Community//

The Ex-Factor

What was that song Tammy Wynette sang? “Our D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today. Me and little J-O-E will be goin' away!” Yes, that’s it.

Then, there was the Billy Connelly version, “Our little dog is six years old, and he’s smart as any damn kid,  But when you mention the V.E.T. he damn near flips his lid.”

Having been divorced for some years, and, although it still resonates with me as  harrowing experience, I can say without hesitation, I  prefer to laugh about it, rather that bathe in infuriating, mawkish sentiment. 

So, how is the state of divorce in the 21st century?  Let me throw a few statistics at you.  The ones recorded by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, during the divorce process.  They’re from 2017, the latest I could find.   

There were 101,669 divorces of opposite-sex couples in England and Wales in 2017, a decrease of 4.9% compared with 2016, but similar to the number seen in 2015 (101,055).  Not sure why figures like these have a tendency to go up or down. Could be anything, from sheer boredom in the marriage thing, or a change in the weather?   Anyway, I’m positive about one thing, what figures don’t show,  is the emotional upheaval, of getting a divorce.  

If you’re anything like me, you had, or will have, a wide range of emotions after divorce.  One day, you may feel excited about your new-found freedom, while the next, could find you moping around the house, mourning the loss of the life you used to have. You’ll go through, what is understood to be, the stages of a divorce.

First, there’s denial, where you find it hard to believe this is happening to you. 

Then, shock will hit you.  Here, you panic, have bouts of rage, and a numbness that is not easy to shift. 

The next phase, the rollercoaster ride, isn’t as much fun, as it might sound.  Depression is a danger at this stage, where you are crowded in, with dark thoughts.  

After that angst,  you’ll wake up with a positive solution.  Flashing right in front of you, is a ten foot high neon sign, reading, “Our marriage can be restored!”  This is known as, the bargaining stage.  I’ll tell you now, don’t hold your breath.  

Eventually you go to stage five, letting go.  You’ve come to realise the inevitable, that there is nothing you can do, or say to change things.  

After that, the happy day arrives, when the obsessive thoughts have stopped, and, you feel the need, to leave your marriage behind you.  The neon sign “Next stop! A fulfilling life,” is the one, flashing in front of you, this time.  That, my friends, is stage six, and is called acceptance.   

If you don’t go through any of those stages, by the way,  but instead, go straight to acceptance, then very well done you.  At this point, whether it going through the six stages, or not, the time’s right for you, to throw in your, ‘get out of jail free’ card.

After your divorce, the other thing that might crop up in your mind,  is how friends and relatives will react.  One thing you will notice, is how several friends seem to vanish into thin air or become distant.   You may get the cold shoulder from his/her friends, but that’s something to be expected.  Look on it this way.  These people have no idea how to handle the situation, so in their mind, the best solution they can come up with, is to blank you.

In essence, there are really only two things that can happen.  Either, they’ll keep up a relationship with you, or they won’t.  It’s a simple as that.  Don’t, whatever you do,  spend hours asking yourself the question, “why am I greeted with icy stares?” It’s a waste of time.  Seems to me, if these people think so little of you that they ignore you, they weren’t your friends anyway.  

With any luck, once the ties are broken, you can walk away from this situation and kick-start your life.  You won’t have any reason to see your ex, unless there are children.  This may mean you have to visit your old family home.  A point here is, however much it may gall you, you must, at all costs, avoid talking badly to your offspring, about the other parent, or blaming the individual.  That’s even if, you’re fuming inside, from the way things have turned out.

Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on UnsplashA divorce, after all,  is hard on everyone involved, especially the children.   In that case, you have to make sure they feel loved.  Not just one of you, but both parents.  Working together, to create a stable, calm environment for your children, is your goal.  It’s a tricky process, especially if there’s acrimony between both of you, but it can reap results.  Over time, things will be calmer as all of you see everything, becoming a familiar routine.

Next question then is, what should the relationship be like between you and you ex?  Is it kissy-kissy pals, or machetes at dawn?  Well, the answer is, how long is a piece of string.  It seems almost cliché to hate your ex.  It’s set in stone, that you are not allowed to be friends, and care about a person, because you divorced them, or they divorced you.

It’s up to you then, if you fall in line with the cliche or find another way.  You can, if you want, go out of your way to be pals, even though you were badly shafted, in the divorce settlement.  On the flip side of that coin, if you were the one who did the shafting, then maybe you can walk around looking smug?  Not something, I’d advise though.  

Most of us, ‘un-smugnees’ find smugness, distasteful.  It’s my belief that smug people, believe inherently in their own superiority, and have serious, insecurity issues.   So, unless you’re working simultaneously, on plans for world domination, leave the smug look for the privacy of a padlocked room, with the curtains drawn.

Maybe, best to forget the pal thing, and get on with living your life? After all, you’ll never be ‘real,’ friends with your ex, will you?  We’re not all perfect, forgiving gods,  just ordinary people.  That means, for most of us, remaining friends with an ex,  is simply a way to keep him or her, in your life a little longer.  Does that sound like a good idea?  My vote is no.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty then shall we?  ‘Apres-divorce,’  should be about repairing the damage.  First thing to do, is to look after you.    Spend as much time as you like, loving yourself?  It may be the hardest thing you’ll ever have done, but it’ll be worth it.  Let’s face it, you’ve just had a truly, harmful experience.  One, unless you’re a complete masochist, you, no way, want to go through again.  Get yourself right, then you can face the world, and if you have to, your ex, with confidence, and, an un-smug smile!

Oh yes, and, good luck!

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