The topic of divorce is hard for everyone, no matter what the specifics of the situation may be. It’s even harder for those couples that can’t seem to do it peacefully, the ones who argue, fight, and dig at each other the whole time, those that struggle even more to find an amicable divorce.
It’s easy to find faults in your ex, especially now that you’re both parting ways and dealing with the divorce process. During the divorce process, and afterward, it’s easy to judge, blame, or speak poorly of them behind their back or in front of your kids. It seems natural to raise your defenses during this season and attack preemptively before they attack you. While these tendencies may seem normal, they aren’t healthy or wise.
The increased fighting and shaming that often trails in the wake of divorce is neither productive nor necessary. In fact, it’s usually quite damaging for everyone involved, even the children. Even though divorce creates one of the most difficult seasons of life you’ll ever experience, it doesn’t mean we should lose our senses, our perspective, our goals, our self-respect and our respect for others.
Even in divorce, you can find a level of clarity, accountability, healthy compromise, cooperation, respect, and even mutual affirmation. It’s up to each one of us to make choices that help us end well, decisions that honor our own character and bring about a speedy, uncomplicated, honorable conclusion to a difficult situation, one that affects us, our ex, and our children. With this in mind, let’s look now at a few choices that can help you have a cordial and peaceful divorce.
Mutual Acceptance and Accountability
While there are extreme and terrible circumstances involving an abusive spouse or betrayal through infidelity, occasions where the primary conflict or problems stem more from one side of the relationship, most failed marriages aren’t the fault of just one person but a mix of the two, a combination of all the individual words and actions taken during your time together.
For most of us, it’s easy to find fault in others while completely missing our own. We like to point fingers, take issue with so many things, blame our problems on those around us, especially our partners. We see their mistakes clearly while barely registering a hint of our own. This habit only makes the issue and process of divorce and the need for healing and growth that follows, exponentially more difficult.
It’s important to remember that each of us is responsible for our own decisions within every relationship. This is certainly true in our marriages. As people, we make good and bad choices alike, say things we wish we could take back, start fights we’d rather undo, dig our heels in and let our stubbornness and nearsightedness take over.
Fight this tendency. If you want a cordial, even peaceful divorce, choose from the beginning to operate with respect, acceptance of your own faults as well as theirs, and approach each conversation with humility and confidence.
When it comes to the long season of rebuilding that follows divorce, accepting your own shortcomings and responsibility in your life and relationships is necessary for healing to occur. Without it, you stay stuck, playing the same old records of blame and shame in your head instead of moving through acceptance and the process of rebuilding, both for you and your children. With each of you choosing to see things clearly, you’ll both make decisions that lead to a healthier, calmer separation and a more fruitful time afterward.
Prioritize the Well-Being of Your Children
No matter how things go down, with lots of conflict and lawyers or with a mediator during a kitchen-table divorce, so much conflict between you and your spouse really weighs down on our children. With so many details to focus on, and so many changes happening suddenly, it’s easier than you might think to neglect the needs and the well-being of your children.
As confusing and tumultuous as divorce is for you and your spouse, it is often even worse for your children. They’re too young to understand certain things, to make sense of conflict and gain any understanding of why you’re even divorcing in the first place. Children often blame themselves for their parents’ separation, especially when their mother and father aren’t talking about it with them.
Children need you right now, more than ever. Be open with them. Help them open up about their worries and fears. Answer their questions. Give them the freedom to get angry and sad, to express themselves and to seek understanding.
Make sure you do everything you can to maintain healthy patterns in their life. This is key to giving your children a sense of continuity and stability. Keep their schooling and their extra-curricular activities going. Things like sports, music, social events, community activities, and time with friends will help them feel grounded, normal, and provide them outlets for frustration and emotions, along with reinforcing the truth that even with their parents divorcing, there are still things that won’t change in their world.
It’s a complex and difficult situation for them. Take your child’s concerns seriously. Listen attentively. Listen completely without interrupting. They don’t have the perspective you do. They need you now, to be strong and humble, to provide leadership and direction along with openness and encouragement.
Try Mediation Instead of Litigation
When you divorce, it’s almost always a good choice to seek the counsel of an experienced divorce lawyer. Sometimes, though, if both spouses are able to work together, a professional mediator might be the right partner and guide during this time.
Once in a while, spouses are able to put aside their differences and their desire to control everything and allow a mediator to guide them through a peaceful transition. When this happens, most couples work out the majority of divorce-related matters using a kind of kitchen-table divorce method, from custody and schedules, to the division of assets and debts, divorce papers, certain time pressures, and modes of communication, simply by discussing their wants and needs with one another and with their mediator, then filling out the details of their plans and submitting them to the courts for review.
This collaborative process can save both of you a great deal of time, stress, and money, and allows each of you to move on in good faith, with a strong foundation of respect and cooperation in place that not only helps the two of you, but keeps things more at ease and more “normal” for your kids.
Choose Respect and Kindness
During the difficult time that is divorce, emotions run high for the entire family. We feel defensive, backed into a corner and we want out. These intense emotions, usually fueled by very real conflicts, can damage our ability to hear and understand one another.
People often respond to disappointment, sadness, and anger by bad-mouthing their spouse in front of their kids, talking negatively about them with friends and family, blaming them for everything, and generally treating them terribly when they are with their ex. This doesn’t do anything for you except make things worse and makes it harder to reach an amicable divorce.
