There’s no way around it: divorce is a loss, and every loss hurts in its own way. Although it’s for the best and although you might have long anticipated it, it’s a natural human impulse to feel not only pain, but an entire spectrum of feelings when a relationship comes to an end. And a large part of what makes divorce so incredibly overwhelming and emotionally exhausting for everyone is that many of these feelings contradict each other.
As your life seems to head for an upside-down turn, the storm inside creates confusion that results in impulsive behavior, bad choices, and ultimately, regret. Choosing dignity is not easy – it means staying grounded, respectful, and in control of yourself. But it makes all the difference between a “messy” divorce and an experience that helps you grow and turn over a new leaf. Needless to say, it’s absolutely vital when kids are involved. Here are 5 key tips to help you handle your divorce with class and make it to the other side, stronger and happier.
In an effort to make sense of things, it’s natural to feel the impulse to seek blame, to punish, to take revenge. But underneath the surface, you’re trying to make sense of the love you once had. People often try to fight any positive feeling they associate with their spouse, fearing that kind, empathic feelings will only make the pain and guilt greater. But harboring feelings of resentment only brings more distress, anxiety, and pain into everyone’s lives – and it’s the heaviest burden in the world.
If you’re aware of this impulse, mindful, and introspective, you can identify it every time you give way to it. Stop in your tracks and visualize the other option. The alternative begins with trying to understand what you’re both feeling, what both parties did that contributed to a failing marriage, and which mistakes (particularly regarding communication) you don’t want to repeat.
This is especially important to note if you’re the one who wants to walk away and suggests divorce first. Take responsibility for your choice rather than trying to cover up the guilt by blaming your partner for everything. Look inward and focus on yourself – what you want from your new life and how you want to improve.
Being dignified is not about hiding the ugly emotions and trying to kill them off. Those emotions are there – and they’re valid. You might feel a rage you’ve never felt before, or a desire to hurt, manipulate, and be pitied. And that’s okay. But don’t let these emotions dictate your actions, for things will get uglier than you could ever imagine. Acknowledge them and deal with them in a healthy way – talk to a therapist or a trusted friend. Keep a journal, both to vent and to collect your thoughts. Take your time to identify what needs to be said and what’s just a desire to hurt. When it’s time to talk, express your emotions constructively.
This is extremely important, and it pertains to the previous point. Your trusted support person is a shoulder to cry on, but they’re not a therapist. They’re there to help you vent, listen, and give you the warmth of friendship.
But they’ll be emotionally invested in what you’re going through, and that’s why you need to set boundaries. Let them know that you’re trying to take the high road and that you don’t want toxicity. If they seem eager to bash on your ex or encourage you to “take every single penny”, tell them that that’s not helping you.
Don’t use the division of debts and assets to take revenge. Trust me, you won’t feel any better. You want to handle this with grace and dignity and that means being fair even when you’re really angry. Most importantly, know what matters to you and what doesn’t. For example, you’ll need to have a reasonable talk about who gets to keep the ring, which is an item of both emotional and monetary value, but there will be a ton of replaceable objects that you really don’t want to get petty about.
Tell your spouse that that’s your stance, stay true to your word, and stand your ground for the stuff that really does matter to you. Your behavior can encourage them to embrace the same philosophy so that you can together find the right compromise for the things that have value to you both.
Forgiveness takes time, but it’s something we nurture intentionally, bit by bit. Start with forgiveness on your mind, and cultivate the seed as time passes. The other side of pain – the side where your new life lies – is where you’ve forgiven yourself, your partner, and who you were together as a couple. Acknowledge the distress you caused each other, remember the moments you worked as a team, and forgive.
There are no winners or losers in this chapter, and you need to always keep that in mind. You’re just two humans faced with an experience that they can either use to trample over the relationship they once had, or to start over as better people.