Saturday, January 10, 2009


If one of your New Year's resolutions is to shed yourself of your less-than-better-half, you may find this information helpful. As someone determined to hang onto my mate, because I know a good man when I've trained, bitch-slapped found one, reading through this helps me when I occasionally need that extra motivation to put the gun down dig my heels in and make it work.

Reading these tips reminds me how difficult divorce can be, how potentially devastating an impact on one's emotional, physical and financial wellbeing.

Sometimes, of course, divorce is the only way to free oneself of a destructive partner. But sometimes we just get tired of trying or we fantasize about a newer, shinier replacement model (or maybe one whose idea of doing the dishes includes a wipe down of the counters and stove top.)

My inspiration for this post: I attended a luncheon for psychologists a while back. The speaker was an attorney who specializes in "collaborative" divorce, a concept and a practice that makes so much sense. Immense good sense when children are involved. I was very impressed with the thoughtful planning and systemmatic effort used to mitigate the negative impact of divorce, especially on the children.

Collaborative divorce is designed to minimize the acrimony. To eliminate the standard scene: two lawyers, at opposite ends of the city, firing settlement offers back and forth, with ever escalating harsh demands. To minimize the much feared, seemingly unavoidable, endlessly rising legal bills.

Collaborative divorce is a system that helps both sides of the table stay calm and negotiate cooperatively. To figure out what each party wants most and move forward from there. Usually (if either party has a wit of healthy parenting instinct) that involves protecting the kids from unnecessary nastiness.

I went to the attorney's webpage the other day to get some information. I retrieved some sensible advice for people contemplating or going through a divorce.


Top Ten Things to Remember During a Divorce to Maintain Your Sanity

1. Take care of yourself physically. Find a way to release stress, move your body and clear out your mind. Yoga, exercise and meditation are great resources.

2. “Fair” is a matter of perspective. What seems fair to you may not seem fair to your spouse or your children. No one is objectively right or wrong about what is or is not fair.

3. Wishing things or people were not the way they are is a tremendous waste of time and energy. Instead, focus on changing what you can change.

4. For things to change, first you must change. That means do something differently, even if it is only changing the way you relate to some piece of information.

5. Your life and your divorce are different from your neighbors’, your friends’ and your brother’s life and divorce. What worked for them may or may not work for you. Take their well-meaning advice as information only.

6. When you forgive someone else, you are helping yourself more than you are helping them. Harboring resentments is like taking poison while hoping that it will cause someone else to die.

7. Acknowledge and work through your feelings. Your emotions are your body’s way of moving energy. The more you push emotions away, the more powerful and overwhelming they become.

8. The only thing we can really count on is that things change. When things are the way you want them, be grateful, because they are going to change. When things are not the way you want them, be grateful that they will also change.

9. Treat yourself kindly and accept kindness from others. Allow others to do for you what you would do for them if they needed it.

10. Live up to your own standards. The right thing to do is the right thing to do, regardless of how anyone else is acting.

Top Ten Practical Things to Remember When Going Through a Divorce

1. Make sure you're physically safe. Courts can issue restraining orders and protective orders, but they're just pieces of paper. If you feel that you and/or your children are physically unsafe, call the authorities.

2. Take care of yourself physically. Find a way to release stress, move your body and clear out your mind. (Redundant? There's a reason. It's that important. More to come in a later post).

3. Find an attorney who fits your style and personality. Remember, you're the boss. Your attorney should tell you your options, explain the consequences and costs of each choice, then let you decide what to do next.

4. Get very clear on how you will pay your living expenses when you are no longer married. If you need education, find out where to get it, how long it will take and how much it will cost. If you need to change jobs or get a job, do that before you are desperate for money, if possible.

5. Learn as much as you can about your financial situation before you separate. Make copies of old records, go through the files, consult your accountant.

6. Treat the financial aspects of your divorce as a business decision. Cut your losses, optimize your gains.

7. Join or create a support group. Family, friends, church members, colleagues, neighbors -- anyone except your children. There are churches, therapists and other professionals who run divorce support groups. Find the same thing for your children. Many school counselors run ongoing groups for students whose parents are divorced or divorcing.

8. Look at the big picture. It is easy to get caught up in small matters that are irritating now, but that won't make a difference to your life in the long run. Don't sweat the small stuff.

9. Encourage your children to have a positive relationship with their other parent. When they go to his or her house, tell them to have a good time. Don't talk bad about the other parent to the children or in front of the children. (Note from me: This point cannot be over stated. It is crucial. Allow your children to enjoy as positive and normal an experience with the other parent as possible).

10. Avoid doing anything that you don't want your spouse to know about. Chances are, he or she will find out one way or another.

All pictures shamelessly snagged from google searches, including this blog, divorcehim.


Mental P Mama said...

Always take the high road. Always.

Anonymous said...

So Many people I've known going through a divorce don't adhere to any other guide lines other than "get the bastard/bitch." Very sad. There must have been love there at some point, and there are generally children. What happens to respect, for each other and the children? It's a shame those guide lines you've quoted aren't somehow enforcible.

Margo said...

