Can divorce be the best part of your marriage? 10 tips for staying sane and humane. You can divorce in a way that honors your marriage. In this first of a 2 part post, I will discuss some of the “truths” I have learned in handling divorces for people.
Don’t get me wrong. For some people, divorce inevitably will be ugly, ugly, ugly. But for others – while splitting up is a grief-filled experience full of genuine loss, regret and hardship – it also offers remarkable opportunities to redefine, remake and dramatically improve your relationship with your ex.
You are candidates for this kind of transformation if you were good parents but lousy partners; if your married life was essentially two solid and happy separate lives; if you both tried hard to make it work; if nobody did anybody really, really wrong; if you don’t have obvious wedge issues like an impending custody battle, adultery, big (or small) money divides.
If you two simply were not meant to be married anymore and you are both people of good will, trying to be decent to each other, putting the children first, here are 10 ways to protect and insulate your fragile peace, and nurture your emerging new relationship:
6. Time Outs: Outline clear and effective consequences
Agree on what happens if one person does not abide by the agreement or somehow does not follow through. Like with parenting, you need to know what happens to those who break the rules – make sure you know what happens to the rule breaker and what the ex gets to do about it.
7. Resist old patterns
Part of the relief of divorce is you are no longer responsible for your partner’s insecurities, self hatred, wacked relationship with his/her family, professional disappointments or any other despair you had to live with. Same for them. No more front-loading onto them and no more listening TO them. You both are released so be released. Resist the urge to give or seek old patterns of support. Beware of divorce sex. I’ll just leave it at that.
8. Let your relationship transform. Burn the old and see what emerges.
If your relationship is going to have any chance at re-emerging in a new, healthy form that allows you to be friends and strong parenting partners, you have to let it all go first. Who knows what you’ll keep or who you will become. Don’t feel betrayed if the other person withdraws or remains silent when you start a riff on how hard it is to blah blah blah. She/he is wisely trying to build new boundaries for the care and safety of your relationship. It may feel lousy and lonely for a while but it’s the only way to move forward in a healthy way.
9. Get together as a (newly-reconfigured) family
If you can, make time to gather as a family. Go out for dinner. Show the kids you still care about each other. They are going to want you back together anyway and you might as well start demonstrating early that they still have two parents who love them and value each other, and we are still a family no matter what.
10. No new people
If there are third parties involved, you’re probably not going to be able to take any of this advice because somebody done somebody really wrong and somebody is enraged, betrayed and deeply wounded. If, however, somehow there were others involved or others come enter the scene early on, do not, DO NOT involve them with the kids. Even if the kids are teenagers it’s too confusing and raw. Let the focus be on the family of origin.