No one gets married anticipating that they’ll divorce. Over their time together their hope is that the person who knows them best, who claims to be their source of unconditional love and support will continue to care for them and they’ll eventually grow old together.
But life can get in the way and amusing foibles can become major irritants as we grow apart, someone new appears on the scene or life together becomes untenable. Love and hate and the journey from one to the other can happen slowly but inevitably if we lose sight of each other over time. Amidst all the hurt, disappointment and lost dreams there can be a sliver of hope that we’ll eventually emerge in a better place and have a good divorce.
Let’s move forward as we try to have a good divorce;
Accept that you can’t change what’s happened. The only part that you influence is how you react to a situation. Whether you’re calm and rational or find yourself behaving in an unfortunate way you later regret, it’s your ultimate choice.
Remember that your anger and bitterness ultimately hurts only you. Your estranged partner is probably unaware or has only a fleeting insight into how you’re feeling, so stop giving your power away by reacting badly to negative, draining situations. In the moment it may feel like a worthwhile use of your time and energy to fight over lamps or the Tupperware, but is it really worth the distress? Be more flexible and learn to trade what you don’t want for something you do want. Start to negotiate and be the bigger person or let things go.
Communicate, rather than leave things to chance. Not everything has to be done through lawyers, unless it’s an especially difficult or acrimonious breakup. Maybe you can meet in a neutral place to discuss specific items, like childcare, domestic or financial arrangements. Or maybe a trusted mutual friend or relative could act as referee or mediator. Grandparents can be a good source of comfort and continuity when children are involved, so long as you’re clear about their impartiality.
Mutual respect can be an important component in a good divorce, where you try to detach from the emotion of the situation, refuse to be baited or triggered and treat any encounter in a businesslike, professional way. It’s not always an easy ask, but doing so can change the dynamics of a discussion from fraught and contentious to matter-of-fact and constructive.
Be clear too about your desired outcome from any meetings. That way you can focus on a result that you’re serious about working towards. But remember too that’s it’s not all about you. Your estranged partner will have their own hurts, opinions and agenda about what they want and how they feel, which may vary considerably from yours.
Be wary of telling others too much. They often form their opinions based solely on your version of events but it may be counterproductive in the long run to have them behave acrimoniously towards your ex. Also, do you really want gossiping about your ex to be your initial topic of conversation every time you meet your friends for a coffee or a pleasant evening out?
Be sensitive about each other’s personal situation. If there’s a significant financial disparity, a new relationship on the scene or your ex is in a very different place mentally to you, remember that kindness and sensitivity all help towards achieving a good divorce. There’s no merit in being smug and flashing good fortune in the face of someone who’s struggling.
Look forward to the life that lies ahead of you. Don’t be rushed, but determine to find new opportunities as they present themselves. Might it be best to rent or share a home with others before you finally choose where you want to live? It could take the pressure off and provide company if you’re feeling a little lonely.
Is it time for a makeover of how you look, or maybe time to learn new skills or start working for yourself? This could be a major opportunity to turn your life around, even if you choose to take only small steps at first.
A good divorce is often helped when there’s ongoing support from friends and family. But remember to take the advice of others cautiously. You have to live with the consequences of your decisions, so it’s important to make up your own mind. And how can you be sure that, if they were in your shoes, they’d actually do what they so enthusiastically advise you to do!
Resolution, a group of family justice professional lawyers, started the annual ‘Good Divorce Week’, which in 2022 was from 28 November – 2 December. Its intention is to provide access to quality information about the best ways to ensure a good divorce. The Facebook group, Separation, Divorce and Dissolution UK, which comprises family lawyers, a mediator, financial planner, mortgage advisor and counsellor have all collaborated to write ‘Your Divorce Handbook, It’s What You Do Next That Counts’. It’s an easy-to-read handbook, available on Amazon, with the latest information to help with each stage of your divorce
Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist www.lifestyletherapy.net