How to Get Divorced like a Grown Up.

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Jun 6, 2013
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To hear people talk about it, divorces come in two varieties: amicable or messy.

The reality is—just like with marriages—each one is unique and challenging, and different at various points in the process. Since I believe a big part of getting divorced “like a grown up” includes not airing all of the ups and downs in public, my own divorce is something I haven’t written about much at all. There is a temptation when we get to the point of a break-up to re-write history. We were never meant to be together. I hate him or her. It’s been terrible the whole time. Well…maybe. But not usually. One of the most helpful things I heard during my divorce was that the fact that divorce is the right choice now doesn’t mean that getting married was the wrong choice then.

The following are things I’ve learned along the way—from my process and from listening to friends and family share their own stories.

10 things to consider that will help you divorce with compassion and integrity:

1. Accept that there is no bad guy. Unless we are talking about an abusive situation, no one person holds all of the blame. Two people got married. Two people are ending the marriage. In the million steps in between those two points, both of you made mistakes. Don’t fall into all of the cliches surrounding divorce by painting each other as horrible people; 99.9 percent of the time it isn’t true.

2. Assert your boundaries clearly and without accusation. Chances are, especially if you have children, the divorce is not the end of your relationship with this person, but the beginning of a different one. If you want her to call before she stops by, ask. If there are things that make you feel uncomfortable, let him know before they become a problem. It doesn’t need to be an accusation, just say what you need and be done with it. Bonus points for doing it when you aren’t upset.

3. Don’t bad mouth your former spouse to your children. Ever. I hate when people do this. The people this hurts the most are the children. Your kids love both of you and want to please both of you. Disparaging your former spouse to (or in front of) your kids is confusing and hurtful for them. Divorce is hard enough on kids without that. If you don’t like the parenting choices your co-parent is making, talk to him privately about it when you are calm. And pick your battles! Each parent brings different things to the table. If you’d prefer your children eat all organic food and their mom is feeding them McDonald’s twice a week, you may need to let it go. Don’t go to war about every little choice; whenever possible, it’s great to back each other’s choices up to keep both homes feeling secure and familiar for your kids.

4. On that note, don’t bad mouth your former spouse at all. Get a therapist. Choose one or two discrete close friends or family members who you can share openly with and vent to. The things that went wrong or didn’t work aren’t anyone else’s business. Don’t turn your Facebook wall into an ongoing soap opera. Don’t turn the next year of your life into a constant bitchfest about your former spouse. In other words, don’t bore everyone with your ranting about David Lindhagen:

5. Let go of old scripts about what divorce is. We all have baggage from our families—and even from TV and movies—about what divorce is like. She’s going to try and take all his money. He’s not going to show up to pick up the kids. We’ve all seen examples of doing it badly. I know for a long time during the process, even though I knew it was necessary, I didn’t want to be divorced. It wasn’t that I wanted to stay married, it was just… I didn’t want to be that stereotype of a bitter divorcee who is angry and sarcastic and hates men because of what she went through. That isn’t me. Once I realized that how I dealt with it was my choice—and not some caricatured stereotype—it was much easier to let go.

6. Don’t worry so much about who gets the stuff. When you feel that visceral reaction about having to part with some piece of furniture or an old DVD—it’s not really about the stuff. The stuff is replaceable. Many people use this part as a way to hurt each other, to stick it to the other person. Find it within yourself to do the opposite. This is a person you once loved. This is a human being who deserves to be treated with compassion—this process is painful for both of you. When you have an opportunity to be compassionate, do it.

7. Take time to mourn. No matter how amicable it’s been, no matter how relieved you are that it’s over, no matter what—this is a loss. Don’t short change yourself on the grieving process. It’s okay to be sad about it. Being sad or feeling regretful doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice; it means that you are grieving the loss of what you used to have together. Even if you felt sad about how things changed during the course of the marriage, there are parts of that that may not really sink in until you are apart. Part of getting to acceptance and being able to move on is being patient with yourself as you grieve.

8. Take time to celebrate. When you are done mourning, celebrate. Or quite possibly, you will have alternating moments of the two along the way. If there are things you stopped doing for yourself while in your old relationship, revisit them. Get creative. Go out with friends you’ve been neglecting (and don’t spend the time venting). As cliche as it sounds, it’s not just an ending, it’s a beginning. Make friends with yourself again in a way you may have forgotten to do. Be kind to yourself by being patient when you are mourning, and then be kind to yourself by remembering that you don’t have to mourn forever.

9. When you lose it, apologize. It’s going to happen. You are going to have moments where you push each other’s buttons and don’t respond graciously. When you catch yourself, stop. Walk away. Take some time. And then apologize—and mean it! It doesn’t matter how much you feel like the other person deserved what you were dishing out. Apologize anyway.

10. Let it go. I’ve always loved that saying (that probably wasn’t said by Buddha) “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Forgiveness is never just about freeing the other person, though that’s important too. Forgiveness sets you free too. If we keep holding on to every little (and big) hurt we’ve ever received, how can we have room to let love in? Making peace with your former spouse doesn’t just improve that relationship and make things easier, it allows you to move forward and extend that peace into your other relationships as well.

Our relationships change us. They shape us and help us grow.

When a relationship ends, we get to choose whether it makes us bitter or whether it strengthens us. Love isn’t something on our bucket lists that we do and then check it off and move on. The ending of a relationship isn’t as simple as changing your Facebook status. It hurts, but it’s a hurt that’s part of growing and getting stronger. Some people choose to close up and shut others out in the face of these painful changes, but we don’t have to.