Both of you will walk away with greater animosity, more confusion, and even fewer solutions than you went in with. It’s normal to be disappointed, deeply hurt and angry. Divorce is incredibly painful for most of us. It changes the way we see our entire life. But choosing to throw all our frustration and heartache back on someone else simply because they make the easiest target will only make your divorce more difficult. It will also destroy your ability to see yourself clearly, make it incredibly difficult to work together in raising the kids, and damage the healing process that each of you needs to walk through.
Practice mindfulness when it comes to your attitude and behavior, watching your reactions, the condition of your heart, and your intentions. Divorce hurts. But we can make it easier by conducting ourselves with honor and dignity.
Agree on Communication Methods
This isn’t necessarily one that comes up for every divorcing couple, but it’s a great one to consider. We can save ourselves a lot of hassle and confusion and reach a more amicable divorce, simply by agreeing to use certain communication methods in specific ways and to do so respectfully.
You can agree to talk about certain things only in person or by phone, and others by email, so the distance and natural limitations of texting don’t get in the way of understanding and resolution.
You can agree to use one of several excellent apps geared toward responsible, transparent communication between exes and co-parents, like Our Family Wizard and Talking Parents, among several others. These offer an easy-to-use communication platform, several helpful features, and complete transparency, since most of the time, they don’t allow any messages to be altered or erased. This way, there is no confusion either way as to what was said.
These apps help parents organize their schedules, divide responsibilities, communicate about problems and last-minute emergencies, and remain accountable for everything they share with each other.
More deliberate communicatation removes a lot of undue conflict, clarifies aspects of separation, guardes your heart, makes allowances for variables and time pressures, and paves the way for better parenting.
Respect Each Other’s Individuality
You may have shared several years of marriage, family, and life together. However, this doesn’t mean you have the right to control each other’s lives. You’re separating, and each of you is entitled to pursuing the life you want in the way you want.
We don’t get to control our ex’s dating choices, their activities, their choice of friends, their individual assets, their jobs or vacations, their spending habits, or any other aspects of their private life. No matter what you think about their life, unless it directly and negatively affects your children, attempting to control their choices and experiences will only do harm, both to each of you and to your kids.
You’ve got to let go. Realize that neither of you wants to be controlled, that it only hurts you, and that if you take it too far, you can make your own court case and future more difficult for yourself. Choose instead to respect one another’s space and autonomy. Focus on the good things you have, on engaging with meaningful activities, connecting with friends and family, and building the future you want.
There are certainly other aspects of separation and things to consider when it comes to ensuring a peaceable divorce. But this should get you thinking about the kind of divorce and life you want to experience.
Remember to choose respect, both for yourself and your partner, no matter the occasion or the current level of conflict. Avoid petty disagreements and fights. Remain transparent and humble. Get counseling, mediation, and an excellent divorce lawyer if needed. Prioritize your kids, focus on your health and healing, and honor your ex’s autonomy in the same way you want to be honored.
Divorce is rough. But it can be a cordial, even affirming experience, if each of you chooses to do the right thing each day and in each interaction.
Torrone Law helps individuals and families find wholeness while navigating divorce, custody, adoption and more. Connect with us today to get your questions answered and discover the difference a caring, experienced divorce lawyer can make in your life.
To learn more about navigating divorce, check out our frequently asked questions below.
Why should I care about a cordial divorce?
We may be angry and not care how our ex feels or what they think, but this is a mistake. Each of us deserves respect and dignity. Giving in to fights, disrespect, gossip, and slander makes co-parenting, court proceedings, interactions, and individual healing so much more difficult.
Choosing to remain transparent and humble, along with taking responsibility for your own choices and culpability in the relationship can create an atmosphere of mutual openness and respect, leading to better divorce and parenting agreements, less stress, greater understanding, and a much healthier time after the dust settles.
What are some things to help me have a cordial divorce?
Agree to communicate in ways and in using methods that enlighten instead of veil information or emotions. Show respect, both in-person and apart, when you’re among others. Focus on your kids’ well-being and health. Use a mediator to work out your plans. Get counseling to ensure your own healing. Take responsibility for your own actions even while dealing with and healing from the pain of your ex’s choices and don’t try to control your ex’s life and decisions.
Discuss parenting together. Be flexible since life moves and changes a lot. Respect the fact that each of you has individual lives and are allowed to do what you want as long as it doesn’t harm the children. Surround yourself with good friends and trusted mentors, encourage your ex instead of tearing them down and seek the help of a great divorce lawyer.
Where can I find help and support during divorce?
Start by finding a great divorce attorney to help you through the process. A divorce attorney has a wealth of knowledge and experience helping others navigate these difficult situations, making sense of child custody, your financial situation, divorce papers, the divorce proceedings, what to do about an abusive spouse, grasping divorce litigation, getting a handle on your possible divorce settlement, the division of assets, and much more. They provide invaluable legal advice and direction when you need it most.
Get an experienced counselor to help you and your kids work through difficulties, navigate tough conversations, grapple with divorce litigation and its resulting fallout, and build a solid future. Spend time with good friends, those that affirm your better decisions and encourage you when you need it. Look for support and counsel from older mentors with similar experience.
Read books on emotional health during divorce, divorce mediation, mental health, various other topics of divorce. Give yourself a lot of time to mend. Do some traveling and enjoy activities and hobbies that bring you joy. Consider a life coach to help you redefine your goals and explore your dreams.
Also, check out several blogs dedicated to helping individuals understand various topics of divorce as simple as filling out divorce papers and walking through a kitchen-table divorce, to more complex matters of communication and of the heart and mind, and finding a more meaningful life. Also, consider joining a support group for divorced people or single parents.