I pray we never go through this. I wanted to say that on the sanity keeping list, I think many of the concepts apply when going through any kind of broken relationship where their is a lot of emotion and hurt... at least for me and a situation a few years ago. Collaborative divorce sounds like a great idea...especially when both parties are into it.

laurie said...

not me! thank god. i went through a divorce a long time ago--before i was 30. one of those starter marriages. never again.

but i have good friends who are trying to do a collaborative divorce right now, which sort of makes no sense to me. if they can collaborate so well, why can't they stay together?

Melissa said...

Point #6 in the first group is a good idea even if you aren't going through a divorce.

HP said...

Excellent points. Hope never to use them :)

Mary said...

I agree - Point number 6 in the first group is so essential - divorcing or not.

It is a lesson hard learnt for me.

shrink on the couch said...

mental P -- and why is it when so many get hurt they immediately take the low road?

brigit -- right, and it usually takes two. what I like about collaborative, there is a constant emphasis on focusing on what is best for the children. helps to steer them away from those vengeance motives.

margo -- yes, marriage can be substituted for any serious relationship

laurie -- I would think that some collaborative processes would end in reconcilliation. But you know, it depends on how much toxic water went under the bridge. Some people are too destructive.

bernthis said...

I went through a divorce from both my ex and his mother. She was the one who filed. However, as much as all those points are correct, we are all human.We went through mediation and at least kept a judge from deciding what was right for our kid, a child he would have likely never met as she was only 15 months when we separated. It was a long, difficult road but we do get along now. My daughter hasn't seen or heard us argue in a long, long time but it took a while to get there. I wouldn't wish divorce on my worst enemy. That being said, I finally really like who I am and have no regrets whatsoever.

shrink on the couch said...

bernthis -- hooray for happy endings, no matter how long it takes to get there, the fact that you (both) did makes all the difference to your child.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I've decided to be happy that the only part of the kitchen I have to clean is the stove--some women have to clean the whole kitchen.

Vodka Mom said...

are you trying to tell me something? Should I be looking for an attorney???

Deb said...

Great advice! Thanks for sharing that. I hope I never need it...

Anonymous said...

It all seems like very good advice and most of it could be applied to life in general (and maybe a few divorces avoided down the road).

shrink on the couch said...

vodka mom -- you? never!

deb -- My work with people going through a divorce reminds me (almost) daily how difficult it is from A to Z. So yes, I hope not, too.

onebrick -- Yes. That is my wish as well. These how-to's have helped steer me in healthy directions a time or two.

Trying real hard to move on said...

Was this for ME??? Ya could have just emailed it, ya know. :)

When you've been hurt badly, the low road is awfully tempting. I will admit that. But I do think the way I've handled myself and my situation, that I won't likely take it if we end up divorcing. In the end, I'm going to be concerned with taking care of myself and my children, and wreaking more havoc in the process isn't going to help matters at all.

Glennis said...

Well, crossing my fingers I don't need this advice!! But that cake is hilarious!

shrink on the couch said...

trying -- no, you're right. it does tend to wreak more havoc. there's Newton's 3rd Law, when one object exerts a force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on it. So for every action, there is a reaction. Push and he's gonna push back.

JCK said...

#s 3 & 4 in the first list are crucial for making a marriage work, don't you think? But, so easy to forget. Thanks for the reminder!

Sunny said...

great tips, thanks

Real Live Lesbian said...

Been there. Took everything! (since I paid for it.)

I'm loving that cake.

Slyde said...

" know a good man when i've bitch-slapped one"

nice... my wife should use that one..

planetransgender said...

I did a such a lousy job on my first divorce I decided to get it right. This time instead of ignoring everything except the last court day I instigated the legal proceedings, paid child and in general did an outstanding job. But that was 20 years ago. I wonder if I still got it in me?

Nora said...

Ugg. Good advice, hope I never need it...

Anonymous said...

I have never had any acrimony when splitting up with someone. I guess that means whilst I was never very good at staying with people or choosing the right partners to live with I am pretty good at dealing with things in an adult way and at choosing partners who behave the same way.

I certainly do not dislike either of my ex-partners in ANY way whatsoever. My last ex I probably spend more time talking to, in the presence of my children, than most married people. He is here 3 evenings a week and we all sit and chat for a couple of hours - no TV or anything. But I wouldn't want to live with him but he is a good father a good friend.

I did divorce once but it was years after we split up (we lived together for 2 years but were married for 10!!!) and simply because he wanted to marry someone else. It was a clerical/legal exercise and felt jolly silly. It was that I think which convinced me I never wanted to get married again. Who needs a bit of paper? And I never have.

But yes, these all sound like good advice to me. Life is too short for battles and to hate people.

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice.

I would consider divorce just for that cake. :D

Ash said...

Great post - thanks, I needed that.

Jocelyn said...

Smart stuff. I have a friend who managed the collaborative approach a few months back, and she's still wondering why she and her ex couldn't have worked together so harmoniously when married.

Queers United said...

"Marriage is a blessing, so is divorce" Sally Fields in Mrs. Doubtfire

KG said...

I know a guy with 2 kids who got a divorce. He and the ex wife bought a house. He and the ex wife live in separate apartments. You see - the kids live in the house. It's the parents who come and go. Like Monday - Friday it's Mom staying at the house, and on Saturday and Sunday Dad is at the house. The rest of the time they are at their respective apartments. I just thought this was such genius and prevents kids from having to shuffle back and forth.