One way or another, everyone must deal with the reality of divorce. Unfortunately, not all do so in a healthy or productive manner. Many approach the divorce with a mindset that not only invites more conflict into the situation, but exasperates their personal suffering. The following tips will teach you how to deal with divorce in a positive, productive manner.
General tips for dealing with divorce
Try to take a step back and look at things in the third person. Do your best to disassociate yourself and imagine the situation as if you were watching a movie. Narrate the different characters involved as if it were a script from a book. This is a longstanding psychological exercise that helps create a little distance between you and your painful feelings, and generally helps you see your current predicament a little more rationally, with less emotional involvement.
Dealing with divorce in a civil manner
“When you’re grappling with feelings of injustice, the call to be the most noble version of yourself is all the more difficult to answer.” – Pamela Weintraub (2011, p. 68)
Dealing with your ex in a noble way may not be easy, but it’s the only approach that will spare you and your children a great deal of additional suffering. So it’s important you adopt a positive mindset in dealing with the divorce:
A) Make a choice and commitment right now to be civil with your ex-partner from here on out, regardless of how they behave towards you. Remind yourself of the horrible damage that can come to kids when parents continue to bicker back and forth, and use this as motivation to rise above it. This doesn’t mean you allow yourself to be a doormat, but it does mean you have to make the choice to absorb any insults or injures that come your way without delivering them in return, and to show maturity in responding to someone who may act quite immature at times.
B) Understand that divorce causes hurt, and when people feel hurt, insecure or rejected, they tend to lash out. On the one hand, each of you needs to work hard to limit the verbal sparring and conflict between each other. It isn’t healthy for either of you. Yet at the same time, you also need to expect such reactions from time to time, and realize that the barbs thrown your way are more a consequence of the hurt and rejection the other person is feeling than they are a personal insult against you.
When people feel hurt, they lash out. When people feel control slipping away, they attempt to regain it – often through abusive means. When they’re insecure or defensive, they may attack others without provocation. Recognize this ugliness for what it is: A hurt, injured person lashing out, and don’t perpetuate the cycle by delivering a barb in return.
Get specific tips that will help you maintain your cool in our Divorce eBook.
Guidelines for dealing with your ex during divorce
A) Recognize your ex as a complex person with unique strengths and weaknesses
Human beings are categorical thinkers. We like to take a complex world and look at it in the simplest possible terms, deducing everything into basic groups and categories. But while this may save us the task of in-depth thinking, it usually does us a great disservice when we apply this type of thinking to people.
When others have done something we find hurtful, we tend to start down the path of devilifying them. They’re now all evil, or all bad, or an all out enemy. Part of this is due to our natural tendency to think categorically. The other part is a psychological defense mechanism against the hurt. If others seem to be acting hostile towards us, it takes some of the sting away to think of them as evil. If Hitler doesn’t like you, most people wouldn’t lose sleep over it. But if Mother Theresa thinks you’re an evil witch, that hurts much more. So we tend to instinctually demonize those we disagree with.
Divorce is certainly rife with disagreement, and so you need to do all you can to try and avoid the urge to fall into this rut of categorical thinking. Doing so can add conflict to the situation, and it also fuels rumination and anger, neither of which is healthy for you.
Your ex is a complex person, equipped with their own unique strengths and individual weaknesses. When he or she does something irritating or hurtful, rather than telling yourself, “What a bad person he/she is,” make a conscious effort to change the conversation in your head to something along the lines of “My, this person certainly has some flaws they need to work on in this area.” Doing so will save yourself a lot of unnecessary anger and it will also help you deal with your ex in a more constructive way.
B) Don’t forget their good side
Remember all the reasons you had in originally choosing this person for a mate. Create a list if it will help. During the process of divorce, you’re certainly getting to know his or her shortcomings. But going out of your way to remind yourself of his or her good traits can help keep you from getting carried away with anger.
Other tips for dealing with divorce
A) Accept that different people have different perspectives
Respect the right of others to have a different opinion or a different view of the relationship. Just like children will experience the same family in their own unique ways, everyone you know will have their own unique perspective on the divorce. You’ll drive yourself nuts if you insist on trying to get everyone to see the situation in precisely the way you see it. Don’t feel a need to constantly correct everyone’s opinions.
The views of others will be formed on the basis of what they know, what they don’t know, what experiences they’ve had in the past (did they themselves once suspect a partner of cheating?), and most importantly, whatever allegiances they feel towards one spouse or the other.
Save yourself a lot of frustration by acknowledging right here and now that it’s not your job (nor a fruitful endeavor) to try and convince everyone else to see things your way and take your side. You can certainly try to explain your own perspective, but don’t drive yourself crazy worrying about what others think.