From the Coparenting Coach's Desk

HONESTY AND FORGIVENESS

These two ideas are partners in laying the foundation for a full and successful life. The ability or inability to embrace the partnership of honesty and forgiveness is at the root of many traumatic family breakups.

Parents justify their anger, bitterness, and pettiness by pointing fingers at the behavior of each other. Parents give themselves permission to be selfish and mean-spirited or judgmental and blaming.

Parents behave badly and children watch, listen, and learn. Then when children hit, kick, yell, whine, scream, and behave in ways that are selfish and mean-spirited or judgmental and blaming, parents ask them "Who taught you that?!?!"

Honesty means taking responsibility for our part in the breakup of the family. Honesty means admitting that we ignored or covered up the signs that our partner was not a good fit for us. Honesty means accepting that our family laws in the United States, for the most part, are No Fault laws.

The reason for No Fault laws is simple. Adults make choices that work for them. Then at some point those choices don't work anymore. Most people do their best with what they have at any given moment. Humans have a deep and compelling ability to grow and change and move in positive directions. Sometimes growth means that members of a couple move in opposite directions that strain the relationship to the breaking point.

Self-honesty and self-forgiveness are critical to moving forward into a better life. As we get to know ourselves better, sometimes we find out that the partner we chose at age 20 or 30 is on a different timeline and different path from us. Sometimes we are able to work through those differences and sometimes we realize that staying with this person will change us in ways that cripple us.

The first step in examining our closest relationship is being honest with our self, not our partner. Take responsibility for your own choices, don't blame your partner for his or hers. Then forgive yourself for creating pain, disappointment, and struggle for yourself and your family. Then forgive your partner for being human.

Bernard Meltzer, a radio host from the 1960s to the 1990s, offers this simple way of understanding the importance of forgiveness. "When you forgive, you in no way change the past - but you sure do change the future."

We can change our futures by being honest with ourselves and practicing forgiveness in our lives.

We owe it to ourselves. And we certainly owe it to our children.