Divorce and Stress. It sucks pretty much no matter who you are in the equation. Whether you’re the one who wants to leave, and definitely if you’re the one being left, divorce rips your heart out and pretty much turns your life upside down for at least a couple years. There is no way to face divorce other than to say…this is going to be stressful, horrible, and probably some of the worst moments of my life. After you face the truth about what the divorce is going to be like, you can begin working on the thoughts that will help you get through those dark moments and get to the other side.
The most stressful part of getting divorced is figuring out HOW to get divorced. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, you require attorneys, and though I respect the law and all it provides us, I have to say attorneys thrive on one thing, getting as much of your money ON BOTH SIDES as possible. You can spend all your savings, all your credit cards on legal fees if you don’t approach a divorce in a sane way. You will not only have the stress of the divorce and all the emotional turmoil that goes along with it, but you’ll have the additional stress of watching your finances either go into the red or dwindle to nothing. There are ways to mitigate this kind of stress and damage if you are as calm, clear, and focused in the process as you can be.
What if I have kids?
Prepare for this to be the most painful experience you will live through. Telling your kids you are getting divorced isn’t just hard, it’s devastating. You are going to be ruining their dreams of a happy family along with your own. They will cry, they will be angry, and all you can do is be there for them and be as calm as you can be. Make sure you have really, truly decided to divorce before you even say the “D” word inside your home. Even just fighting and throwing the word around can traumatize your kids. So don’t say it unless it’s really going to happen. If you’re going to do it, then be firm about it and explain clearly that this is NOT about them. Say it a million times in the first two years you are divorcing, because they need to hear it over and over again so they don’t blame themselves. So how do you minimize stress for the kids and yourself? Be honest, be kind, be firm, and be consistent. Focus on changing as little else as possible in their lives. It’s bad enough they are going to have to deal with their parents living apart, but to change their schedules dramatically, cause them to give up any major pursuit (unless it’s absolutely financially impossible), or to not keep your promises to them will make you wish you had been shot. Your kids are the most important part of your life. Don’t leave them behind, and don’t forget that they are the reason you really had the marriage in the first place, and they are probably the best part of what you are ending, so whatever you do, focus on them.
Where to begin?
First start by taking some deep breaths, stay in the moment, no matter how scared you might be. Try not to let your mind run a muck with crazy thoughts either about your ex and what he or she is doing, and or the thoughts of revenge you might be having. The key to getting through a divorce with your sanity intact is to always pull back and see yourselves as individuals and let both of you have your own reactions good or bad. You each have a right to go through the emotions that are involved and feel them. The key is not to dwell in them to the point where you either avoid decisions that need to be made, or escalate them to the point where you’re always fighting and can’t even discuss things.
Try to avoid expensive legal battles. The key to doing this is to try to have sane discussions and work out things like division of property and the custody/support agreements before hand on your own. All the tools are out on the web to do your own separation agreements, and you can find the fair rates of support for either your spouse or children on state run support sites. If you can get your significant other to agree to things in a separation agreement, many times this can be the basis of your divorce and have that process go more quickly. If you’re the one leaving, I encourage you to be generous no matter whose fault you perceive it to be. The person being left always will feel like they deserve more in the end because they feel like they are “losing” the relationship. So if you can do without something, consider yourself lucky if you can arrange the division without losing it all, and let it go. Unless you are talking about something of extreme sentimental value, then anything else can be bought again later. It’s not worth fighting over if something is easily replaced. Do everything you can to have things go smoothly. You will thank yourself later when both your bank account and your sanity are intact.
When you’re ready with all the facts straight, which you both agree on, then you get a lawyer to help you make it legal. One person will need to be the person filing, and the other person can just respond and sign normally. Once again, if you are the one leaving, you might be the one to hire the attorney and get things done. That way your ex will not have another thing to be angry with you about, and might be more amenable to signing everything if you’ve taken on the onus to get things done. If they initiated things, then you can let them drive the process. As long as the divisions are fair, and all children are financially provided for, there’s no reason why it needs to be contentious.
All this said, divorce can bring out the ugliest, scariest traits in people. If you’re in an unsafe situation, then you need to seek help and get out of that situation at all costs. Sometimes it’s just not possible to reason with people, and that’s when it is best to leave it to the lawyers and the courts. If this is your situation, then I recommend a lot of meditation, prayer, and forgiveness. It will take all three to get you through. But you will get through in one piece on the other side, and in the end you will not have wasted your life living a lie, or spending your time with someone who treats you badly. You deserve the best life you can lead, with the people who you love to be with, and though divorce is an admission of a mistake, it’s not a failure, and you can learn from the experience. You can learn how to take the best care you can of your children, your self, and your life.