I recently returned from a trip to Croatia.  It was filled with unexpected sights and sounds, which is what we all seem to hope for on a visit to another country.

I was in Zagreb, Croatia walking around the oldest part of the city.  (Old, as in hundreds of years)  As I walked down a narrow, cobblestone street, I saw a building with a small sign that said “Museum of Broken Relationships.”  Just because the words seemed so out of place in that setting, I was instantly drawn to the building.

As I entered the building, I realized it was a museum, although one that houses recent items instead of those from centuries ago.  The concept is to ask people, from anywhere in the world, to send in one item that is representative of a relationship that has broken.  In addition, they are asked to submit some thoughts about the relationship.  I was fascinated by the items people sent and the wide variety of stories, feelings and thoughts expressed.

When finished, I sat outside the museum processing all that I had seen and read inside.  My professional self kicked in and I focused on the word “broken.”  What a powerful word and one that has so many implications.  In my work with divorcing, or divorced couples, one or both may feel broken in some ways.  The divorce may be viewed as a failure and they may blame themselves.  Others also focus on the relationship itself as that which is broken.

When these thoughts and feelings occur, there is often the implication that what is broken cannot be fixed.  It is, plain and simple, broken…shattered…not fixable.  Yet, what if the pieces of the relationship can be rearranged in a new way, a way that works and enables them to communicate more effectively for their children or others who care about them.  Most importantly, if they are open to rearranging the pieces, they can begin the work of positive co-parenting.

We have all experienced relationships that have broken in some way.  It takes courage to be willing to even consider picking up the pieces and putting them together differently for the sake of everyone in the family.IMG_0750

The Messenger

Recently, I worked with a Mom who was concerned about information she was learning from Sam, her four year-old son.  She reported the divorce has been final for three years and was concerned about the lack of communication with her former spouse.

When I asked her to give me an example, she told me she recently learned from San that he is going to Legoland with his Dad in August.  It was clear that she was surprised by the information.  As I asked her to tell me more about their parenting communication, she stated, “We don’t talk much.  Our son tells me quite a bit about what is happening with his Dad.”  I learned something similar from Dad.

I took a breath.  I was imagining what it must be like for Sam.  His job description appears to be that of Mommy and Daddy’s Messenger. I know, for sure, he didn’t apply for that job and probably doesn’t want it.

So often, it seems, when parents aren’t comfortable communicating with one another post-divorce, they give their child the job of messenger.  I always coach them to think about it from the child’s perspective.  A child’s thoughts are probably something like this:  Did what I just say make Mommy mad?  Daddy sad?  Did I say something wrong?  Will I get in trouble?

The good news for Sam – His Mommy and Daddy have decided to terminate his job as their messenger.  They are learning how to share that job on their own, as co-parents.