When people ask me if my divorce is amicable, I tell them that it's peaceful.
That statement in itself seems contradictory. A divorce is a total dissolution of a relationship and maybe even a family. Destruction. A collapse. How could something initially so sad -- yet sometimes so happy -- be considered peaceful? Here's how.
You Fight Fair
Even in the smoothest of divorces, conflict arises. Sure, there may be one or two divorces in which both parties are both so content to be without each other that it's easy peasy, but in most divorce situations there is some conflict at the beginning. If everything were sunshine and kittens, you would stay married! But the one thing I swore to myself when my ex-husband and I decided to split up was that we wouldn't be the parents battling each other in the school parking lot or at drop-offs in front of our child. I was not going to be a part of some ugly divorce circus.
My ex and I get along and even from time to time hug each other, but sometimes he makes me sad. If he didn't, we'd still be living together. But I made a pact with myself to fight fairly. That means not gathering stones to throw insults. That means choosing a time to discuss tense matters when our child is not around. It means not mentioning old hurts from the past or placing blame of the divorce on anyone.
Most women balked when I said my ex-husband has our daughter three days a week.
"What happened to every other weekend?" they said.
Sure, it would be nice to have my daughter more, but what's more important here? My selfish wants or her unselfish needs? My ex is an amazing dad and it takes two people to make a baby. He and I sat down to make a schedule that works the best for her -- not for us. And when she goes into kindergarten (she's 4 now), she will primarily reside with me in order to reduce the back and forth of her current routine. We both feel this is crucial to helping her school success, so I would like him to get as much time with her now while there are no homework or after-school activities to stress about. At the end of the day, we want her to be happy and experience the least amount of stress as possible.
It's not just custody time that was important in our peaceful divorce. It's how we help guide our daughter in this divorce destruction that helps us create a peaceful divorce. We shared a birthday party together for her happiness. We brought her to play therapy to help her adjust. We agreed to stop undermining each other if the other parent is disciplining our girl. Instead, we support and back the other person up so we can come across as a united front for our child. It can be difficult because we don't always agree with what the other is doing but negating each other in front of her was affecting her.
You want a peaceful divorce? Put your kids first, if you've got them.
Not Always Going To Be Happy
Stop pressuring yourself to be amicable 24/7. It's okay to disagree with each other. For a long time when we first separated, I panicked if things got remotely tense, feeling this huge pressure for us to be the perfect divorced couple all the time. That wasn't realistic. A real divorce has moments of tension. No party can be perfect. Still, in these moments of tension people who are aiming for a peaceful divorce know that bad moments happen and they accept this. I accept that divorce has its lows as well as its highs. I accept that I can go weeks getting along with my ex like we're best friends and that the next day, we hit a rough patch. I am sure as time goes on the rough patches lessen, but part of having a peaceful divorce means accepting the roller coaster ride of divorce and going along with it.
Letting Go and Forgiving Yourself
Yes, I said let go and forgive yourself. I don't care if your ex was a two-time cheating bastard. Most likely, you too contributed to the downfall of your marriage. Someone who wants a peaceful divorce forgives her or his part in the marriage's demise and instead, uses that energy to work towards a new peace together in post-divorce life. I could sit here and list all the things my ex did that hurt me. I could list every single mistake I ever made with him and obsess about it for days, but where would this behavior land me? Not in a peaceful place.
Don't you dare start keeping score with your ex over who might be the better parent, have the better life, or be the better person. Whoop-de-doo, you took your kids for ice cream and have a bigger house! Wowie-zowie, you always get your kids to bed on time whereas your ex always runs a little late. No one gets awards at the end of the year for being the best parent in a divorced situation ever! There are no Oscars for the person who achieved happiness and success after divorce. You should want everyone to be happy in a divorce situation. Sure, you may be twisted and sad over pain your ex caused you but you become the jerk when you waste time trying to set up some juvenile competition in which no one truly wins and you only spin your wheels on a destructive cause.
If you want a peaceful divorce at some point, you've got to metaphorically or physically shake hands and say, "Thanks for the time we had and now it's time to move on." Remember you even did this when you were a kid! Whether you won or lost the baseball game, everyone shook hands at the hand on the field. Having a peaceful divorce means accepting that it's done, but this doesn't mean that your days of happiness are over. If you want happiness post divorce you've got to make that happiness happen because it won't come up to you and tap you on the back. To me, having a peaceful divorce was the only way I was going to end my marriage. I can't waste my life and days being angry over spilled milk. Yes, it's a big fat messy spill, but it can be cleaned up and life goes on. There's a whole world out there waiting for me to grab it by the balls, and grab I will!