PICKING YOUR BATTLEGROUNDS

The Analysis:

From time to time issues will arise during your divorce that put you and your spouse on opposite sides. The possible areas of conflict are endless. Do you stand firm on all issues to maintain your integrity?  Must you stand firm to prove your strength and resolve?  Are you standing firm for your children, or does it have more to do with something between the two of you?

The Recommendation:

During divorce, communication between you and your spouse becomes an exercise in frustration.  You may find yourself wanting to distance yourself from the conflict.  You may want to rely more on your attorney or mediator to communicate with your spouse, through his/her attorney.  Not only is this expensive, but it creates a situation which discourages the spouses from speaking with one another.  If you have children to discuss, this type of four party communication is impractical at best.  It’s better to set up ground rules and meet periodically in a public place to resolve issues between you.  These meetings will not be 100% successful in your favor; you may have to compromise on some issues, and hopefully so will he/she.  Before the meeting, pick the battles which are the most important to you and gear the negotiation to compromise on those which are less important.  Let your spouse “win” on a few issues which matter less to you, but remember that what you feel may be a generous offer from you may never be reciprocated.  Your compromise does not guarantee reciprocal compromise.  Giving something does not guarantee you will get in return.  If you expect this, you will be disappointed.

DATING WHILE DIVORCING

The Analysis:

To many, the logical remedy to the divorce blues is to start dating.  Putting aside the challenges of finding a suitable date, this can be a fun distraction.  But are there other considerations?

The Recommendation:

The two main considerations are your children and your spouse. Children react in unexpected ways to seeing their parent dating.  Older children often urge their mother to date but respond with hostility and excessive criticism when they meet the suitor.  Younger children can feel threatened by another adult’s attention to their parent, and resent the time taken from them.  A young child’s affection for the absent parent may fuel hostility toward the intruder.

Your spouse’s reactions might not be so different from the children’s.  While divorcing, a spouse feels particularly threatened by the introduction of another adult into the picture.  Your spouse will dislike the other adult’s potential influence on the children, and might suspect some unfair advantage to your finances.  If you’re living in the marital home, the other won’t like someone in his home, in their bed, on their property, using their things.  It is not unusual for this to fuel a new round of hostility toward you, for the children to be questioned about the new adult, and for the divorce proceedings to be impacted in some small way.

Do not stop dating, but don’t introduce every date to your children. Be mindful of these dynamics so that you can prepare the children for these changes to your life and help them handle the inevitable questions.

PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM OVERLOAD

The Analysis:

Do you know where your breaking point is?  Do you want to find it?  If so, this is the time.  If not, then think carefully about protecting yourself.  During the divorce and afterwards, there will be episodes of stomach churning, migraines, sleeplessness, disappointment and anger.  Perhaps you will feel an intensity of emotion you have never experienced before.  There will be happy times too, but you won’t have trouble coping with those.  How do you put your mind in a place where you can handle the intensity and go on with your day?

The Recommendation:

Some would say therapy is the only way, and for some this may be so.  Therapy can play an important role in getting you through your divorce.  Think of this as one option.  Learn and protect your limits and your boundaries so you can avoid losing yourself to the demands of others.  Guard your time so you can recover when overwhelmed, and say no to your kids sometimes.  Know that you have to disconnect from the divorce so you can perform each day.  Look forward, make plans, reach goals; don’t let the divorce consume you.

SUPPORTING YOUR CHILDREN

The Analysis:

While we all recognize the importance of financial support, this topic deals with the emotional support your children need before, during and long after the legal divorce is final.  The breakup of a family is one of the most traumatic events of a child’s life. Each of your children may have different responses: some will be angry at one parent or another; some overwhelmingly sad; others depressed; perhaps guilty; or blaming; and most will suffer all emotions at different times.  Do you know what information your children have heard or seen that day to influence their mood?  Can you possibly know what’s in their head?

The Recommendation:

Your children know, and sense, more than you think.  Your tough job is to fine-tune your antennae to recognize the mood changes and determine your course of action. You may find the other parent or family member has said or done something about the divorce to affect your child’s mood.  As you cannot control what your child hears, you must deal with the consequences, which makes parenting during divorce the most challenging.  Be factual and comforting when you respond, but without compromising your rules of discipline.  The children of your divorce should live with the same rules as you wanted to impose during your marriage.  Divorce is a fact of their life, and they will have to live with the benefits and burdens of that just as you do.