I'll be chronicling my new life as I go through the divorce process and I hope you'll follow my journey. If you're looking for me to bash my ex, that won't happen. But if you're looking for a woman and mom excited for a new life, if you find it interesting to read about the roller coaster of emotions and all of the things that come with starting over... then join me here.
When I first announced my separation a few months ago, I heard the same sentiment from so many people. Once the initial shock subsided, many people sent me emails, texts and left messages applauding my bravery. Many friends and strangers shared their own stories of struggles with their spouses. But it wasn't until one of my closest friends left her husband a few weeks ago that I fully felt how brave it is to take this step. It was through my own understanding of how difficult it is to leave that I was able to be completely supportive of her and applaud her bravery, especially since I'm just a few steps ahead. I'm grateful for how far my soon-to-be ex and I have come and for how much we have accomplished. But I wouldn't want to do any of it over again -- and that's in my amicable situation. No matter how friendly the breakup is, the change is an adjustment that comes with ups and downs. My own recent experience makes me want to share more now, particularly for my friend just starting out on this rollercoaster.
Here's my advice:
1. Separate your kids when telling them about the divorce. This was my smartest moment. We had been so careful about what language to use, but we never thought about whether or not to tell them together. I texted my therapist the night before, asking, "Shouldn't we tell our kids separately so they can each have their own reaction?" I didn't want one of my son's reactions defined by his brothers reaction. My therapist said no one had ever asked this before; I'm glad I thought of it. My kids were able to initially react however they wanted without being influenced by the other, and their lives won't be defined by someone else's behavior.
2. There are no rules. Don't follow textbooks and online research. Do what works for you. There are so many places to go for information but no one knows you and your situation. Should you split the time with the kids evenly? Should the kids see the other parent on their "off" time? Do what works for you. Isn't the best scenario for your kids the scenario that keeps them and both parents happy?
3. Be friends with your ex even if you have a fight or a bad day. Take a break if you need it, but remain friends with your ex. Last week my son said, "I'm so lucky, my parents are best friends". And he's right. He is lucky. And we are friends. It doesn't mean we don't have moments of anger or days filled with rage, but if you truly are interested in doing what's best for the kids, being friends is the way to go.
4. Try not to be angry. You will go through a roller coaster of emotions. One moment you could feel happy and relieved, the next angry or sad. These emotions are all part of the equation, but your kids will feel your anger. Your ex will feel your anger. No matter what happened, no matter why it is ending, leave the anger in the marriage and out of the divorce.
5. Don't use divorce lawyers until you are ready to finalize an agreement or specifically lay the ground rules for what the lawyer is to do. You will need a consultation to learn the law and to learn your rights but only you know what is in your best interest; no lawyer can possibly know that. I know that this may sound crazy. Sometimes, lawyers are not looking out for your best interest. They don't know your situation. Many people I know rave about their mediators. Try to work through the divorce in a way that works for you without lawyers deciding what is best for you.