Have you ever listened to your kids arguing about who’s on whose side of the back seat – and realized that the fight is about more than just real estate?
It’s incredible how quickly disagreements can disintegrate into name-calling, tears, and accusations of universal unfairness. And if you think grownups don’t act that way, let me tell you: as a divorce coach, I see this kind of behavior a lot.
Even when divorce is an amicable decision, underneath there’s often some combination of hurt, anger, confusion, humiliation, or revenge going on. Unchecked, these painful emotions can lead to irrational behavior, which results in even more hurt and embarrassment for you, your spouse, and your children.
Let’s just say it: Divorce is ugly.
I entered into my own divorce expecting we would both rise above blame, accusations, gossip, and the rest of that ugly stuff. Turns out, it’s not so easy. In some ways, during divorce, we revert to childish versions of ourselves. Despite our good intentions, we say mean things. We whine. We act in ways that go against our best interests.
Basically, we expend a lot of energy on actions that don’t get us anywhere.
If you’re struggling with your own divorce, here are four ways you can avoid making life harder for yourself. (Trust me, I’ve done all these things and lived to regret them.)
Don’t worry about who’s at fault.
My husband and I spent many wasted moments trying to assign blame for the collapse of our marriage – an obviously no-win battle that we fought to exhaustion. The hours I lost just having conversations with him in my head! I began to dread driving: alone in the car, my mind would race with what I wanted to say to him. You’ll never agree on these prickly points, so don’t even try. Invest your energy elsewhere. It doesn’t matter who did what. Your divorce is now a reality.
Don’t obsess over what people think.
You can go insane worrying that he/she said something bad about you to a friend, neighbor, teacher, or community member. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t – somehow, we assume only negative things are being said about us. In any case, it doesn’t matter. As an intuitive friend once told me, here is an opportunity to see who your real friends are. People who aren’t your friends are easy to spot. Those who offer support and don’t listen to gossip are the ones to focus on. You don’t need 10, 20, or 50 people in your corner. You just need one or two strong allies.
Treat divorce as a business deal.
When people start talking about dividing assets, emotions run wild. What seems like a business negotiation to one partner may be very personal to the other. (How could he/she be so cold, so unemotional?) Face it: a divorce settlement is a division of assets. You are not going to walk away with everything you once held jointly, so prepare yourself for some capital loss.
Understand that your kids still love you.
In times of stress, people say things they don’t mean – kids included. It may seem as though your children would rather spend time with your ex instead of you. Often one parent becomes the “fun” one, easing up on rules, buying extra toys and treats. You start to wonder what the other parent is saying about you and if they’re all they trying to plot your alienation. Yes, it stings when your children are having experiences that you’re not a part of, but trust in your love for your children and that your children love you. Kids may be tempted by gifts and such, but Mom is Mom and Dad is Dad.
I understand: it’s hard to stay positive when you’re dealing with so much loss. But you can minimize your pain by recognizing what’s worth fighting for and when to let go. A divorce coach can ask questions that allow you to see things differently, giving you more control over where your mind may take you.