There Can Be Dignity In Divorce
When the divorce is over, how will you feel about the way you navigated the process?
Divorce is difficult. While dealing with the unexpected ups and downs of this experience, your feelings will include grief, anger, sadness, loss, unwelcome change, and pain. While these feelings are normal, your ultimate goal should be to navigate through them without getting derailed. You need to create a path that will strengthen you and redefine you. It sounds difficult and it is, but it can be done.
Many people behave badly during divorce. Loss of control, crisis, and uncertainty will make even the most confident and kind person act in ways their own mother would not tolerate. It is often a need to assert control or to hurt someone. In retrospect, many people regret the way they behave during divorce, in front of their children, at holiday gatherings, or in court.
People going through a divorce are expected to have difficulty with their emotions. Think about television shows like Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce, Grace and Frankie, or Louie, and think about every tabloid cover you see at the check-out line. However, unlike those shows and tabloid stories, you have a reality check after the divorce. No matter how custody, support, and property issues are decided, you alone are responsible for your conduct during the divorce.
How can you emerge from this process with your head held high, without regret, and without having to make amends? Here are a few suggestions to help you retain your dignity:
- Practice self-care. Self-care should be your first priority. You need to take care of yourself so you can take care of your children, perform at work, and maintain your health. Be willing to accept help from others. Find a friend, therapist, or religious/spiritual advisor who will listen to and support you. Make time for exercise, reading, or quiet time. You have an ongoing need to heal.
- Control what you can and let the rest go. A person can only handle so much (refer to self-care above). Your ex may not brush the kids’ teeth perfectly, but that is not something you can control, and if you try to control everything, you will lose control. You cannot control the legal process, and will likely be frustrated by its glacial pace. Try to control yourself and your schedule. Do not try to control your ex, your children, or the court.
- Do not go through this process alone. Meet with an attorney to educate yourself about the divorce process. Ask for help from your family and trusted friends, especially people who will be honest with you. Seek counseling to help you process your feelings. When you have people you trust, and they support you, follow their advice.
- Fight for what really matters and pick your battles. Do you really care about the end tables your ex is in love with? They may be a bargaining chip, but are they really worth the attorney’s fees? Let the end tables go and dig in on the stuff that matters. Whenever possible, take the high road, no matter how painful. Keep in mind, however, that taking the high road does not mean you sell yourself short in settlement discussions or that you give up on what is rightfully yours. Respect others, but be firm on what is right.
- Do not act out your divorce drama in front of the children – be neutral. Pick-ups and drop-offs are not the place for snide quips about support payments, settlement disagreements, or upcoming court dates. Children are sponges at any age, even if they seem plugged in and tuned out. Children often feel the divorce has everything to do with them. They will have difficult questions that you will struggle to answer. Your job is to create a safe space for them to ask questions and for you to assure them they are loved.
It takes work to navigate the divorce process without regret. You may slip up along the way, but try to continue on a path that allows you to be your best self. Strive for the head held high approach.