In my last blog post, I shared how I have been applying a key idea to parenting after divorce. It occurred to me that the same point applies to deciding to divorce and going through the divorce process. The key is:
“You don’t have to like the outcome, but you do have to like yourself in the process.”
Here’s how I applied that idea to my divorce decision and kept it active during the subsequent divorce process.During the years when I struggled with the decision of whether or not to divorce, I didn’t want divorce to be the outcome as I’ve written before. But after trying everything I could think of, I concluded that my health and well-being, and that of my children, was more important than the specific outcome I desired. No matter what I wanted, I needed to divorce. But having arrived at my decision as I did, I respected the process – and myself – despite not liking to be the one making the decision or the outcome of the process.
As we moved into the divorce process, I kept that same idea in mind, revised slightly for the circumstances: “You don’t have to like every decision, but you do have to like yourself in the divorce process.”
What that looked like for me including 3 main categories:
- Identifying and articulating what the kids and I needed. Separating needs from wants – and asking for what I wanted – and putting the kids’ well-being front and center were important in determining our divorce settlement agreement and parenting plan. Communicating amicably with my then-husband, was also important. He wasn’t the enemy here, and I didn’t want to turn him into one. I did want someone in my court, though, so I also hired an attorney. He chose not to do so, but I still took his needs and wishes into consideration as we prepared the papers and worked out the details.
- Not giving away the store to keep the peace. That meant speaking up and being willing to stand firm on crucial issues, if needed, despite my tendency to give in to avoid conflict. It was more important that the kids be taken care of and I’d done what I could rather than ending up resentful and angry. I know several divorced moms who harbored resentment toward their former husbands for years for coercing them into giving up more than they had to by using things like parenting time as leverage or hiring high-pressure attorneys who used intimidation tactics. One divorced mom I know was so afraid that she wouldn’t get custody of her daughter that she gave up the home they had built with her inheritance to her former husband and his new girlfriend. Another was on food stamps while her former husband lived the high life with the income he hid from the attorneys (and the IRS) at settlement. A third found herself unable to put food on the table during the divorce process because her then-husband quit his high-earning job and took work as a used car salesman to avoid having to pay ongoing child support. I didn’t want to wind up in the same situation, knowing I would have primary parenting (and financial) responsibilities.
- Accept the outcome and focus on the positives. I didn’t get everything I had hoped for, especially a specific financial arrangement that would have been a big plus over the past few years. My attorney said the court would not accept the proposal, and so I had to accept it, too (and the longer term implications). I chose to do so with civility (after some initial frustration!) and to keep the focus on the many things that went well.
My divorce went as smoothly as I think was possible with kids involved. This isn’t just because of me–my former husband’s cooperation was essential. But looking back on that stressful period, I believe keeping that one key point in mind helped. While divorce is not the outcome I wanted at the outset, I acted in ways that allowed me to like myself throughout the process. And that made recovery easier, too.