Divorce: 5 Lessons from the Other Side
While no one goes into their marriage planning to get divorced, sometimes we end up there despite our hopes and best efforts. With kids in the mix, it is particularly difficult — you don't have the opportunity to fully close the door and heal.
During the process of splitting up, you have so many critical decisions that have to be made right when you are the most emotional and vulnerable. Having survived (mostly) in one piece, here are five lessons I've taken away from my divorce:
Remember to take the long view, with your kids at the center.
Because you have kids, your ex is most likely going to be in your life for a long, long time. The way the two of you treat each other will directly impact your kids. Remember that.
Your kids do not care what happened between the two of you. They need to know that they are loved, that they are safe, and that it is OK for them to love both of you.
That means two things:
- You can't control how your ex acts or what he/she says, but you definitely have control of yourself. Don't waste your time and energy on anger.
- Remember to be flexible. Co-parenting while juggling school schedules, jobs, and life in general is tough. Before you turn him down for that weekend away with the kids, remember you are likely to need to swap schedules at some point, too.
Along those lines, make sure you keep your expectations in check, too. If your ex didn't value family time when you were married, it shouldn't be a surprise if you have the same struggle now while co-parenting.
No matter how amicable things are between the two of you, it will get ugly — especially about money.
I was lucky enough to have a pretty drama-free divorce process. All the same, when we got to the financial negotiations, it was devastating.
When you are tasked with assigning monetary values to what you provide as a parent, and the other person is watching their money go out the door to their ex, it is nasty.
Brace yourself for the fight. Do your homework so you feel prepared to discuss issues calmly, and when a conversation escalates, step away from it. You are not forced to engage every time the other person wants to. If a conversation is not productive, get out before words turn too harsh. Once those attacks are out there, it makes it that much more difficult to put anger aside and co-parent effectively.
People will choose sides, even when it's unnecessary.
I still have trouble understanding this one, but it is true. Some people just love drama. Others need to make sense of the situation for themselves, so it must be one person's fault.
Remember that for those close to you, there's a grieving process they go through as well. While we would like to believe their priority would be to support you during this difficult period, people are not always capable of doing that.
This is not the time to try to appease everyone. Focus on those who provide you with the support you need. Keep yourself moving forward and do what you need to ensure that your kids are OK. There will be plenty of time to deal with the peanut gallery once you have your footing.
Find a few friends you trust, and listen to them.
There is a lot of noise to sort through when you are going through your divorce. Emotions are running high, and it is normal to want to be done with the process as quickly as possible. Finances are in upheaval, and attorney or mediator bills can add up quickly.
Depending on the age of your children, you will be making decisions about your kids that are beyond anything you had ever thought about (like establishing in writing what level of college education you are willing to pay for, right down to the GPA, even when your kids are still in diapers).
The point is this: The decisions you are making, including how hard you want to fight about issues important to you, requires solid thinking. Find someone — or several people — who you trust implicitly, and before you make a major decision, talk to them. While you need to make your own decisions, having someone remind you when you need to sleep on it can be a lifesaver.
Healing isn't linear.
Like all major losses, divorce is something you have to allow yourself to process and grieve. Anger, adrenaline, and a glass of wine can only get you so far. One day, you can feel like a superhero with your new life fully in hand, and the next, simply seeing a couple on the street, may leave you a puddle on the floor. Be patient with yourself.
Allow yourself room to do what you need, whether it is stacking your social calendar or skipping that dinner you scheduled so you can be alone. There is no right way through this, so listen to your body.
It is a long road, but know this: You can do this.
Divorced? What did you learn along the way?Read More