Ok, you’re getting divorced.
You’re not the first, and you certainly won’t be the last. It’s certainly not going to be the most pleasant thing you’ve ever gone through.
Because you’re splitting up doesn’t mean things go so badly you two will never speak again. Here are a few pointers to help identify if you (or your spouse) is being despicable about it all and might need a little attitude adjustment if you’re going to have anything to work with going forward.
- You refer to the children you’ve had together as “my children.” As if the other person had nothing to do with birthing or raising them. You may have fallen out of love, you may not agree 100% with their approach to parenting, but you made these kids together and you reared them (at least somewhat) together. So they belong to both of you, not just you. Like it or not.
- You start mastering the art of passive-aggression. You’re refusing to return calls. Ignoring texts. You’re passing replies through friends. You’re using kids to communicate between the two of you. You’re making snide comments to friends about who your ex is spending time with or what they’re doing when you’re not around. Cut the petty tactics and either realize you’re being overly-vindictive or just be direct if you have a real, justifiable problem with their behavior.
- You utter the words, “I’m taking everything!” So you feel jilted enough to leave your partner with nothing. Maybe they cheated on you with your brother, or sister, or both. Still, you both made sacrifices for your marriage, so you’re both entitled to at least walk away with something. Maybe you get more, or he/ she gets a little more, but no one should get everything. There’s never been a marriage where one person did everything right and one did everything wrong. It’s almost always a mix. So the settlement should be, too.
- You’ve started dating before your divorce is final. Way too soon, dude. (Or Dude-ess.) You might *feel* ready, and be champing at the bit to be with someone new, but until your separation is complete, and your paperwork is done, and you’re both cleanly installed in new lives, anything you start now will not only fail but will probably leave a really bad taste in your children’s mouths. Which they won’t tell you about–at least not until they’ve been seeing a therapist 30 years later.
- You lie to your kids about your ex’s behavior. This is an unfortunately popular one. It makes you Premium Grade Despicable™ because your kids are too young to know if you’re lying. If you badmouth your ex by stating things you either know they didn’t do (cheated on you/ took money/ hurt you/ lied to you) just to make them look bad, or think they did but can’t prove it, shame on you; you’re just simply still not an adult. You’re openly declaring yourself unfit to raise the kids you’re lying to if you take this tactic. You can resent your ex, you can even be suing them, but if you’re not telling the truth, you’re not playing fair. That means your next relationship or marriage will fall apart, too.
- You’re airing your dirty laundry to friends. Maybe your wife had a drinking problem. Maybe your husband had money problems. Keep it to your therapist and just a few close friends. The clerk at the local supermarket doesn’t need to know. Nor do your friends who just ran into you at the gas station.
- You start bragging about who you’re seeing/ dating/ sleeping with now. This move is best left back in high school. So you’re seeing someone new now. Good for you. Yes, maybe the other person should have valued you more. Maybe not–maybe you were a piece of work, too. So at least be classy about how you’ve “moved on.” Don’t rub it in your ex’s face. Especially if you weren’t giving them the attention they wanted.
- You spend all day obsessing how to “get back” at your ex. Sure, they’ve maybe wronged you. They’ve maybe lied about you. They’ve disappointed you and let you down. If you spend all day just seeking revenge, you’re putting your energy into the wrong things. Your energy needs to be spent on moving your life forward, not trying to drag your ex down. Any retaliation towards your ex will likely be returned in kind. Making enemies is expensive. It costs you time and energy you probably don’t have. Better to cut your losses, admit you weren’t a great match, and work towards your next best life. Plus, how much are your kids benefitting from you this? Probably not much.
It’s perfectly understandable to not be at your best while going through a divorce, especially a contentious one. A true test of a person’s character is how you behave during a quarrel. While you might never have to see your ex again, you’re going to be in quarrels again. So how you handle this one will affect how you handle the future ones. Here’s to the idea that just because you’re going to be exes doesn’t mean you have to be despicable.
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