Should We Reconcile?
Ellie M. McCann, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency; and Minnell L. Tralle, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency
At some point after divorce or separation, you might start to consider reconciling with your children’s other parent and re-uniting your households. The decision to reconcile after marriage dissolution is an important one that will have lasting effects on both you and your children. You need to ask yourself the following questions and answer them honestly. If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, there’s no point considering reconciliation at this time.
- Despite all the hurt and pain of your divorce, do you still love the other parent?
- Are you willing to create a new relationship out of the love that remains for the other parent?
- Are you willing to examine how you are communicating with the other parent? Are you willing to change any destructive communication styles you are using?
- Of course, you want a new marriage to be happy. Are you willing to let go of your anger and forgive rather than try to get even?
- Are both of you willing to make your relationship a priority and work hard at solving problems?
- What positive factors remain in your relationship after the divorce? Does the good outweigh the bad?
- Do you have the support of others, including family members and friends, to make the relationship work?
- Are both of you willing to seek couple counseling, if necessary?
What About Your Children?
Children almost always wish their parents would get together again — they want both parents under one roof. They also want peace and harmony in their home so they go about the business of being a child and growing up.
As you consider reconciling with the other parent, be aware of your children’s imaginations. Depending on their age and ability to understand subtleties, you may want to tell your children that you’re considering reconciliation. Of course, teenagers will understand the nuances better than younger children. Whatever your children’s ages, make it clear that you’re still undecided. Do not promote a fantasy of the two of you getting back together.
Consistency is essential to your children’s well-being. The acts of separating, coming back together, and separating yet again carry an enormous price for children. If you and the other parent are considering reconciliation, it’s better for your children to keep your households separate while you work out your issues.
Living Together Again
If you decide to reconcile and live together again, take the following steps before reuniting your households.
- Carefully examine the breakdown of the relationship so you both know what went wrong and can avoid these mistakes in the future.
- Discuss the changes you and the other parent need to make in behaviors and communication styles.
- Recognize the need for forgiveness on both sides.
- Make sure both of you believe reconciliation will work and are committed to making it work.
- You may want to consult a professional couple’s counselor before you start living together again and afterwards, as needed.
Following these steps will help you minimize heartache and disruption for your children and give you confidence to move forward as a united household.
Hawkins, A., & Fackrell, T. (2009). Should I keep trying to work it out? A guidebook for individuals and couples at the crossroads of divorce (and before). Salt Lake City, UT: Utah Commission on Marriage.
Hetherington, E. M. & Kelly, J. (2002). For better or worse: Divorce reconsidered. New York: WW Norton & Company.
The Importance of Forgiveness — Learn more about how forgiveness can help you and your children move toward a healthier future.
Dos and Don’ts of Managing Anger — Looking for some tips controlling your anger, particularly when dealing with your children’s other parent? See this list of dos and don’ts.