You should never say “should”

We each have a sense of right and wrong. We have a moral code that is similar to those of others in our culture and society, developed from childhood and shaped by our parents, our religious beliefs, and our experiences. When marrying, many of us chose partners who share our moral code. Or who profess to.
Sadly, some people discover that their chosen partner lives by a code very different from what they had claimed. He may have claimed that having a close family is important to him, but then fail to come home for dinner every night. She may assert that her children mean everything to her, but then spend hours every day on the computer while her children sit in front of the t.v.

Conflict will always arise if you continue believing that you share a moral code with an ex-spouse. If you do not accept the reality that your ex-partner’s values are not the same as yours, your denial will cause you tremendous stress.

Most people, for example, believe that their children’s father or mother should pay child support. It is both a legal and moral obligation. Yet your ex does not. You become angry and frustrated when he stands in court and demands more time with the children he claims to love. You believe if he loves them then he “should” pay. And no one disagrees with you. Not your family. Not your friends. Not even the law. And yet he always finds ways not to pay. No matter what legal maneuver you and your attorney try, your ex always manages to escape his obligations and still look “good” ~ like he’s a caring parent.

In reality, he does not care. By accepting that, the stress you feel because you believe he “should” pay, lessens. A parent who really love his children will pay. A parent who does not, won’t. That he refuses to pay reveals his true values. Accepting this will reduce your stress and anxiety.

This does not mean giving up. By all means, continue pursuing that delinquent parent for unpaid child support. But by starting from the premise that “he won’t pay” rather than “he should pay” you approach your situation as a business negotiation rather than as a moral quest. And without those emotional underpinnings coloring your approach, you may be more successful. You may even get him to pay something. But if not, you haven’t lost anything, other than a whole lot of stress.