No one gets married hoping for a divorce. But it’s not a perfect world. Stuff happens. So if you find yourself in a messy divorce, please take these five healthy strategies to heart.
In a perfect world, no one gets a divorce. In today’s world, about 50% of marriages end in divorce. Some divorces are simple. Some people are able to come to quick and amicable agreements. Sometimes, when money or children are involved, divorce gets messy.
In 2006, I filed for divorce as a last resort to protect my infant daughter from her mother. Her mother loved her sure enough, but she could not care for her due to severe anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. My choices were few:
- Let my wife’s family take my daughter.
- Let the state take my daughter.
- Divorce to protect my daughter.
I chose the only option that any good man would choose under the circumstances: Divorce.
The situation was severe enough that the court immediately granted me full, temporary custody of my daughter. But that was just the beginning. My daughter’s maternal family intended on fighting me all the way. It became a five-year battle that succeeded in protecting my daughter. But it also came with a lot of debt and stress. Throughout the divorce, I discovered a few ways of dealing with my pent-up emotions.
Disconnect yourself from the divorce.
You are not the divorce. You are not solely to blame for the end of the relationship. There are many factors at work that led to the situation. Too often, we’ve been programmed to believe that divorce is bad. The church has told us that divorce is a sin. Divorce can make you feel like a loser. Throw all those negative thoughts about divorce away. Instead, focus on your positive qualities. Focus on what’s best for any children involved. Disconnect yourself from the negative connotations that come with divorce.
Don’t get too emotionally involved.
Whether it’s intentional or not, divorce, lawyers, and the court process can become very frustrating. Sometimes, it will feel like your ex-spouse is purposely trying to piss you off. More often, it’s probably the way her lawyer works. Sometimes, even your attorney will do things that frustrate you. The court process can become excruciatingly slow. Don’t lose control of your emotions. Keep your anger in check. If you get overly angry and do something stupid, you’ll be sorry in the end. One wrong move in a case with children and you could lose your custody or visitation rights.
Record the process.
You don’t have to be a writer to record your divorce on paper. It’s not about how well you write; it’s simply about documenting the situation. You should document anything and everything that your ex-spouse does that goes against court orders. You should document anything and everything concerning the effects of the divorce on your children. You should document your thoughts and feelings. In my experience, my personal journals were very helpful in showing the court the severity of my ex-spouse’s mental health. They also helped me to get a restraining order when requested.
Run your stress away.
I’m not a regular runner. I walk. I hike. I stay active. But during the years of my divorce, I took up running. This was a lifesaver. On the days my daughter had supervised visits with her mom, I went out running. I’m sure other forms of exercise could have the same outcome, but for me, running kept me on an even keel. If you’re going through a divorce, exercise regularly. You need that outlet. The exercise will help to relieve stress and keep you physically healthy. Make sure to eat right, too.
Find a creative outlet.
Creative hobbies keep you busy. Dwelling on the process of the divorce doesn’t help. Instead, practice music, art, or writing. Anything creative helps. Like exercise, creative hobbies can channel negative emotions away from the divorce. You need to keep your cool. If you show too much anger or frustration before the court, your ex-spouse, or anybody else, you could jeopardize your case. I used writing to help channel my anger. In the end, I wound up with my first novel about my childhood experience in an extreme religious cult. Writing A Train Called Forgiveness helped me to focus on something other than my immediate circumstances.
If I’d have made one wrong move during my divorce proceedings, I could have lost control over my daughter’s best interest. If that’d happened, I’d never have been able to forgive myself.
Whether or not children are involved in your divorce, you need to keep your emotions under control during the process. Disconnect yourself from divorce, record your thoughts and feelings, exercise regularly, and find a creative outlet.
One last piece of advice. Don’t worry about the money. Divorce can be expensive. I accumulated more than $25,000 in debt over a five-year period. If you want what’s best for yourself, your children, and even your ex-spouse, you have to be willing to pay the price. In my case, the heavy price tag couldn’t be avoided. My ex-spouse’s family fought me all the way to a trial. If you have the option, negotiation with a court-approved mediator could save you thousands of dollars.
No one gets married hoping for a divorce. But it’s not a perfect world. Stuff happens. So if you find yourself in a messy divorce, please take these five healthy strategies to heart. They worked for me, and I’m confident they can work for you. Just remember to always keep your cool.
Photo: Flickr/ Eric Parker