I usually offer a sad smile when someone says, “I’m going through a really bad divorce.” I mean, is there any other kind? No. Getting divorced is no picnic. It’s a war, in many cases, and you feel like you are trying to come to agreements with someone who has become a complete stranger to you.
It’s kind of bizarre if you think about it. You once stood in a wedding dress with this person, did the whole romantic first wedding dance, had babies with him, and now, you just can’t stand each other, and all you want is to be as far away as possible from this person.
One thing that happens in almost every divorce is that because both people are so hurt and angry and bitter and sad and scared, they behave badly at times. I call it “bad divorce behavior.” In some divorces, it is a one time incident, in others, bad divorce behavior is perpetual and can go on years after the divorce is finalized.
What do I mean by bad divorce behavior? I’m talking about things like: one of the people flaunting their new boyfriend/girlfriend to hurt the spouse or make him or her jealous, not paying child support on time to aggravate the spouse, or badmouthing and brainwashing the kids against the soon-to-be-ex.
Bad divorce behavior is done with the intention of hurting the other person in some way, again because the person has all this pent up hurt, frustration, fear, anger, resentment, or a combination of two or more of these things.
Bad divorce behavior has consequences. First, it can slow down a divorce process, meaning the couple must spend more time and money before the divorce is final. Secondly, being petty and mean-spirited just makes everything worse. So, if you think you are hurting your spouse, you might be, but you are also hurting your ability to find peace, to heal, to move on. Lastly, bad divorce behavior also hurts innocent children. They are the true victims. If you hold the child support check back, who are you really hurting? But because of their intense pain, many people don’t realize or care, which is really really sad.
Here are 3 examples of bad divorce behavior—appalling divorce behavior, actually:
1. A Summer vacation good-bye kiss and hug denied. I know a couple who has been divorced for a few years. They have a very strict parenting schedule because that’s what the wife wants. She is never willing to bend the schedule, even if it means her ex missing out on seeing his kids because he is traveling. The wife was recently taking their three children on a summer vacation for a week. The ex-husband asked her if he could swing by the morning they were leaving and just give the kids a kiss and hug good-bye. He was planning on bringing them some treats from Starbucks for the car ride. The ex-wife adamantly refused and said, “You said good-bye to them last night. Why do you have to do it again?”
Here is my stance. issue. I think that the reason for this woman’s pettiness is that she clearly has underlying anger and resentment issues towards her ex that she hasn’t worked out. Secondly, if she asked herself, “Would the kids like this?” (which is a question every parent should ask when weighing a decision like this) and she answered herself “yes,” then she should have let him come over. She didn’t think of her kids, she thought of her own vengeance and satisfaction of hurting her ex (again.) Pitiful. Very very bad divorce behavior.
2. Ex and his fiancé mail wedding invitation for his kids to his ex’s house. This is a disgusting display of trying to twist the knife in the ex-wife’s back as hard as possible. Do people have that much hate that they would stoop to this level to try to hurt the ex? Apparently the ex has his own place, where the kids go frequently, so why not mail it there? Because the two bitter, angry, mean-spirited people wanted the ex-wife to suffer and feel sad and lonely. My take is that they are miserable, unhappy people. Why? Because happy people don’t want to hurt others like this. The fiancé is actually worse than the ex-husband. Why would SHE want to hurt the woman?? Ugh. Pathetic!
3. Ex husband tries to plant drugs and frame his ex-wife in attempt to get full custody. So basically, the guy hates his ex-wife so much that he wants to get her out of the picture and take her away from his children. So, his hate for his ex exceeds the love he has for his children because he is attempting to take their mother away. Their mother. This is a very sick person. If any judge found out about this, he would be the one losing custody.
Anyone reading this is surely thinking, “I’ve got one…” meaning an example of bad divorce behavior. Why? Because some form of bad behavior is present in almost every divorce situation. I am guilty of it myself. I am not going to say I never behaved badly during my divorce and even after (although not to the extent of these three examples). My point is, I’m not preaching because I’ve been there.
But I think the key in avoiding bad divorce behavior is recognizing it. If you want to do something hurtful or vengeful to your ex, ask yourself two things: “Why am I doing it?” and “What am I trying to gain from this?” Sure, maybe it would feel good for a few minutes, and you could get that satisfaction of feeling justice, (like, “he really deserved that”) but what happens after? A, your kids might suffer. And B, I just think it leaves a person with a yucky feeling. No one wants to be the bad guy.
As far as being the victim of bad divorce behavior, remember two things: one, you cannot control what your ex is doing, so don’t try. Accept that you cannot change him or her. Two, take the high road. It is ALWAYS the best road, no matter what. Instead, lean on the Lord, friends, your kids, your family and your loved ones. Also, lean on yourself. You’d be surprised how much strength and courage you have that you don’t even realize. And in the end, the high road leads to happy, beautiful, successful places. And maybe, you might see that it overlooks the valley where vindictive people who implement bad divorce behavior end up as a result of their own bad choices.
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.