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Divorce? Counselor first…

February 15, 2020

He had been thinking of divorce for some time. She didn’t see it coming when he told her.

Within days of his leaving their son, not quite 4 started missing his dad. Mom was beside herself. She felt shame and embarrassment and didn’t know what to tell her family or friends.

Their son grew more upset missing his dad. By the end of a week the boy’s behavior was a mess, crying and carrying on for his dad.

Mom in her pain and frustration blurted out, “Your father left us. He doesn’t love us.”

She immediately felt terrible. She never meant to say that. It was a moment of weakness mixed with pain and upset, frustrated not knowing how to soothe their son.

No one could make her feel as bad as she made herself, but shame kept it inside.

Finally the next day dad had time with their son. For the boy it was like manna from heaven. Running into his father’s arms the boy blurted out, “Mom said you left us. You didn’t love us.”

The boy said it as if an exhalation of breath, as if to say it wasn’t true given his father’s return.

That wasn’t how he took it.

Dad wondered literally if his wife was putting nasty ideas in the boy’s head. Was she being spiteful?

Dad met with the lawyer and told him the story.

His lawyer, without hearing of the pain and anguish of the man’s wife for his leaving and without knowing her sense of shame, quickly diagnosed the behavior as parental alienation.

The man confronted her, labeling and demonizing her for doing so. He was loud and angry.

She was like a deer in the headlights now worried about his fight for their son.

The seeds had been sown. He would be known as an angry and verbally abusive man and she as alienating their son.

No one had asked what led to the separation, who initiated it and how it was received. They lawyered up.

A lawyer doesn’t have to be the first contact if thinking about or initiating separation.

Consider meeting with a counselor, but certainly a counselor with the specific expertise, training and experience in separation and divorce.

Learn how to separate and discuss several scenarios and the associated feelings and how to manage those feelings, the feelings of all involved.

Work out a plan for telling the children and how you intend to manage.

Anticipate what feelings may occur and how to be supportive.

Please note, the above story can occur similarly with whoever initiates and also between parents of a same sex marriage.

While separation and divorce is more commonplace, it isn’t true that it makes it any easier. Just as many people get cancer, no one wants the diagnosis.

Separation/divorce can be very painful.

Few will tell you that.

With those in pain, we must be understanding and cautious about labeling.

Speak with a counselor.



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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW for counseling and support – to build your successful practice


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice

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