This post came about because of caller’s dilemma on Dr. Laura’s show on Sirius Radio. It is my reflection on Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s views of divorce and second marriages. As a remarried mother of 4 children (three daughters and a stepson), I am aware of the claim that a majority of second marriages fail. That is not great odds despite the new chance provided to get it right the second time around. I consider myself lucky, by the way. I hit the jackpot the second time around!
Anyone who is familiar with Dr. Laura Schlessinger (you can call her doctor because of a Ph.D. in physiology, not psychology) knows that she is conservative and holds conservative views. Upon closer examination of her own background however, she holds these views for others–not for herself. Regardless of this, however, she is immensely popular. She is a best-selling author and she has her own radio show on Sirius Radio. I listen to her show to gauge how much I know from my studies (in psychology and marriage and family therapy) and from my own personal experience and beliefs. Never mind that she calls people names, shames them, and is disrespectful–things I don’t think a counselor should do–she also imposes her own personal belief system and values (of which she doesn’t live by) onto the callers or her readers. I will give you an example, which is the reason for this post.
I missed part of this interview but caught a large portion of it. A woman called into the show and the first thing she did was to apologize to Dr. Laura because she was divorced, then dated a man for 4 years before they got married. They both had children. Before the woman had a chance to pose her question, Dr. Laura when she heard the woman was remarried began a barrage of insults aimed at her for being divorced and remarried. When Dr. Laura was done with insulting and imposing her values onto the woman (and listeners), the woman said that she knew that in first marriages, the marriage came first, then the kids. In second marriages, she wondered, did the relationship with her husband come first or did the kids? Dr. Laura again took time to berate her for asking such a stupid question and told her that of course the kids came first.
Most of my divorced/remarried friends would gasp like I did at this point. Actually, if you could have heard what she told the woman you’d gasp even louder! I do not care for the way Dr. Laura can berate her callers simply because she thinks only her views are correct. It concerns me that people look at her as an expert with a lot of power. Many are unable to question for themselves whether their behavior or thoughts are good for them (never mind if it’s good for Dr. Laura) so they look up to her for advice. By the way, Dr. Laura does occasionally have good advice for her listeners, but because of her conservative opinions and the way she handles some people by berating them or their choices, I do not like the way she handles people. She’s missing some of the very skills that make a good therapist–empathy, compassion, listening, and non-judgment to name a few. You can’t impose, as a therapist, your values onto your clients–they are separate individuals who will grow faster and heal better if they learn to make their own choices.
When I hear people asking advice on her show, I like to think about what I would say to them. In this case, instead of immediately going there and writing down my thoughts for this post, I thought I’d discuss this with my husband (we have some great talks about this subject). “What do you think about this? In second marriages should the marriage take second place to the children? What kind of role model does that provide for them?” Now I think my husband is a genius when it comes to counseling and I thought his response was right on the money.
“Why does there have to be a first or second? Why can’t a marriage take priority sometimes and children at other times? Why does love have to be linear? Can’t it be on a continuum? Isn’t ranking love outdated? It sounds like it’s a competition.”
Wow! Yes! That’s what it is! My stepson doesn’t fall down or go up the ladder of love just because I’m in his dad’s life now–the love in his life expands to include me and my children, his new step-sisters. My girls’ love in their lives expands as well. Our love for them doesn’t go up or down depending upon their moods or behaviors. We may focus on one or the other because of the circumstances, but it doesn’t diminish the love we have for our other children. And when we focus on our partnership, it doesn’t diminish our love for our children. It isn’t a “first” or “second” kind of thing–it’s an “all” kind of thing. Life isn’t black or white–it’s shaded all kinds of grey–actually, I prefer to think of it as colorful!
Dr. Laura’s advice had me concerned because when parents focus too much of their attention on their children, the children can become too self-focused leading to narcissism and even enmeshment. I think children want to belong to a family (and hopefully you have an ex who is accepting of this too and isn’t trying to unconsciously or consciously sabotage your relationship with your kids because of their insecurity or anger about their ex-partner moving on).
Children need structure and loving parents. They want to know this marriage is not going to fall apart on them again. And they need a healthy role model for loving relationships.
I understand that Dr. Laura is asking people to think about their moral responsibilities. Actually, that’d be a great post–maybe next week! For example, what’s happened to commitment? Why do some people move on to another relationship without taking the time to process the death of their previous one and why it failed? What about the kids? What does this teach the kids? Are marriages really disposable now? How financially devastating is it for some parents–and how big is the disparity between the two families now? Are marriages really only MErriages now–meaning it revolves around 2 separate people and not a team? In a marriage, how important is it to get all your needs met and do you recognize that no one ever gets all of them met? Is it only good if it makes you happy? What are “good” (good is relative here) reasons to get a divorce?
What do you think about divorce and second marriages?