Ways to manage a difficult divorce when you’re a parent
So your forever dream relationship has ended in the most painful of ways. You want to cry, scream, curl up in a ball, run away, hurt your ex, especially if you see him or her living it large and enjoying life.
But what about when there are children to consider? It’s one thing to share your grief and try to shame your ex when it’s just the two of you, but when children are involved there needs to be a rather different approach, which includes some level of restraint.
Let’s reflect on some ways to manage a difficult divorce when you’re a parent.
Accept that it can take time to heal
Accept that it can take time to healwhen you’ve been badly hurt. Be gentle with yourself and appreciate that there’s no formulaic process to grieving, and grief is what you’re going through. The loss of the future you had planned together brings very real emotions of loss, disbelief, anger, ‘if only’, despair until you reach the eventual stage of acceptance of what’s happened, are able to come to terms with it and move on. Don’t force progress too quickly and instead allow yourself time to work through your feelings.
Avoid regaling family and friends
Avoid regaling family and friends with too much of your dirty laundry, otherwise every time you meet it becomes the first topic in everyone’s minds, forcing you to be stuck in a spiral of continuing negativity. Plus there’s no merit in fuelling other people’s hatred of your ex. It’s your situation, not theirs, so determine to keep your own counsel rather than constantly rehash what’s happened.
Learn not to react to your ex’s behaviour
If you’re in a post-divorce situation where they’re trying to win your children’s affections with gifts, holidays and constant treats appreciate that children are wiser than you think. They’ll (obviously) take the bribes whilst also being very aware that you’re the parent who does the less visible everyday supportive things like laundry, meals, school runs, parents’ evenings.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
It’s tempting to get angry if your ex hasn’t returned your property or is late for pick-ups. Ask yourself why you’re so annoyed. If there are genuine issues then they need to be dealt with. But consider if you’re reacting because you suspect they’re deliberately baiting you. If you stop reacting you may find the behaviour changes and becomes more reasonable. Often insults or bad behaviour are a reaction to a situation rather than being specifically about you.
Would therapy be of interest?
If you’re still badly hurt therapy may help you deal with those raw emotions and heal their ability to impact on you forming relationships in the future. We have to learn from what went wrong in any relationship, even if it’s facing the fact that we allowed their behaviour to continue unchecked.
If you’re struggling to talk to each other reasonably
If you’re struggling to talk to each other reasonably would an intermediary help? Some people use a mediator, a relationship counsellor, priest or trusted family member or friend. Find a method that works for you and commit to ongoing meet-ups so that issues can be discussed before they become too volatile. Holidays, money, new partners on the scene can be areas that have the potential to become inflammatory.
Young children benefit from stability
Young children benefit from stability, routine and being reassured that their world’s secure. If they’ve had to move home or school agree with your ex that keeping to their new routine must be a priority. Grandparents may be able to provide loving support at a time like this and be a comforting confidante if a child is struggling to adjust.
Talk to others in the same position as yourself
There may be scope to alternate childcare responsibilities occasionally, which could give you a free afternoon or evening sometimes. Getting over a difficult divorce is a tough learning curve, but being gentle with yourself and taking one step at a time will enable you to make it through eventually.
Even grown-up children can be distressed
Even grown-up children can be distressed when their parents divorce. Their vision of family life has to be modified and, whilst it can be tempting to explain all and include them in every aspect of the breakup, remember that it’s your divorce not theirs. You’ve divorced each other and not your children! Resist the temptation to let rip!
Post-divorce is also about you
Use this new stage of your life to take up something that interests you. Try to find some regular time for yourself, even if it’s a weekly cup of coffee with friends or going for a walk from time to time. Some people rediscover an interest like painting or learning a language, maybe taking up a hobby with a view to it becoming a small business venture. Doing something for yourself can remove the ‘victim’ mentality and start you feeling more like yourself again.
Susan Leigh is a Counsellor & Hypnotherapist. She can be contacted via her website, www.lifestyletherapy.net
If you would like to read more about divorcing amicably, take a look at “What sort of divorce do you want?” If you would like to speak to someone about your own situation, please contact Tamsin by email at email@example.com.