No divorce is sweet and rarely is it as amicable as hoped for. Many losses are experienced when ending a relationship, such as the loss of a home, security, finances, comfort, intimacy, etc., just to name a few.
However, there are some strategies that divorcing couples can learn in order to make their departure from the relationship as peaceful and stress-free as possible. By finding successful strategies to deal with the loss and pain, both partners can find an effective pathway to facilitate the process and end up with a peaceful outcome.
1. Deal with the emotional aspect of the breakup above all else.
Divorce is a time of great emotional pain and enormous change. You may have done your utmost to save the marriage, only to have it result in a definite end. If you’re finding it difficult to work through the changes and sense of emotional loss, it is vital to seek counselling from a neutral party, as this will help you deal with the loss of trust, respect and affection within the relationship. Learning coping strategies will help you to survive the pain and losses. Emotional problems you may encounter include:
• It may become very traumatic to accept that you have been rejected or replaced. It leaves you feeling as though you have been rejected and affects your self esteem, especially where you’re the partner who has been left behind.
• Feelings of anger and resentment need to be diffused to allow you to reclaim your life as a single person again.
• A sense of emptiness when looking into the future can overwhelm you. Worries about ever sharing your life with someone again are naturally pervasive but can blur your ability to recover.
• Feeling wounded, sometimes very deeply and not wanting to open up to anyone else about any of your emotions. Your sense of trust can be shattered.
2. Aim to see the positive side to dealing with lawyers and the courts.
While this part of divorce proceedings may be stressful, once over this does provide some tangible benefits to the divorce process. Partners are now legally separated from their duties to be responsible for one another. Moreover, the certainty as to assets that arises from the legal process can settle the messiness that emotional attachments create. As part of coping with the legal aspects of divorce, the following considerations will help a more peaceful process for you:
• Know your legal rights. It is important to know your rights and how to enforce them in relation to property settlement, maintenance, and custody. Knowledge can help to keep you calmer and more at ease about what is happening to you.
• Find a lawyer you click with. Don’t settle for the first one if that lawyer doesn’t feel right. Sometimes the strain of divorce can be more than matched by your irritation with your lawyer’s antics, so be sure you’re happy with this person before agreeing to retaining them. The more aggressive and “take-all” the attitude of your lawyer, the less amicable the settlement process will be, so bear that in mind when choosing one.
• Consider a mutually lawyer-free divorce, through mediation. Recognise that a bad divorce lawyer’s interest lies in smoothly, calmly sucking you in to a war.
3. Avoid bitterness when assets have to be divided.
This creates major unhappiness as each partner feels robbed and this generates arguing as to who is entitled to what. Most couples struggle to agree on who should get what. Couples ideally should focus on creating a new life, new environment with no lasting memories of the cancelled marriage. This notion will help them not to fight over items that will bring back memories and pain of the once held marriage.
• Have all the facts and figures in hand to assist your lawyer in building a sound financial case and to convince your spouse without arguments and assumptions being involved. Use receipts, documented evidence, and other reliable sources of information to back up your wishes. This could include writing out a complete financial history of your marriage that reflects the resources you have, estimated value of shared property, individual assets, and liabilities. While this may sound calculating, it is no more than being factual and facts are your best approach in keeping emotions down.
• Give your spouse the option of what to take from the house. You may be extremely surprised at how little discussion is required to divide a household when you free up the taking. For many couples, it becomes clear that there always were “his and mine” or “hers and mine” divisions in the house and it is only when arguing that these evident divisions are used as weapons to wound one another. Take away that chance by simply offering your spouse the opportunity to take what they please. Their own sense of responsibility and guilt will do some of the sorting for you!
• Toss a coin for items you have each paid half for. It will even out in the end. Are your belongings so worth the angst otherwise?
4. Decide on how family life should be organised when children are involved.
“Who has custody”, “How can visiting rights of the access parent be arranged”, ” How can parenting responsibilities be shared between two parties”, are all important issues that need to be resolved. It is not healthy for the children when parents use them as weapons against each other. Children are not protected from the conflict and bitterness that rages between angry parents. Put the children first and avoid creating situations whereby children become emotionally trapped by their loyalty to both parents.
• Watch out for transference of emotional abuse from an abusive parent onto the children. Neither do this yourself nor allow the other spouse to do it. Signs include “You’d choose to live with me if you loved me.” That is classic manipulation and when done to children, it is unkind and places the children in a bind they can’t win whatever they say or choose.
• Use a consultant or mediator to assist with determining custody arrangements if you don’t feel you’re able to do this yourself. If the custody arrangements have to be agreed to by a court, or you end up in court anyway, a court that can see the parents already trying hard will be impressed by the teamwork and consideration given to the children’s needs first of all.
• Be prepared to trial a few systems before settling on the one that works for both of you. You can’t possibly know what will work out best until you’ve given different arrangements a chance. Take into account the children’s impressions too.
• For the greatest peaceful transition, both of you should be prepared to share the major decisions about the welfare of children and to continue to interact with one another in relation to the children’s lives.
5. Deal appropriately with adjustment in the community.
Most often divorcing couples have to leave a community of friends and colleagues to join another. Shared friends from the former marriage often need to choose whose “side” they are on. Deal with losses in a mature way, knowing that some of these friendships, like the marriage were never meant to be. This can be a huge loss for many people who had valued the relationships formed and a sense of belonging that they once shared. However, being realistic about the relationships can help smooth the path for you.
• Avoid expecting your friends to take sides. If you don’t speak ill of your ex-spouse, they have less ground to do so either. If you reassure them that the divorce was amicable and that the two of you are still friends, sometimes this may ease the tension with friends (provided what you say is true). Equally, don’t bring up your spouse at all; this breaks the connection for both you and your friends and allows everyone to move on.
6. Distance yourself from all aspects of the broken relationship.
Move on to rediscover your own individuality. This is referred to as the central separation, the stage when the person starts to feel whole again. At this stage, you need to have clearly defined rules in your head about any further interaction with your spouse, in order to continue maintaining the peace. Some of these rules could include (they’re up to you):
• Treating future interactions in a professional, business-like manner. You still need to talk for the sake of the children? Act like you’re in a business meeting at work, with the well-being of the children being the business at hand.
• End any conversation with your ex-spouse that turns into a shouting match or where you’re constantly interrupted. Explain that you’ll talk again when everyone has calmed down. Make it clear in future meetings that should your spouse interrupt or explode, you will end that meeting too.
• Never use children to relay information to your ex-spouse. Use emails or the post for this. Avoid texts; they’re too personal, intimate, and too connected.
• Depersonalise all of your communications. Keep your points simple (it can help to write down points of discussion first) and keep everything neutral.
• Cut the ties. Don’t talk to your ex-spouse for advice, help, expertise, or anything of the sort unless you have no choice in a work context. Find new places for advice, such as your accountant, doctor, lawyer, paid home handy-helpers, or someone else in your spouse’s profession or line of work.
• If you need more money for the children, work it out as a business proposal with your ex-spouse and do not beg, cry, manipulate, or show yourself as a victim.
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