Psychologist Larry F. Waldman has worked with couples and families for nearly half a century. He’s written several books and dozens of articles about a variety of relationship issues, and he also teaches.
In addition to graduate coursework, he gave the opening talks for the Bureau of Jewish Education’s Marriage University since its inception. While he was working on his sixth book, “Overcoming Your NegotiaPhobia: Negotiating Your Way Through Life,” there was yet another book percolating the past couple of years.
Last fall he started writing “Love Your Child More Than You Hate Your Ex,” and the process went at a startlingly fast pace. He promised it to his publisher, Outskirts Press, for the end of January 2020 and actually had it in their hands two weeks early. The book was published at the end of March.
Jewish News talked to Waldman about his new book.
How did you decide on the structure of your book? The first chapters are about relationships and why they often fail. Why do you start there instead of delving into the title idea?
It’s been brought to my attention before. I felt there needed to be some background. I realize that chapter eight in and of itself could stand on its own. But I wanted to give a background to it.
The first chapter explains why I wrote the book, and why I’m entitled to write the book, if you will. I feel strongly about this. I make a joke a couple times in the book that the major cause of divorce is marriage. But the major cause of divorce is marriages that don’t work.
I believe that some marriages can be salvaged. I’ve been there in the trenches. I’ve seen in my career, which stands close to a half-century, probably a thousand couples. I used to do 36 hours per week for 46 years. I saw lots of couples. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I saved them every time. If you bat 50% in this business, you’re doing very well.
Some people wait way too long to go to therapy, and some have made up their mind before they go to a therapist and are just trying to look like they’re trying. Some are already in another relationship and are biding their time to get out of this one. But, I’ve helped hundreds turn it around.
Before I jumped right into how divorce impacts the child and what parents do, I wanted to talk about relationships and how to salvage them.
If someone only has time to read one chapter, which should it be?
The meat of the book is in chapter eight. It is the heart of the book even though the other chapters lead to it. It’s there where I make some very important points.
1. We have to be able to take a look at the situation through the eyes of the child.
2. Parents have to remember that they are still parents even though they are divorcing or divorced, which means they still need to keep in mind the needs of the child ahead of their own.
3. Whether you are in the process of divorce or are divorced, you want to strive mightily to develop an effective communication pattern with your ex, if for no other reason than the best interests of your child.
In all your years counseling families through this process, what are some stories that stand out for you?
In the book, I write that I was counseling a 10-year-old boy who was really bright, and he was caught in a difficult divorce. They had been married for 15 years, and after being divorced for a year they were both married to new people. This boy is 10, and at last his parents had the foresight to have him see someone.
We were in a session after he had had a visitation with his father and his stepmother the previous weekend. When I asked him about it, he winced. I asked him what about the visitation was painful.
He said the visit had been fine, but when his mother asked what they did, he told her and accidentally said his “mom” had made something good for dinner. Suddenly his stepfather jumped out of his chair, grabbed him by the shirt, and pulled him up, yelling, “She’s not your mom! She’s your stepmom!” and threw him down. When I asked him how he felt about it, he said through tears, “I must watch every word I say.”
The kind of stress parents knowingly and unknowingly put on their kids cause all kinds of anxiety.
That kind of stuff goes on all the time. Some damage is done unknowingly like using kids as a messenger or a spy. Things like that put these kids in this terrible loyalty squeeze. Before the divorce, the kids thought their parents were the best in the world, and they thought their parents’ marriage was the best. They have no frame of reference. Divorce changes their world upside down and inside out. JN
To purchase the book, go to: https://topphoenixpsychologist.com/