The very word ‘divorce’ conjures up all sorts of imagery, much like something out of the movie ‘War of the Roses’! And while it will be different for everyone, at some point both parties will experience a conflict of some sort.
So is it really possible to divorce with dignity?
Many couples separating will sail through the divorce process, having accepted the marriage was over long ago, while others will fight their way through it like two bitter enemies intent on only one person being left standing at the end.
For many of my clients going through a divorce, it isn’t a mutual decision and there will be one person left hurt and the other often not caring how it affects the left-behind spouse because they just want to get out now. When one spouse is not emotionally ready (usually my client) I would always advise them to ask the other person to take things slowly, so they can come to terms with the shock of it. I understand this isn’t always possible, especially when there is a third party involved and the other person has emotionally moved on some time before.
Betrayal is another area where high conflict will often inevitably rear its ugly head. It’s very difficult to be courteous to someone who has cheated and lied to you and this is where it’s important to find a way to ‘manage’ the situation. I believe with the right support you can absolutely have an amicable divorce.
Never underestimate how much a therapist or coach will help you to keep your emotions under control and give you the support and guidance you need.
My lawyer said to me near the end of it all that I had handled myself with dignity and it always made me feel super proud that I had. Don’t get me wrong there were times where I lost all control and sent a nasty text or email but for the most of it I behaved myself. I didn’t want my ex to have any ammunition to throw back at me – ever. I also knew that one day I’d look back and not be embarrassed or ashamed when we are at big family gatherings such as weddings and graduations.
How to divorce with dignity
To try and make things more amicable I suggest approaching your divorce from a mindful perspective. Be aware of the situation you are creating or if you are being pushed into it, don’t ever be afraid to ask your spouse for time to get your head around it all.
1. Make sure it’s what you both want
All relationships go through hard times so be sure it’s really what you both want. I would always advise if both parties aren’t 100% sure, then to give it 3 months with couples counselling if needed to decide if reconciliation is an option. Mediation may help work through any issues that can be overcome, perhaps where communication has broken down in the marriage. In some cases, it will be absolutely clear from the beginning that resolution is not an option.
2. Find your support team
Divorce is undoubtedly one of the worst life experiences to go through so don’t underestimate how much support you may need. Friends and family will be a big part of your recovery and also helpful when it comes to helping out with moving home, helping with kids and so on. You will at some point need legal advice so choose carefully who represents you and always make sure they have your best interests at heart. For the emotional aspect, many people benefit from having a therapist or coach to support and guide them. This comes in the form of unbiased, non-judgemental help to control emotional overwhelm, making plans for the future, finding lawyers and financial advisors and helping deal with children.
3. Put the kids first
Clients are often understandably worried about how much impact their divorce will have on their children. This can leave people with anxious thoughts like will it damage the children, dealing with life events such as Christmas and birthdays. While these are all valid reasons most of the time children are affected when parents are fighting and stuck in the middle feeling pulled from each direction. If you are dealing with conflict you must keep it away from the children as much as possible and while they may hear the odd argument or see you upset, it’s important that it’s not a daily occurrence or in the situation where they feel they have to choose between parents.
4. Be careful how you communicate
This can be difficult in the first few months due to high emotions, so do what works for you. In the beginning emailing can be a good option because it takes slightly longer, where firing back and forth on a text can be too easy and get out of hand quickly. Take time to answer emails and never fire back in anger. If you are angry about a situation, wait a day before answering, allowing emotions to calm down.
5. Embrace your new life
This may take time to become your new normal, however, divorce is not the end and in many cases when the dust has settled it is a chance to start over and live a life you love. Many clients, including myself, feel a sense of freedom and end up in better relationships, getting their independence back and going on to have better lives all around.
In the divorce process, some aspects will be completely out of your control, but planning ahead and thinking about how to take care of your mindset and emotional well-being is within your control. This is the greatest factor in improving your experience and influencing your outcome with your ex. If you do not know where to begin, work with a therapist or coach to teach you a model on how to do this and to support you in your journey.
To join the conversation and get support through your separation/divorce contact me through my website, www.debbierosecoaching.co.uk, or my free Facebook group Divorce with Dignity, and follow me on Instagram.