Monday, August 16, 2010

How to get divorced

Having been through a divorce myself, being a victim of my parents' divorce and seeing my children deal with the second divorce of their father, I feel there are some things that need to be said. This is for anyone who's been through a divorce, is going through one or will go through one. It's also not bad advice if you apply it to a troubled marriage.

1) Do NOT put your child in the middle of your battle with your soon-to-be-ex (STBE). Whether they're infants or teenagers, they have enough weight on their own shoulders and they're dealing with enough of their own grief over your separation without having to carry the weight of your anger, grief and frustration. And when they need to talk, you have to be willing to put your own personal feelings about your STBE aside so you can listen to their worries without influencing them one way or another. Diplomacy is vital when dealing with your child during a separation or divorce.

2) If your spouse says it's over and they refuse to take steps to repair their relationship with you, then accept that it's OVER. Don't berate them. Don't harass them. Don't take out your anger on them. Don't stalk them. Don't criticize them. Don't question their motives. Just accept it and move on. The above behavior does nothing for either party when it comes to moving on. This rule also applies to your STBE's friends and family.

3) While you don't have to like your STBE, you do need to remember that everything you do and say is being watched by others. People you never expected to turn on you, will choose sides. Sometimes, that side won't be yours. Some people you thought were your friends will be all-too-happy to report back to your STBE about the shenanigans you're pulling and the lies you're spewing.

4) If your attorney tells you to do something or not do something, listen to them. They know the law better than you do and not only could you end up without an attorney, you could end up in jail for breaking the law. That's not going to end well for anyone involved, especially your child. Also, if you have an attorney, let them deal with conflict between you and your STBE. That's why they're there. If your ex is doing something that you don't think they should be doing, let your attorney deal with the confrontation. If you don't have an attorney, then call theirs.

5) With divorce comes anger and hostility. I get that. Believe me...I've been there. Instead of focusing that hatred on your STBE, focus it elsewhere, such as yourself or your kids. Find a hobby to keep your mind off the situation. Spend more time with friends and family. Surround yourself with people who can help you use your negative energy in a positive way. Coach a little league team. Get in touch with old friends. Travel. Go to church. Get involved in the community. Read. Listen to music. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. If you find yourself unable to move past your hostility and anger, get counseling. Let's be honest, it's not a bad idea to do anyway. If you don't do it for yourself, do it for your kids. They're going to need you at your best now more than ever. Don't give them less than 100% of your best. 

6) This is an emotional time. Cry. Get mad. Curse. Throw stuff. Join a kickboxing class. Scream at the top of your lungs. Growl. Vent. Get your emotions out, then LET THEM GO. Don't pick them back up when you're done venting. Leave them alone. That's the point of doing those you don't have those emotions anymore.

7) Document everything involving your STBE. Everything. Every phone call, every visit, every email, every text message, every face-to-face conversation. You may never need the information, but if you do, it's nice to have. Where kids are concerned, write down every ball game, school event, doctors appointment, visitation schedule, birthday party...anything that involves your children, whether it involves the other parent or not. Inform your STBE of those events. Even if you think they can't attend, they need to be made aware. And, in kind, every time the other parent misses or is late for an event, appointment or visitation, write that down, too. I have been divorced for eleven years and I still do this despite the fact that I haven't had to use my records in over four years.

8) While we're on the subject of co-parenting, keep in mind, it is NOT your STBE's responsibility to make you aware of events in your child's life. There are school calendars and sports schedules for a reason. Check them. Check them often. If you're able to maintain open communication (without hostility) with your STBE, then you may ask them to keep you informed of appointments, etc, but don't expect them to. Be proactive about it. It will not only make you aware of what's going on in your child's life, but your child will pick up on the fact that you care enough about them to be involved.

9) Remember that just because you're not married to your child's other parent any longer, you are still a parent. You will have to be present in your child's life for many years to come and if you're hostile toward their other parent, they will pick up on that and end up resenting you as a result. You don't have to like your STBE, but you do have to be nice to them. It's tough, but it can be done. Trust me.

10) Rely on your friends during this time. They, no doubt will have opinions about the situation, but make sure they understand that you need to depend on them for strength. They should also be aware of the things said here. They can detest your STBE all they want, but when around your children, they need to keep those emotions in check. It's also important that you not try to influence your child's relationship with your STBE's friends and family. Your child needs an emotional support system now more than ever and when you bad-mouth those people, your child feels like they've lost even more relationships.

11) Remember that children can be manipulative. I made an agreement with my ex-husband eleven years ago: "I will believe half of what the kids tell me goes on at your house if you believe half of what they tell you goes on here." It's worked for us. If there have ever been question as to something that's happened, we've agreed to discuss it like adults rather than take our children's word for it. Kids will also tell you what they think you want to hear. If you hate their father, then they will talk trash about him to you. Vice versa. If you present a united parental front to your kids, they will realize that you are still their parents, despite being divorced. They need that stability. Give it to them.

12) Stop hanging onto the roles you have had thus far. You are no longer that person. Whether you agree with the reasons your STBE wants a divorce or not, you no longer have a say in what goes on in their life. You are not in control of this situation, anymore. Walk away with your dignity and whether you like the situation or not, it is what it is. Accept it gracefully and MOVE ON.

This list is in no way all inclusive, but should be a good start beyond common sense that should already be in place. A divorce doesn't have to be messy. That is entirely up to you.

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