The Do’s And Dont’s: Preparation In The Face of Separation and Divorce

The subject of divorce is a contentious one, and there are no real instruction manuals or classes to prepare us for the seemingly downward spiral of our lives, and emotions. Granted, none of us (well, there may be some..) walk down the aisle, say ‘I do’, sign the papers all in anticipation of a subsequent divorce. Yet, statistics show that nearly 1 in 2 first time marriages end in divorce before reaching their 10th year, also known as the ‘seven year itch’. Although there has been found to be a divorce decline, it has much to do with the fact that many couples are opting not to marry at all. People change, their needs, wants and desires change. People grow apart. People fall out of love and become unhappy. This is life, it happens. Not all the time, but it happens. With these findings, shouldn’t we at least discuss ways to make the possible transition between happily married to happily divorced, as pleasant and as smooth as possible?

Have a prenuptial agreement or strive for a separation agreement after the fact.

When I was younger I was of another opinion than I am now regarding prenuptials. If any of you are like I was, you might be thinking, how callous. Why on earth would a couple anticipating a lifetime together, forge such an agreement, isn’t that a bad omen or curse upon a marriage? The answer is simple. No. Isn’t it for the rich or greedy? Once again, the answer is no. The very fact that I am writing this and you’re reading is because separation and divorce are a fact of life. Why not be prepared when everyone’s on their best behavior for the chance they may sink into their worst behavior? In other cultures a female is given a dowry for such an occasion. Once divorce is on the horizon, it may be less than easy to garner any sort of agreement from your soon to be ex. Better to be safe than sorry, I say.  Being proactive never hurts while the opposite can. If you have an amicable separation or divorce and your partner and you are able to have a sit down whilst writing up an agreement, the more power to you each, literally. You are already a step ahead of the notoriously ugly game.

When on the receiving end, respect the other’s resolve. 

Now, we’ve all heard the saying ‘ When a woman’s fed up, there ain’t nothing you can do about it’ or another famous quote ‘ Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’.  This is not to say that woman are the only ones embracing divorce, au contraire mon frere. Regardless of who’s come to the decision ( perhaps it’s a mutual decision), the same adage applies. This may be a huge and hard pill to swallow, but it’s an important one for the general atmosphere and health of all involved, especially if that includes children. The decision to end a marriage is a hard one to make and there are many factors involved. Try to put aside your emotions enough so things can be discussed and plans set in motion, including a separation agreement, especially vital when children are involved, as their best interests will become the focus of divorce proceedings, rather than you and your spouse. Sometimes separation is just what a couple needs. A sort of ‘time out’ where individuals can take a breather, examine themselves, their lives and their direction. Decide if things are worth fighting for ( maybe the battle has already been fought and lost) or if things are too far gone to ever be in a healthy flourishing state.

Refrain from blame, anger and spite. Do not let detrimental emotions take the reigns.

Serving divorce papers and requesting cooperation with a separation agreement can be daunting for one as being served the divorce papers is for the other spouse. It’s of utmost importance that detrimental emotions are held at bay during these times. To become irate, abusive, accusative, and uncooperative, is to be your own enemy in such a case. It doesn’t help you one iota, and leaves all even further emotionally, mentally and eventually physically depleted. Remember, you once loved the person you’re now at odds with. You once shared a common ground. Try to establish mutual acceptance in order to keep proceedings from becoming antagonistic as possible, and as long as there are lawyers, children and money involved, it is almost certain to become somewhat he said she said in nature. Mutual acceptance and respect is a must in these situations. There are far too many cases of spouses being arrested on various charges, whether on false pretenses or not, all could be avoided had one or the other refrained from acting or speaking while in a negative state of mind. Unrestrained detrimental emotions, subsequently lead to adverse actions and reactions. Cause and effect. Keep level headed.

When children are involved, be physically and emotionally present as much as possible, even when your mind seems absent.

