GUEST BLOG: 5 Must-Do's for a Peaceful Divorce
Deciding to get a divorce was inevitably one of the most difficult decisions I ever made. It was also one of the best decisions I made for my life and future. I will never glamorize divorce. It’s a highly emotionally-charged process filled with grief.
Although there are a lot of big, tough emotions to process during a big break up or divorce, things don’t have to be as ugly as we think.
When I first considered getting a divorce, I had so much fear and resistance to it. My parents divorced when I was a baby, and throughout my childhood, there was always a lot of tension between them. They rarely spoke or were in the same room. My mother was always stressed about finances, and my father made everything difficult. All I knew divorce to be was pain, sorrow, and struggle. I did not want that for my daughter or family.
As I looked at my current situation and unhappy marriage, I didn’t like the options on the table. Culture and society have fed us lies about what divorce is, and what it means about us if we choose to get one. One of my biggest hang-ups was thinking that if my marriage failed, everyone would think I was a big fat failure, too.
We see the ugliest of the ugly, drop-down, drag-out divorces. Movies, television, celebrity drama, and even family history like mine, tell us that divorce has to be messy. We are told that we should hate the other person, be angry, nasty, make their lives hell, and take them for all they are worth in court.
We are subconsciously told that if divorce is the path we choose, we will be “damaged goods”, be left with nothing, will have to struggle for the rest of our lives, and will never find happiness. It’s traumatizing, and this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Not only am I, and my ex-husband, happier now after our divorce than we were when we were married, we are still good friends. At one point, I never thought it would be possible, but we have become committed and conscious co-parents. We put our daughter first. She has two happy parents who get along, and she gets the best of us both.
There will always be exceptions, but I believe that in most situations, there are many things we can do to dial down the drama and come out of divorce on top.
Here are some things to focus on before, during, and after divorce to ensure the smoothest transition possible for you AND your little ones.
1. Kids first, egos last. If kids are involved in a divorce, their best interest always has to be top priority. This may seem obvious, but it needs to be said. Regardless of age, kids should not be told all the details involved in why you are getting a divorce, and all decisions need to be made with their health and wellness in mind. During a divorce, emotions tend to be all over the place, so watch what you say and how you say it while in front of your kiddos. Also, you may have every right to be rip-roaring mad at your ex, but don’t use your kids to get back at them. Let the facts, and the lawyers, work it out. In most cases, kids do much better with two active co-parents.
Try not to make everything a win or lose situation. I felt it in my own divorce, and have seen it with others. There will be situations where we may be inclined to not want to do something for the other parent out of spite, or to purposefully make their lives difficult. Put your kid’s happiness first and resist the urge to be the disrupter.
2. Don’t listen to your lawyer. At least not everything they say. Divorce lawyers can be, and will be, brutal. While they are experts and should be trusted to a point, they also get paid by the hour. The more emotions and drama that are flying around, the more hours they get to bill. That means they have a vested interest in going for the jugular of your ex, and painting the most exaggerated picture to “win” without a care for the trauma it inflicts on you, your ex, or your children. If you want a more peaceful, modern divorce, you may have to shop around for a lawyer who has all the intelligence and a moral compass to go with it.
3. Lead with compassion. I know firsthand how hard it is to feel bad for someone who has hurt you tremendously. For a long time, I felt like I wanted my ex to “pay” for his mistakes. It was challenging to put those feelings aside and be present enough to see that he was hurting, too. Divorce isn’t fun for either party. Regardless if your ex shows it, or has already run off with a new partner, they are hurting. Everyone copes with hurt in different ways, and in many cases, we try and hide our despair by covering it up with something (or someone) else.
Most of us got married before we truly knew ourselves or what we wanted from life. We followed the expectations of society, got married, and started a family with the best intentions. I sincerely believe that, regardless of the transgressions committed, many of us who divorce simply outgrew our ex-partner.
The fact is that together, you embarked on what you wanted to be a happy, long-lasting marriage, but it didn’t work out, and that’s sad for everyone. Placing blame and holding on to all the past hurt doesn’t help us heal and move forward. Many of us weren’t well-prepared for marriage and what it would require of us. We all do the best we can with what we are given, and sometimes it isn’t enough. Can you remember the good qualities of your ex and why you fell in love with them? Can you find equal compassion for both of your younger selves, and the mistakes you both made? Can you use compassion to see that, although they may have done bad things and were not the right partner for you, it doesn’t mean they are bad people?
4. Prioritize your mental health. This may be the most important item on this list. No one teaches us how to care for our mental health, but it’s certainly something that should always be at the top of your to-do list- especially during a divorce or any other life transition. Life transitions, including divorce, are full of big emotions that need to be processed and released so we can heal. That can be very difficult to do on our own. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t taught anything from my parents or school about grief or coping with loss. A therapist or coach can help guide us through tough times, and provide us the necessary tools for healing.
5. Focus on your future. We often think that remembering how we were hurt in the past will protect us in the future. Unfortunately, ruminating on past events doesn’t help us heal from them, and it can actually prolong our hurt, while stifling our healing. Focusing on my future was a crucial part of healing from my divorce and letting go of all the pain. So many of my needs weren’t met the way I needed them to be within my marriage. I had built my entire way of life around my husband. After divorce, it was time to prioritize my needs, desires, and well-being so I could be a present, happy mother to my daughter and live the incredible life I knew in my heart I was destined to live. I stopped focusing on my divorce as this awful thing happening to me, and instead chose to I see it as a fresh start.
Divorce can be a terrible experience, but it doesn’t have to be. I firmly believe that the way we have been conditioned to think about divorce, and the false stories we believe about what it all means for us and our future, make divorce far more difficult on us. You can choose to do things differently. You can choose not to lean in to the false beliefs and the unnecessary drama. Prioritizing your children’s well-being and your mental health, while leading with compassion and focusing on your future, are far more productive ways to use your time and energy. Divorce can also be a happy ending.
Kimberly Smith is a Resilience & Life Transition Coach and the founder of Encompass Coaching. Kimberly specializes in mindset, stress & anxiety management, confidence, and goal achievement coaching. She is a native New Yorker, proud Houstonian, truth seeker, mental health advocate, yogi, and mother.
Through coaching services, speaking, and writing, Kimberly helps busy and ambitious women, mothers, and entrepreneurs, stop stressing and focus, so they can flourish within their career, family, business, and personal lives. Kimberly’s clients build a positive and resilient mindset, and increase energy and confidence, while conquering their personal and professional goals!
Kimberly has a BA in Sociology and Psychology, is an internationally certified life and career coach, and spent 10 years in corporate talent acquisition for a variety of industries. She is a servant leader passionate about dissolving the stigma around mental health, and is dedicated to empowering others to live more authentic lives full of passion, purpose, courage, freedom and adventure.
Connect with Kimberly!
🡪 Subscribe and receive her Free eBook, “The Gift of Calm.”
Join Kimberly’s Private Facebook Group: The Resilient Women’s Society
🡪Free Monthly Trainings, Guidance & Support