Pain is a natural, built-in element of divorce. The relationship that once filled you with joy, love and hope now elicits feelings of resentment, sadness, and loss. Your sense of identity and security as one half of a couple gives way to questions like, “How can I be a mom, work, and be happy all on my own?” and “Where is my life headed now?”
Answering the questions raised when a marriage ends is even harder with children. You know you don’t want your kids to get hurt, but you’re in a lot of pain yourself. While an amicable split can be confusing for kids, doing your best to part ways in a civil manner ensures that you’ll be better able to co-parent in the long run.
Amicable divorce does sound like an ironic oxymoron of sorts. After all it is a safe bet that problem solving was not a strong point in the marriage so developing these skills after marriage may seem like a lofty goal. Nonetheless it is possible and there are steps you and your ex-spouse can take together to help everyone involved move on a little more easily.
Steps you can each take for an amicable divorce
Address your emotional pain – If you’re mired in feelings of anger or betrayal, it makes sense that you’d rather lash out than sort through the dissolution of your marriage with your once-partner. Maybe you’re so focused on avoiding conflict with your ex that you push feelings away. Ignoring emotions might seem like a quick fix, but they almost always pop up later on and cause problems. Naturally, we tend to seek support from our family and friends who are usually quite level headed when it comes to providing balanced feedback and guidance. This time you find that they too are filled with vitriol towards your ex and your discussions cause you to feel more alone. This is likely a good time to speak with a neutral therapist who can help you grieve in healthy ways can keep anger and other immediate, difficult feelings from delaying the process of finding peace. For many, understanding the process of loss and normalizing their circular negative thoughts and feelings can bring understand and a sense of relief. Depending on the circumstances of the divorce (trust issue, having an affair, etc), people can experience symptoms akin to trauma as they need to discuss the event or situation repeatedly. Our thoughts can get stuck in negative circular loops as we try to make sense of a problem/situation that will not make sense no matter how hard we try i.e. “we have been married for 20 years, how could he betray me and have an affair”. Not knowing that is a part of the healing process can cause anxiety, depression and overwhelm. Working through these issues and others that keep you stuck emotionally will help you approach divorce from a more pragmatic, less emotional perspective and will prepare you for the next step.
Consider mediation before litigation – Based on an MSNBC article, the average cost of litigation can be upwards of $77,746 while mediation fees are more than 90% cheaper at $6,600. The “battle” of litigation usually represents the antithesis of an amicable divorce, at least in the early stages. Mediation lends itself to a more collaborative process where agreements can be hashed out expeditiously, providing both parties are somewhat flexible.
Keep calm and move along – This of course is not easy but the better you are able to stay practical vs. emotional, the faster agreements can be made. It’s important to be in-tune with your emotions as well as your motivation for what you are asking for. Measure the cost/benefit in what you are asking for. Do you want really want half of his collection of vintage baseball hats or is her silver tea serving set something you just can’t part with? Sometimes the hurt comes back and we find ourselves engaged in old patterns of negative behaviors; many times passive aggressive. This is exceedingly important to be aware of when it comes to child custody. Children are already doing their best to understand and cope with the many changes divorce brings. It is profoundly unhealthy for children when they are used as weapons against one another. Keeping your feelings at bay while being as practical as possible will help encourage your ex to follow suit and further your chances for an amicable divorce.
Keep your eyes forward and regain your sense of you as an individual — Accepting that your marriage is over takes time. Bitterness and resentment although completely understandable, can weigh you down and keep you from looking forward with hope. Getting in touch with “you” after being in touch with “we” for so long, can be challenging but also has many upsides. You will persevere and along the way, you will regain a sense of personal strength, power, and confidence. One chapter of your life has closed but another chapter is just beginning and the best part about that is, you get to write it.