Unless there’s a restraining order keeping you from your children, it’s important to continue to be physically present in their lives, even though your mind and emotions may likely feel absent or numb. Most people are aware that children are like sponges, soaking up the good and bad alike. They feel deeply, see and understand far more than we may like to acknowledge, and their spirits can be crushed very easily. Separation and divorce, at times, seems to leave adults feeling as though they are the only ones involved and therefore the only ones affected, the only victims. On the contrary, children and other family members are left taking blows along with their loved ones. It’s traumatic for everyone as we are all connected, and children are more directly affected, being in the same household typically of one or both parents. Be reassuring towards your children in words AND actions. Continue with usual routines, outings, movie nights, game nights etc. Now isn’t the time to forsake activities that will draw your family unit together, especially when it may seem so many forces are now at play dividing it. If you have restricted access with your children, do whatever is in your power legally, to be a positive influence in their life, regardless of the barriers. Always keep in mind, when war is being waged, it brings about many casualties. Collateral Damage can be lessened, if not avoided completely depending upon your actions.

Do not speak ill of the other spouse in the presence of your children.

Be mature and rational. Try not to allow your vision as a human being and parent become blurred into an angry abyss. You still have responsibilities, considerations and a reputation to maintain (if it’s not already too tarnished at this point). Slander and defamation of character should never be on your ‘ To Do’ list. This seems like a given to most of us, but during times of emotional duress, many are surprised at what they are capable of. Keep your wits about you. Remember, when speaking ill or behaving in an ill manner towards the other spouse, your children will suffer while seeing their parents suffer. Children represent 50% of each parents chromosomes. They feel the blows, deeply and personally. Don’t be foolish. Don’t make them suffer more by using them as tools against the other spouse.

Do not stalk, harass, or threaten your spouse (ex partner).

I hear the loud ‘duhs’ in the back of your heads and I understand, BUT, if these behaviors weren’t so prevalent I wouldn’t need to mention them. However, given the fact that many soon to be divorcees end up in the sitting cell at some point, I shall continue with my advice. It may seem tempting to check up on your ex partner to resolve any lingering suspicions that may be overruling your mind, but this could prove to be a mistake if that partner happens to press charges or your seemingly innocent spying gets out of hand and turns into something malicious. Let bygones be bygones or leave it to the professional private ‘eyes’ investigators if you have real concerns for yourself or your children, or feel there’s information to be extracted that would be beneficial in your court proceedings.

Set aside time for yourself.

You are very likely feeling as if on an emotional rollercoaster, and for some it has been a never ending ride for some time now. Setting aside time for yourself to unwind, focus, meditate, relax, renew your energy is of vital importance. Prolonged stress can adversely affect the body, stressing and wearing out the adrenal glands causing what’s known as Adrenal Fatigue. This, among a myriad other health issues directly related to stress and trauma, are reasons to release negative emotions in a positive and constructive manner. Meditation, prayer, yoga,  and exercise in general are great methods of refocusing your body’s energies into positive alignment, amidst the chaos and disorder separation and divorce can threaten to overtake you with.

Socialize. Become a butterfly.

For some people, getting out for whatever reason during any sort of break up, is the last thing on their mind. While for others, there’s no stopping them, they crave the excitement, the high, the new found freedom and adventure. Whatever the case may be, for many of us, getting out and socializing is not only healthy, it’s sine qua non for our overall well being. We as humans need social interactions to some degree, or we become somewhat hermitic in nature. Get out of the house, have guests over, host a party, attend another’s party, get a babysitter if required, call a family member to take care of the children, go on a short excursion, let your hair down, feel alive and breathe…you will be OK and you’re not alone in your experience.

Keep a journal. Document the negative and the positive aspects of your experience.

This can prove to be an asset if your separation and divorce lead to sticky court proceedings that may or may not involve custody issues. Keeping a journal for any reason is a fantastic method of release, and an easy way to gather your thoughts in a mentally and emotionally tumultuous time. Keep track of everything. Meetings with your spouse, meetings with your children, conversations, issues, concerns, breakthroughs, set backs, highs, lows. Writing can be therapeutic and when all is said and done it will be a testimony of your strength and endurance, because you will endure. You will be OK. Life goes on. There is life after love.