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5 Things That Changed My Divorce

Look, I know that divorce, generally speaking, isn’t a positive experience, but in many ways it can be. Let me explain. Clearly, you’re divorcing for a reason. You didn’t work well together anymore and the marriage felt like a business relationship or the fighting was overwhelming, you were starting to hate each other, or maybe there was abuse of the physical or psychological variety. People divorce for all kinds of reasons. But doing something to improve an untenable situation or a circumstance that is negatively impacting any children involved is a positive.

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So, now that you’ve decided to separate, how can you make it as positive as possible? Well, being in the thick of separation and divorce, I’ve experienced a thing or two and have nailed down five things that changed my situation from negative to as positive as possible, given the circumstances. Maybe what I’ve learned can help you? Check it out:

1. Think of the kids first.

That doesn’t mean act like a jerk and tell yourself you’re doing it for the kids, that means realize that acting like a jerk at all is not in your kids’ best interest. Stop telling yourself it’s the other person’s fault, even if you feel like they wronged you in a monumental way and the divorce is their fault. How you act now is your fault, and arguing with their dad or mom is not beneficial to anyone. Even if you are absolutely certain you are justified in being angry, just stop. It doesn’t matter anymore. You no longer need to be right, you need to do right by your children. If you think of your children first, before you speak, before you act, you will behave in a much calmer, positive way.

2. Choose your battles and choose wisely.

A lot of people going through divorce make the mistake of hyper-focusing on issues they tell themselves are super important for their kids, but the truth is they just want to “win” the fight with their ex. I’m going to divulge a divorce detail here that I’ve never mentioned before. When my ex Serge and I decided to separate, I instinctively wanted to return to my home state of Utah. That’s where I’m from and that’s where my family and friends all live. We currently live in Pennsylvania near his family, so he obviously wanted to remain here. Our kids are all young and have yet to start school, so I felt like the time was right to move and get them settled in Utah where I hoped to raise them with Serge’s help. He and I had lived in Utah for four years before moving to Pennsylvania and he enjoyed it, so I was really pushing for all of us to move back there as it was also a place I knew I could very easily get a solid job in local news.

While I was still angry ... I also realized that, like me, he was only doing what he felt was best for the kids.

He absolutely refused to leave Pennsylvania. It got really bad, to the point that we were only speaking via email, attorneys were called and custody exchanged in a most impersonal fashion. It was easily the most awful period of my life. In the end, I stepped back and thought really, really hard about all of it.

I realized how easily divorce turns so awful for people because I was experiencing my own stunningly crappy divorce in spite of previously promising myself and my husband it was going to be as positive as I could make it. But here we were acting like jerks, arguing about everything, consulting attorneys, threatening court action.

This was not who I am.

So I stopped. Cancelled my consultation with an attorney, agreed to raise the kids in Pennsylvania and refocused my energy on getting a job and renting a home here.

With that one decision, all the drama stopped. While I was still angry that Serge had blocked a move I felt was in our collective best interest, financially and otherwise, I also realized that, like me, he was only doing what he felt was best for the kids. I had to let go of the anger. It was hard. It still bubbles up from time to time, but he’s such a good dad to our kids that it just doesn’t matter. The kids are the most important thing here and now, and by letting go of my desire to move home to Utah, we are able to parent as a team and do things together for the sake of our children.

I strongly urge you to reevaluate the arguments that are making your divorce bad, and if you can, step back and let the other person “win.” Sure, I didn’t want to live in Pennsylvania but I’m finding more positives all the time. I live in a gorgeous neighborhood with cool people, landed a great job that I love, have taken up cycling in an area that's unparalleled in beauty when it comes to riding through the countryside, and my daughter recently started a top notch elementary school. In the end, it’s working out. If I can let go of such a seemingly important decision as where to raise my kids, you can certainly find it within you to let go of your major points of contention.

3. Never, ever bad-mouth your ex in front of your children.

As a child of an extremely contentious, awful divorce during which both parents said horrible things about each other in an effort to sway our opinion of them, I can tell you that the one doing the bad-mouthing is the one who loses. Kids aren’t dumb; they see through that kind of crap. You saying horrible things about their other parent hurts them beyond belief, and you’re the one that ends up looking terrible. Remember that. If the other parent spends a lot of time talking trash about you just smile and tell your kids you’ll always love their mom/dad because you wouldn’t have your kids without him/her. Period. Even if your kids don’t get it now, they will someday, and they will be grateful that at least one parent managed to maintain civility during divorce.

Stop trying to win, stop needing to be right, just focus on your kids and positivity.

4. Always wait overnight before responding to something that upset you.

I’ve learned this one the long, hard way. For most of my life, I’ve reacted immediately and was the kind of person who speaks before thinking — and I always, always regret it. Recently, I have learned to bite my tongue and it has done wonders for me. A majority of the time, I let whatever is on my mind go because I realize it just isn’t that important in the grand scheme of this new relationship I’m working hard to build with Serge. We get along better than ever, and it’s because we both work at being respectful and kind, and at not bringing up nonsense would upset that balance. It’s not worth it. Our kids are always watching and, to be honest, I still love and care about Serge and don’t want to hurt him in any way, if I can help it.

5. Play the kindness game.

This is a little game I made up with myself during the time we were moving out of our shared home and into our own, separate houses, and it was such a success that I’ll pass it along. Even though I was still angry at Serge for various reasons, I told myself he could have anything he wanted in our divorce.

When you stop and really think about it, no silly possession is worth the argument that might take place over it. So many people get so caught up in arguing over bullshit: the flat-screen TV, a car, even the house. Take a page out of Elsa’s book and LET IT GO. Because, really? You can’t just go buy a new TV, eventually? Even if you have to move and give your spouse the house, so what? Just like I’m finding positives about living in Pennsylvania, unexpected positives will start popping up when you choose a new path. Plus, the unknown is exciting! View it as a new adventure in your life! Don’t fight to keep possessions and stay the same, explore new unchartered territory and use your separation as an opportunity to find a new you.

To win at the kindness game, offer to give everything to your significant other. You want the couch? It’s yours! The car? Take it. Obviously you can’t give everything away, but I think you’ll see that not only do you feel a whole lot better about yourself but the kindness is contagious; the more generous you are, the more generous your spouse will be. During our separation, it got to the point where Serge and I were arguing over who would take things, but the opposite of how it usually goes down. You take this! No, you take it!

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I promise you that if you can flip the script, if you can start behaving in a way that makes you feel proud of yourself, regardless of how your spouse is behaving; your divorce will be far easier than it would have been otherwise. Stop trying to win, stop needing to be right — just focus on your kids and positivity. You will be a much better person for it and come out the other side, stronger and happier than ever.

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