By Alan Freed
Anyone who has been through a divorce can testify to the emotional and financial strain this process places on a family. Those struggles often take a toll months and even years beyond the end of the legal proceedings. Most people who head into a divorce, even those who want the divorce, have no idea of how pervasive the effects of divorce can be.
One couple whose divorce I mediated recently reminded me of how a divorce can actually improve people’s lives. The couple first came to me when their three children were all under the age of four. They had difficulty agreeing upon any decisions dealing with the children. They argued about money. Where one wanted to make decisions quickly, the other preferred a much slower, more deliberative process. In short, they drove each other crazy.
Now, a year or so after the divorce became final, the wife has remarried. The husband, who resisted this divorce, now talks positively about his former wife’s new husband and has enjoyed meals with the new couple. Both former husband and former wife are physically healthier and visibly happier.
Why the transformation? I think it’s because they took a problem solving approach to their divorce rather than a fault finding approach. They dealt face-to-face with the issues that divided them rather than blaming each other. When all was said and done, they learned how to make decisions and how to co-parent effectively.
If you are going through a divorce or thinking about divorce, there are steps you can take to make the transition from married life to post-divorce life less stressful:
- Treat your soon to be ex with respect.
- Recognize that rarely is only one person to blame in the breakup of a marriage.
- Recognize that, regardless of fault, the two of you will have to co-parent once the divorce is over.
- Treat the divorce as an opportunity to improve your communications skills. Since you will have to communicate around the children, you may as well make those communications more pleasant.
- Recognize that, if you have young children, you are likely to need to change the parenting plan in future years. If you can negotiate successfully, and without rancor, today, you have established a track record for successful future negotiations.
- Keep in mind that you will be happier if your ex-spouse is also happy.