Flipping the Script: Devastating Divorce to Peaceful Partnering
Devastation. Wreckage. Anger. Strife. Resentment. Battle.
This is the standard course for lots of divorces. Worse, when children are stuck in it, they get war torn, emotionally batted around, and traumatized. Couples typically do not separate and saw their vows in half without a pretty painful reason. Are you tired of the fight? Sick of the anxiety and back-and-forth? Flipping the script may be as easy as assessing yourself and making different choices about how you relate, in a conscious decision to partner with your ex-spouse.
Check yourself with your choices
There are many things in life you will have absolutely no choice about. Getting to “I Don’t” and going through the divorce process was probably not all your choice. Like most, you probably had a dream of a family: mom and dad and a few kids – and happily ever after. But, now that you are no longer married you do have choices. Let’s review a few choices that will completely change your relationship with your ex-spouse.
Choice 1: Knowing that you can do this with – or without – them
While it is true that you cannot make a marriage work alone, the opposite is now true of your happiness and the wellbeing you share with your children. You can change this; you do not need assistance or permission. But, you are going to have to get it into your head that this is your responsibility. No crying foul when your ex is being a jerk. You no longer live with them and can make positive and healthy changes for you and your children.
There is a good chance your ex will not see things like you do or even want the same outcomes that you do. You do not need their permission to be happy and partner peacefully. You get to agree to disagree. You get to choose peace over the fight, or being right. On days they pick fights, you get to peacefully withdraw and walk away. You do not have to accept their outburst. You do not have to take their nasty calls. You do not have to engage. See? You got this!
Choice 2: Being a victor, not a victim
Often, after a divorce, a newly single mom or dad will feel like a failure – as a person, spouse, and parent. If that is an issue, today is an opportunity to grab the rung of victory. This feeling can be further compounded if there was infidelity or abandonment (or both). This might have deeply planted a seed of victimization. If you want to get back on a peaceful path, you will need to shake that feeling off and start making small victories. Often just the small emotional shift of acknowledging your pain and mentally turning the page will take you a long way toward peace. If you are really struggling in this area, a thankfulness practice will change your life and get you back into a positive mindset.
Here is an easy Thankfulness Practice that you might consider:
Take 5 minutes of peace and quiet, put pen to paper, and write down all for which you are grateful and thankful. Use whatever format works for you, but for this practice to work you must take the appropriate time (5 minutes) and actually write this down on real paper – no cheating by typing it into your mobile device. Don’t just think about it. Write down everything, no matter how small. You will be shocked how quickly you will think of something else that is worth being happy about.
Choice 3: Finding a PRIVATE support group
Support will be an important facet of getting and staying healed. While a support network will be integral to maintaining your own peace, make sure you are airing your grievances privately with only members of a trustworthy circle of friends and family. It might be tempting to tell the world-at-large about how awful you nasty ex has been on social media. That would not only be a bad idea, it ends up punishing you and your children in the end. Likewise, it could come back to haunt you later. Ex-bashing online does not make you look any better. It also does not make them look any worse. It just makes a whole lot of hurtful things bigger by blasting the masses. Using mass media to vent also makes a temporary situation permanent. Once posted, you cannot take those sentiments back – even when you have found a place of peace. They have been read, screen captured, and stored in memory banks.
Choice 4: Keeping your kids out of it
When we are upset, by nature, each of us likes to find a team of people to back us up and be angry and upset with us. Involving your children injects immediate pain and suffering. Using your children as a sounding board, your “teammates” in the fight against your ex, or tools against your ex is emotional abuse. Let that sink in. Your ex might have done something terrible and by doing that, hurt your children.
Keeping your kids in the middle, bubbled up with angst at your ex, will just hurt them and in the long-term will ruin your relationship with them. Divorce does not have to ruin a child’s relationship with either parent. This might be something completely counter-intuitive, because if your child is old enough the court system might make your children choose where they want to live and that decision will come with dollar signs. Legitimately, a lot of children’s worlds are torn to bits by this one decision. But, you and your ex can be adults and make that decision together (or let a judge make the decision) so your children will not have to carry shame or burden for a decision that no child is able to fully understand or make.
If you want peace, be very careful to:
- Avoid talking about your ex at all in front of your child(ren).
- Make decisions about your children with your ex, or let lawyers and/or judges make them.
- Stay out of relationship struggles your child has with your ex unless you are helping reaffirm that relationship.
- Keep your children safe from the “game playing.”
Remember, the best gift you can give your child is love, by actively loving your child and supporting other loving relationships in their lives. Regardless of how you feel about your ex, give your children the gift of support as they love both parents.
Choice 5: Command Respect
You can command respect only if you respect yourself and others. As a single parent, you will have to be very selective of where you place your energy, as you will be needing lots of it to love your children. Make a decision to only give energy to loving and respectful relationships. This means you must determine healthy and safe boundaries for you and your children and be firm about them. As you are doing this, you are showing your children how to love and respect themselves. But, remember:
- The Litmus Test for respecting yourself is being able to respect others because of who you are, not due to who they are.
- The best way to model respect for your children is to show respect, and stop disrespect quickly by not taking part.
- Respecting others happens when they are around and when they are not around.
- If your ex’s behavior does not warrant respect, then you can (in a healthy way, with boundaries) respect the relationship your child has with that parent.
Nobody expects you to be a divorce superhero. You will have hurt feelings, anger, and there will be muddling confusion. When you feel those emotions coming on, do not fight them. Instead, acknowledge them and know they come from pain and fear. Fighting those feelings will just reinforce them. But, there is no need to act on the feelings, because it will only hurt you and your children. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that you can never make any relationship better with negativity. Your only hope for overcoming the negativity of divorce if to be positive and make good choices. While making great choices will not be a magic wand, it will be the catalyst to diffuse the negativity and create a different atmosphere with your ex. This is the only way to flip the script.
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