Tomorrow is ‘Divorce Day’ or ‘D-Day’, the first day back to work after the holidays when divorce inquiries to solicitors traditionally double. If you’re in the process of a break-up, FRANCINE KAYE, a relationship expert and author of The Divorce Doctor, offers advice on how to survive the split with your dignity intact.
STOP THE LAWYERS FIGHTING
Visiting a family mediator with your former partner will save you time and money by drawing up the basic guidelines for your dignified divorce. Alternatively, find a collaborative lawyer who will work co-operatively with the other side. Lawyers are trained to be litigators, not therapists, so they have to be reminded you are not at war.
Avoid provoking your former partner by responding promptly to any requests for documentation and information.
DON’T BE DEFENSIVE
This may be hard to swallow, but if your ex says ‘I want the children on Wednesday night’ or ‘I’m not paying for that’, your job is to understand their needs before becoming defensive.
When you immediately react defensively, you just prolong the war. Instead try using the following as a model response to whatever they express:
‘When you say you want the children on Wednesday night [specific behaviour], I feel frustrated [my emotion] because it means that I cannot take the children swimming, which I want to do [the impact on me]. What I want is for you to keep to our agreed contact plan so that I can make arrangements for myself and the children or give a reason why you want to make changes [my desired outcome].’
Use all four parts of this message to put yourself back in control and let your former partner know your boundaries.
QUIT THE BLAME GAME
Taking responsibility for your role in any conflict that may arise at this challenging time is probably the last thing you want to do. But playing the blame game only allows the problem to continue. Ask yourself: ‘How am I partly responsible for this conflict’?
However resistant you are to the idea of negotiating these issues with your former partner, taking responsibility for your part in disagreements will make it easier to reach resolution.
CHILDREN DON’T DIVORCE
In Britain, one in four children lives in a split family. But children don’t divorce, parents do.
It’s your responsibility to make sure your split is as easy as possible for your offspring. In order to raise well-balanced children who grow into adults capable of having great relationships, it’s our duty to help them understand that just because their parents’ relationship didn’t work, it is possible for Mum and Dad to heal their hearts and go on to love again.
PLAN TO PARENT
Create a parenting plan, agreed by you both, that covers the main aspects of caring for your children.
Ideally, your plan should cover contact arrangements, holidays and keeping each other informed about illness and school-related activities.
If your children have challenges of any kind, put aside your own disputes and talk (yes, I did say talk) about how best to deal with them. You will have different ideas and both ways will have their merits.
LIVING WITH THE ENEMY
Often circumstances dictate that you still have to live together after divorce. To begin the letting-go process while still living together, you’ll need to create the following personal boundaries. Decide:
- How to talk and listen to each other.
- How you will handle the finances.
- What to share in terms of food, household products, cooking and cleaning.
- What is your personal space, what is your spouse’s and what is shared.
- How you will parent.
- Where you will sleep.
When you both know and have agreed on what is expected, then firm boundaries will be established.
What makes you happy? Emerging with your identity intact after divorce means finding out what your rules for your new life will be.
What are your interests and passions? How do you take care of yourself? How much time do you make for you?
Your divorce gives you the opportunity to regain your identity and redesign your life the way you want to live it. Take time to think about what you want in your life after divorce.
LEARN TO CO-OPERATE
Your past does not equal your future — unless you allow it to. In the past, you and your partner did what you did and said what you said with the resources you had available to you both at the time.
If either of you could have done it differently, you would have done. The truth is neither of you knew any other way.
Divorcing with dignity means there is no blame. When you are able to view yourself as an individual and no longer someone’s partner, the process of emotionally divorcing will be complete.
There is life after divorce and as you gain emotional strength each day you will emerge stronger and more resilient than you ever thought possible.
The Divorce Doctor by Francine Kaye (Hay House, £10.99)