Instead, we can let it strengthen and stretch our hearts so we can hold more love.


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About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on and Barnes & She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


21 Responses to “How to Get Divorced like a Grown Up.”

  1. I absolutely LOVE this article. It is so thoughtful and thought provoking.
    I've been living with my ex-husband as we wait for our condo to sell, and this shocks the hell out of people. We don't hate each other. We even eat dinner together sometimes. I kind of shocks me too how not terrible things are now (though, I have NO second thoughts about this divorce — it was and always will be the right thing for us). This speaks to #5 — our divorce doesn't look typical, but who cares? It's our relationship and business.

  2. kimberlylowriter says:

    I LOVE this as well.

    Should be required reading for everyone. The fact is, about half of all marriages end in divorce. It doesn't have to be horrible. I wish more people could see it as a learning experience.

  3. brianna says:

    Great article, Kate.

  4. Heather says:

    I somewhat agree with this article … Though I know from experience that sometimes when you try to be amicable, or non confrontational you can be taken advantage of especially if the other person does not have the same even tempered divorce goals as you do … I think everybody just has to do the best they can do with an ugly situation … I do not agree that abuse is the only one sided way to blame divorce , there is also adultery , neglect , less than obvious abuse … One person who doesn’t try at all in the marriage … It happens … So if you try to step out gracefully and it still ends up being ugly I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much about that .

  5. You know, I have a theory about infidelity (and let me qualify this a little by saying I've never cheated, but have been cheated on). Besides the one off "gave into temptation and convenient circumstances," when someone is cheating, it's a passive-aggressive way of saying the relationship is over. If someone is at the point where they are starting a secondary romantic relationship (and the primary one isn't an open relationship) they are trying to find a way to leave. It's over, but they haven't found a way to end it yet. It's shitty and wrong, but I don't know that I'd put it in the same category as abuse (my opinion).

    Sorry to hear that your experience has been difficult! And I'll add, I'd never pretend that any of what I've suggested is easy…I've had to do a lot of apologizing along the way—and a lot of biting my tongue and walking away when I'm mad.

  6. It's true, and yes, I agree…it doesn't have to be horrible. Thanks, Kimberly.

  7. dissertation says:

    the hard part is let it go it is really difficult and if there are kids involve sometimes they are the reason why couples don't go through it, is it a valid reason though?

  8. Mel says:

    I'm sure there are instances of infidelity that are more one-sided when it comes to blame, but, I tend to believe infidelity is simply another symptom of a failing marriage. It is usually over simplistic to say it is all the cheater's fault or to say that the other spouse "drove" them to cheat. It takes two. Well, three, but you know. I certainly wouldn't put the vast majority of cheating in the same boat as abuse.

  9. I agree completely.

  10. Jennifer White says:

    I think this is really an amazing piece, Kate. You do a beautiful job articulating genuinely helpful advice while sharing hard-won personal insight. As another writer, I understand how difficult it is to share certain aspects of your life when they pertain, especially, to your children. Seriously great job finding a balance.

  11. Thanks Jennifer! As I was writing it, I though a lot of this is true for within relationships too: don't ever bad mouth each other when you're mad, have clear boundaries and tell each other without accusation, celebrate the good stuff, pick your battles carefully…all useful learning for within relationships too.

  12. Sherry says:

    I work in a family law office. In most cases all the parties care about is mf'ing each other. Their egos are too big to even consider any of the points offered in this article. And its really sad when they use the kids as pawns. I see it all the time. They don't care. They become crazed with hurting each other, and make every excuse under the sun for their own behaviors. They never admit fault. They refuse to consider that their own actions are causing pain to everyone around them, not just the ex. I would love to be able to print out this article and hand it out to our clients, but unfortunately my office is not in the business of healing.

  13. Jennifer White says:

    Absolutely. Sometimes it seems that we learn the most about having healthy relationships from experiencing disease within them.

  14. Thanks Sherry. Please feel free to share it with clients if it's ever appropriate.

  15. Aee says:

    The quote from 10 is by Nelson Mandela, I believe 🙂

  16. laydipahukumaa says:

    Beautiful article!

  17. @Jonika8 says:

    Thanks, Kate, I really needed to hear this right now. I love your thoughts and writing, and this was especially relevant.

  18. Tony says:

    This was a great article. I'm one that happened to fall into the remarkably amicable camp. No fighting over things or with each other over whose fault it was. We went through counseling and found that we were making ourselves miserable trying to make the other person happy. Our wants and needs just grew too far apart to work anymore. We keep two things at the forefront, "Always remember our son and that anything we do to the other person we do to him" (directly or indirectly), and "The other person was once your best friend'. These two things really helped us keep things amicable and sane through the process. We have better communication than we used to and are much happier people in general. I know I feel much better about myself after going through divorce and coming out the otherside OK.

  19. Pia Walker says:

    Hmm. In my case my husband started an affair while I was pregnant with third child. He chose to have the third child! He then became very abusive (emotionally and physically). I even asked if he was having an affair before it was too late for me to decide whether I wanted to carry the baby or not. His reply 'You'd be sick in the head to think I would cheat on you while you are pregnant while we also have two young children.'. Yep, he was doing i the whole time and the woman knew I was pregnant too. She is a humanitarian aid worker (aka massive hypocrite) who said she knew I had two toddlers at home and she knew I was pregnant, but she was 'okay with that' as she 'wanted him'. I have to hand my children over to her at some point after giving birth on my own. I feel completely violated. I feel abused having to carry and give birth to a baby while they planned this and not being honest. My body, my pregnancy – I had no say in this as I was kept in the dark. I feel this is a form of abuse.