“Divorce isn’t a tragedy. A tragedy is staying in an unhappy marriage and teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died from divorce.” ~ Jennifer Weiner
I feel like I need to preface this by saying I didn’t do my divorce journey perfectly—and just like our parents told us to do as they say, not as they do—I believe reading this will be helpful and make it easier for those couples who are teetering on the edge.
Like most people, I have good intentions, and my goal was never to hurt anyone. So even when the love was gone—telling the person that I had shared my life with for seven years, that I no longer wanted to be together—was incredibly difficult, if not heartbreaking. Add children and a mortgage into that and it was overwhelming!
I wasn’t just making the choice for myself and my spouse, but for my children as well. At one point in my journey to divorce, I remember standing on a beach by myself and telling myself, “Okay, you’ve had your fun, now it’s time to go back home and do what you’re supposed to do, to be a mother.”
That lasted a week… okay, actually I think it lasted less than that, because I wasn’t being honest with myself.
Children are not a reason to try to stay in a marriage. If trust has been lost, or if the love is gone, we owe it to ourselves and our children to make the healthiest choice possible (which isn’t always the easiest thing to do!)
If we ask ourselves—would we want our children to have a relationship like we do right now—and we are shaking our head no, then why are we in it?
Here are a few lessons I learned on how to end a marriage with integrity and stay friends.
Don’t take the escape hatch.
This can be the hardest thing not to do. Many of us don’t like conflict, myself included, and hiding from our problems can make them seem like maybe they will go away on their own—out of sight, out of mind.
Hiding from our marital problems can include working late or over scheduling ourselves. This tactic can also include drugs, alcohol, and even cheating. I admittedly tried a few of these, and none of them worked—even attending yoga classes seven days a week didn’t make things better.
I actually made things worse. I couldn’t escape, or distract myself from the issues at hand, because each morning the issues were still there. It’s a hard thing to finally say that I was going to deal with it head on—not because of any other reason, or person, other than myself. Just my wants, my desires, my unhappiness.
Endings aren’t supposed to be easy, but we owe it to ourselves to do it honestly, and as soon as we know that it needs to end. Dragging out the inevitable will only make it more difficult for all those involved.
Make a plan.
Once we know the end is imminent, a plan needs to be made. This is best done before having any sort of talks with our partner. There is nothing worse than declaring the marriage is over, only to go back into the rest of the house after the conversation wondering: Well now what?
This happened to me, more than once, and it was an awful feeling. I had finally made the decision to move forward, but yet the physicality of the situation didn’t change.
Living arrangements usually are the most difficult topic. Decide which person will leave the house, or apartment, and think of making a temporary child custody plan—even if one parent has to leave the house while the other comes to visit. Once we have determined where we, and possibly our children will live immediately after, that’s half the battle! A plan will save stress and unneeded confusion, and if at all possible, having the children remain in their current home would be beneficial in establishing new routines and stability.
Honesty is the best policy.
This is easier said than done and it may sound idealistic but it is so very deeply true. If there are any thoughts that the marriage could be saved, and there is still love, then at this point each partner needs to share their deep concerns about the marriage, and see if counseling might work. Counseling is not for everyone, and I think each person knows deep down whether the relationship they are in can benefit from this type of therapy, or not.
If counseling is not the way to go then this is not the time to point out the dirty dishes in the sink and the fight you had three months ago. Keep things simple and direct—using as many “I” statements, versus “You” statements as possible. For example, it really can come down to: “I am not in love with you anymore, nor will I never be again. It’s over.”
There is no need to name-call, or to try to make the other person see our point of view. The goal is to be upfront and honest without purposely or intentionally trying to hurt the other person.
Don’t fall into the blame game.
None of us wants to be at fault, and usually we aren’t raising our hands, saying: “Yup, my marriage ended because of me!”
At this point, a plan has been made about what living arrangements will look like, and hopefully an honest and direct conversation has taken place stating that the marriage is over. This is not the time to start telling our husband or wife about all the things they did to make us mad or their disgusting habits or even insulting their intelligence, even as appealing as that might seem at times.
We don’t need our ex to see things our way, nor do we need to have them agree with us. The rest we can just let go of. We have to start by forgiving ourselves, and then our partners; if we can move forward with the ideal that we are all just doing the best we can, then we will find each day gradually becomes easier.
Let the dust settle.
This is the stage where those of us who hide from conflict will start coming out of our shell again.
If both parties used attorneys then a court date can be set within a few months, and all correspondence can take place between them. But there is another way—I wrote up the divorce agreement for my ex and I, and neither of us had attorneys. I had no desire to take him for all he was worth, or to make it seem like he was a horrible father to a judge, because he isn’t. As cliché as it sounds, I wanted a nice divorce. I didn’t want yelling and chaos.
The day that we had our hearing we got there around the same time, sat next to each other and chit chatted about the children. When we got called in to court we sat next to each other and made fun of the craziness around us. We divorced as friends.
At the end of the day it’s not about who is at fault—although I’d venture to say in most divorces it’s probably 50/50—if we are honest with ourselves. Getting divorced is not about making the other person pay or suffer, or getting the pity votes from friends and family. It’s about deciding on an ending, so that a new beginning can take place.
Things won’t happen instantaneously—it will take time to develop a new relationship with our ex, but it is possible. The bottom line is, just because we don’t love them anymore doesn’t mean we have to stop respecting them.
My ex has come a long way—he is a much better father, and sincerely in my heart of hearts, I wish him nothing but the best. That includes the love of a woman who is much better suited for him than I ever was. It really just comes down to choosing to be friends with our ex because we want to.
As with any friendship, if we don’t make a conscience choice to do it, then it probably won’t happen. As simplistic as it sounds, a lot of good can come from treating our ex how we would like to be treated—that starts setting the standard and expectations for the new post-divorce relationship.
Divorce isn’t easy, and no matter how “nice” of a divorce we get, there will still be bumps and disagreements. But that’s life, and we have to remember that we can only control our own actions and choices—not those of others.
Then make the conscience choice to just let the rest go.
Author: Kate Rose
Assistant Editor: Yoli Ramazzina / Editor: Catherine Monkman
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