I made these little guidelines for myself when embarking on the beginning of my separation/divorce journey three years ago, determined to have a civil divorce, even when there was domestic violence involved, but it was hard. So it's nice to pause and look back, re-read, and know they still apply today as much as they did three years ago.
Image: Ian Munroe via Flickr
- If your children tell you they miss your ex-spouse, absolutely hug them and tell them it's okay to miss them. Reassure them that mommy/daddy love them very much, even if they aren't here right now. (They do not understand why mommy/daddy isn't there and they shouldn't be worrying about grown-up problems, anyway). And if there's a visitation schedule set up, reassure them that they will see them very soon.
- Stay AWAY from the blame game. If there is some kind of court involvement, explain to them that mommy and daddy are following the judge's rules. Do not do the 'daddy said this' or 'mommy said that' (or daddy is a douchebag or mommy is a sack of crack, even if those statements aren't far from the truth) routine, because little kids LOVE both mommy and daddy, and that kind of language only hurts them. Following the judge's rules is allowing them to understand that an external force or authority has stepped in to handle these grown-up problems. Kind of like how a teacher makes the rules for kids in the classroom, judges make the rules for grown-ups...that kind of thinking really helped my older one
- If your friends, family, loved ones ask if they can help, don't be shy and pretend you can do this all by yourself. If they are there for you, lean on them. (It's okay to check in and be sure they aren't burning out though, because you love them, and they most likely have their own thoughts/loves/problems going on and you are their friend, too).
- When your baby barfs all over you in the middle of the night, and you're bleary-eyed and cleaning it up, you may want to cry. Instead of crying, just take care of the barf, because it's everywhere and clean up your baby and put him/her back to bed. Clean up yourself (or not), and clean up the barf, do the laundry and put everything away (or not). As you're mumbling to yourself in the middle of the night, an angel might come in and tell you: even this is better than living in relationship that is hurtful/harmful to you or your children. And you might even be thankful.
- You may even want to partake of an adult beverage or six. Unfortunately, I haven't found the time to do so, so if there's someone that could do that for you, that's even better. LOL. (I really like Patron, so that's my vote!)
- Do not be surprised at what comes out from under the rocks in a contested divorce. Even if you loved your soon-to-be-ex with all of your heart, do not be surprised. You cannot control what your soon-to-be-ex will do. You can cry and you can be angry, but don't be surprised. If ugly things come your way, it is an unfortunate reassurance that you are doing the right thing.
- Pray again.
- Even if the ugliness comes out or is thrown up in your face, you do not have to be ugly. Love and be kind to yourself. If you can find it in your heart to be kind (meaning civil) to him or her, that's even better--because you know that somehow, you have not lost your soul.
- One day you may be thanking god for all the good in your life, the next, crying your heart out because it's broken.
- Get into therapy. (Note: good psychiatrists/therapists are hard to find, so be sure to check and double-check your references, especially if there is abuse involved. Not all therapists understand the cycle of violence.)
- Know it's okay to screw up. Do your best, but no one is perfect. (Especially on the part about being kind to the person who is throwing ugliness up in your face.) If everyone was perfect, you wouldn't be where you are now. A very good friend once told me:
- Be gentle with you.