they are bound to come together.
Cole has been divorced for three years. His kids are six and eight years old and they are with him every other week. He is a dedicated father and supports his kids in their activities.
For the past six months he has been dating Marie who has two high school-aged daughters. Cole and Marie’s time together is concentrated during the weeks Cole doesn’t have his children.
At our last appointment, Cole explained that their relationship had blossomed and Cole and Marie were planning to spend more time together by including their kids in more activities. As they integrated family time, however, Cole and Marie began to argue.
“Marie doesn’t like the way the kids behave and they act out when she is around. She has a different style of parenting and is critical about how I handle my kids,” he explained. “Since Marie and I get along better when it is just the two of us, I decided to separate the activities again and spend time with Marie apart from the kids. Now I feel pulled between the two and find there isn’t enough time or energy to be in both places.”
“What options do you have?” I asked.
He responded, “As much as I love Marie, I relish my role as a father. But running in between the two is wearing me out. I could quit seeing Marie, but I don’t want that either. Other than the kids, we get along great!”
He paused, realizing what he had said. “But I don’t come without kids, do I? I am a father.”
“You are a good, dedicated father,” I added.
I had heard many stories about his interactions with his kids.
“If we can’t resolve this, I fear I will need to make a decision. Although I love Marie, I won’t give up my family responsibilities.”
“It sounds like giving up or compromising your role as a father to stay in the relationship is non-negotiable. You are unwilling to make that decision. If that is true, what is your next step?”
“I will talk with Marie to explain how important my kids are to me. If she can’t accept my role as a father, maybe we need to break-up.”
I could tell how painful this was for him, but also recognized how firm he was in his conviction.
“You are courageous to stand up for what you believe, even if it is painful,” I said.
I paused, letting him take in the truth of my statement.
“I hope we can resolve this, but I’m not willing to compromise my responsibility as a father,” he said.
“What is your next step?” I asked, prompting him to take his conviction outside of my office and take action.
“I will talk to Marie this weekend,” he said. “I’m worried that I will cave-in or put it off. I enjoy being with her and don’t want to start over.”
“What is something tangible you could find to capture how you are feeling right now, something that reinforces your commitment to being a father?”
“When I look at my kids, I know exactly where my commitment lies,” he said. “To remind me of my priorities, I will look at a photo of my kids.”
As Cole left, he said he would e-mail to let me know that he had talked with Marie. We could then follow-up with the details at our next coaching session.
Coaching Challenge: If your time is pulled between two areas of your life, make a list of negotiable and non-negotiable items in each of these areas. This list will help you prioritize areas of your life and allow you to review what is important. When you feel pulled between two areas, it could mean two of your non-negotiable items are battling for first place. If so, list the non-negotiable items in order of priority. This can help you sort through confusing feelings and take a course of action that is in line with your top priorities.
Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction with her husband Tom and three sons. Having completed an extensive training program through Coaches Training Institute, her practice focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. Sheri can be reached at email@example.com or for more information, visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.
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