In the midst of divorce proceedings, you’re often too busy to visualize what your life will be like when it’s over and done with. Just handling day-to-day decisions is challenging enough.
But the next thing you know, “divorcing” becomes “divorced,” and suddenly you find yourself in a whole new landscape.
If you’re not prepared, you may end up having to tolerate unpleasant new patterns and situations – all because you didn’t set boundaries right from the start.
Rule number one of post-divorce life: never assume you and your ex are on the same page.
Here are five questions to think about before the papers are signed.
- What will you do at the courthouse after the divorce has been granted?
Congratulations – it’s officially behind you. You’ve survived the hurt, frustration, and anger of divorce proceedings. Now you’re walking out of the courtroom, potentially a very awkward moment. What do you say? What do you do? What are your parting words?
- If you’re staying in your (formerly shared) home, how will your ex enter the house?
This is another awkward situation. Chances are you and your ex aren’t thrilled to see each other, but you need to put on a good front for the kids. Does your ex ring the bell? Just walk in? Should he/she always call ahead? Take some time to agree on the ground rules. If you don’t, you may find your ex doing the complete opposite of what makes you comfortable.
- How will we coordinate our attendance at school functions, sports, and other kids’ activities?
With the very first event, you establish the expectations of your ex, your children, and the community. Make sure you have a plan. Whether you decide to sit together or apart, do your best to appear amicable. Remember, people are watching you. Your behavior affects your children’s well-being – not to mention your reputation.
- How will we handle gift-giving situations?
I discussed this matter in a recent post, but it bears another look. Will you share a list or give gifts independently of each other? Will you help your children pick out presents for your ex? (The answer to this one is “yes.” Think of how proud your child feels when they buy a gift. This is less about making your ex-spouse happy than making your children happy.)
- How do I approach my ex’s new relationship?
One of the most dreaded situations of them all. The best advice I can give is to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” Whatever you do, resist the temptation to be nasty. Don’t give #2 an opportunity to complain about you. Remember also: you cannot control another person’s actions. You can only control how you respond. Give your kids the gift of not being forced to choose sides.
I know much of this won’t be easy. I’ve confronted all these questions in my own life, and I still struggle with them from time to time. But I’ve learned that the most important thing is to go into every encounter expecting the best from yourself. If the other side chooses to handle it differently, that’s their problem.
Note to my readers: This blog is a way for us to share our experiences. Many of us are dealing with divorce – before, during, and after – so let’s help each other. Please consider sharing what happened to you, how you dealt with it, and what you know now that you wish you did then. Those of us who have been through divorce can support those coming up behind us.