Key to a Successful Divorce: Do More Good than Bad

Years ago, in an interview, Valerie Bertinelli explained her positive relationship with her ex-husband, Eddie Van Halen, in this way: “You have to love your child more than you hate your spouse.”

Ordinarily I’m not one to live by the advice of a celebrity, but Valerie’s words resonated with me – even though, at the time, I thought I was happily married.

Later, when divorce entered my life, I recalled her interview and held onto it tight.

Now that I’m a divorce coach and my job is to help people handle divorce in a productive manner, I’m all ears, listening for inspirational quotes.

Sitting at an airport gate this week, I overheard a woman on TV being interviewed about  her book that shows how women can nourish their bodies. I turned around to see who the author was: Cameron Diaz, and her book was called The Body Book. I admit it, I found myself identifying with what she was saying.

Hey, I’m a woman. I fight the weight and age battle every day. I try hard to make good choices, but sometimes I make bad ones, and then I beat myself up.

Cameron said it so simply and clearly: “I try to do more good than bad.”

To me, this applies to life in general, and especially to divorce.

If we can succeed in doing more good than bad, we’re going great. Bad stuff is unavoidable, but as long as more good than bad is happening, then we’re moving forward.

Later, on the plane, I was reading the February 2014 issue of Self magazine and came across an article about Lindsey Vonn, the Olympic skier. Lindsey had crashed during training and wasn’t able to compete in Sochi. The article addressed her work ethic, her lack of fear, and her competitive nature.

“After being injured, how did you stay motivated to work out?” asked the interviewer.

“I don’t want to fail because I didn’t work hard,” Vonn replied. “I want to fail because someone beat me.”

My first thought was: how could I use this advice to help my tennis game? But then I realized it could apply to divorce as well. Lindsay was talking about working toward her best self. She may not win every competition, but she isn’t about to give the win to someone else.

Just as we can nourish our lives and our bodies, we can work hard to nourish our divorce. It might help to think of divorce as a noun – a living thing that needs maintenance – and not as a verb. How can you nourish your divorce so that it is healthy, strong, and flexible, as opposed to feeding a monster that is ugly, mean, stinking, and grumpy (and did I say mean?)

Begin each day by writing down three things you can do to nourish your divorce. How can you work to accomplish these goals? Without judgment, how well did you do yesterday? If you fell short of your goals, try again today. Try harder. Remember what Lindsey Vonn says: Don’t fail because you didn’t work hard. And don’t let them beat you, either.

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