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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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.