Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Ways to Survive a Divorce (or help someone else survive one)

10 Ways to Survive a Divorce (or help someone else survive one)

On November 30, 2011 I got a call from my attorney's assistant that the judge had signed the divorce papers. I literally jumped up and down with happiness and relief. The proceeding 18 months had been awful and the divorce seemed like it would never end. Here are some things I learned on my journey that can hopefully help someone else too.

As a disclaimer I need to add that these are things that I have learned along the way. I did not, unfortunately, learn some of these lessons until after I had made choices that I probably would not make again knowing what I know now.

1. Blame it on the lawyers. When things happened that were really hurtful, I would try to give my former spouse the benefit of the doubt and think to myself that the actions taken were just a part of the legal game or that my former spouse was just acting on the legal advice of his attorney.

2. Forget about 'Fair'. Do what's best for the kids. When I would think about what seemed "fair" for me or for my former spouse I just got all confused. When I asked myself instead, "What is best for the kids?" I knew what to do.

3. Bite your tongue and pull out your poker face. Don't disparage your former spouse in word or in attitude in front of your kids. I learned a very important lesson in the mandatory Utah Divorce Education class and it is this: Children cannot separate their identities from their parents. If they are taught to think that one or both of their parents is "crazy" or "bad" or "weird" they will think those same things about themselves so before you, or anyone else, says or infers anything negative about the other parent remember that you are hurting the children deeply by doing so. This has helped me bite my tongue many times when I was so tempted to make disparaging remarks. Your children will be SO much better off if they can have a happy, healthy relationship with BOTH of their parents. Don't make your children chose between loving you and loving their other parent. Children want and need to love both of their parents even if their parents don't love each other.

4. Hard work and sacrifice. A good marriage requires lots of hard work and sacrifice and so does a "good" divorce! If you want to have a harmonious relationship with your former spouse you will have to make compromises, just like you would in a marriage. A constant battle with your former spouse for the rest of your lives would be so unpleasant. That doesn't mean you need to get taken advantage of, but a little effort to get along can go a long way.

5. Know when to say no to your attorney. I had an excellent attorney (Kristopher Greenwood) whom I would highly recommend. I really appreciated that he pushed as hard as possible. I definitely didn't want an attorney who was going to tell me that I should just agree to whatever my former spouse wanted, especially since I was getting divorced from an attorney who knew the law far better than I did. However, it was rarely in the best interest of the big picture for my situation to push as hard as possible on every issue. I learned that it was up to me to know when to back off or put on the brakes. My attorney knew the law, but I knew my personal situation and my former spouse much better than my attorney did and it was up to me to use my judgement as to how far to go. There is one particular instance where I followed my attorneys advice to push the limits of what I was comfortable with and I ended up regretting it. Listen to your gut.

6. Read 'Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimists Journey through the hell of divorce" by Stacy Morrison. It was like going through a year of therapy. She described so well the feelings I couldn't find the words to describe even to myself. (read, or listen)

7. Be sad. Yes, you will feel angry and yes, those around you will likely feed into this and will want you to be angry, but the real healing comes when you give yourself the permission and space to be sad that your marriage didn't turn out the way you had hoped it would on the day that you got married and to grieve the loss of that dream of happily ever after.

8. Get a good therapist. You might need to shop around (which is emotionally exhausting). A bad therapist is far worse than no therapist but a good therapist is invaluable.

9. Don't add fuel to the fire. You already have a big fire going on if you are getting divorced. It doesn't need to get any bigger. When tempted to fight back, unless it will actually be helpful to the situation, don't. I am grateful I had friends who told me to cut it out when I got too emotionally heated. Listening to them helped me focus on getting the divorce over with.

10. Make new friends. No matter how great your friends are, your situation is changing so drastically and you are now in a world that is so incredibly impossible to understand unless you have been through it. No matter how much your friends and family love you, they likely won't be able to offer you the support that you need. That doesn't mean they are bad friends and that they don't love you. It also doesn't mean you can't keep those friends. But you will need the camaraderie and friendship of others who have been down the path you are on. You might be better off making new friends rather than hoping that your friends will somehow understand the way you need to be supported during this life altering process.

I hope you never ever ever have to travel down the road of divorce, but if you or someone you love does I hope this helps in some small way.


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