How can ex-spouses have a good divorce? Is it even possible?
As a former attorney and current master life coach who assists adults considering or going through divorce, my clients often express a fear that the divorce process will be high conflict and devastating.
While there is no shortage of evidence of bad divorces in the media or even among the stories of family and friends, this does not have to be your reality.
Is it Possible to Have a Good Divorce?
Your divorce is more than a legal proceeding. Whether you decide to engage a mediator, pursue collaboration, or go the traditional litigation route, the divorce process may at times be difficult and tiresome.
You may simply want your divorce finalized as quickly as possible so you can move on. However, it is important to remember that your divorce encompasses more than the legal proceedings alone. There are mental, emotional, and physical aspects to consider, as well.
By paying attention to all these elements, you stand a much better chance of emerging from your divorce healthy, whole, and ready to embrace your new life.
There is a lot you can do to have a good divorce. As you navigate through the difficult process of divorce, there are a few things you can do to make it a bit more graceful.
5 Tips to Help You Have a Good Divorce
1. Practice Self-Care
Based not only on what my clients have shared but also on my own personal divorce story, it is not uncommon to experience mood swings and uncomfortable emotional feelings during divorce. You may be mentally and physically weary from time to time, requiring more rest than normal.
You may find it difficult to concentrate or give your full attention to your work or outside interests. You may even feel a bit overwhelmed at certain points.
During these times, it is vital to practice good self-care. You may equate self-care with pampering activities such as a massage or pedicure, and it certainly can include these things.
However, it encompasses so much more. Self-care is any action that contributes to your health and well-being, including simplifying your schedule, getting enough sleep, eating nourishing food, practicing mindfulness and self-compassion, journaling, or unplugging from technology.
2. Seek Support
You may also wish to seek support from outside sources. Engaging a divorce coach or mental health professional familiar with the process can help you manage the parts of your divorce that fall outside the jurisdiction of the law, such as the emotional, mental, physical, and even spiritual components.
This is a perfect opportunity to work through some of the painful thoughts and tough emotions that may come up during your divorce.
While the squelched intensity of repressed emotions such as despair, anger, and worry can cause numerous physiological problems (e.g., psychosomatic illnesses, addictions, insomnia, and neuroses), by addressing and not suppressing, you set yourself up for a positive new chapter once the proceedings are finalized.
You – and often any family or friends who have been affected by the process — will benefit greatly from the transformational work you do during your divorce.
3. Get Active
Studies show that cancer patients who are engaged in their treatment plan and healing fare much better than those who sit back and allow their medical team to dictate what will happen to them. In much the same way, you can apply these same principles to your divorce.
Yes, there are laws and guidelines you will be required to follow, and the mediator and/or attorney you hire will assist you with that. However, much like a patient becoming proactive in his or her medical care, it will be up to you to decide who you want to be and how you want to handle the rest of your divorce.
4. Define Your Values
To have a good divorce, you should define your values. I often ask my clients to define their values or the character traits they want to exemplify during their divorce.
Once they have identified these characteristics, they can use them as guiding principles in hiring an attorney who aligns with their philosophy, in selecting their preferred method for dispute resolution, and in choosing their words and actions throughout the proceedings.
If, for example, you choose authenticity, integrity, and compassion, ask yourself throughout the process whether your behavior and legal strategy aligns with these traits.
Additionally, like a professional athlete visualizing a perfect performance, spend time envisioning how you want the proceedings to unfold and how you want your relationship with your soon-to-be ex to look.
In my own divorce, for example, I found that by setting intentions, staying grounded, and doing visualizations of negotiations and my ideal future relationship with my ex, my energy affected my spouse’s reactions and his willingness to engage constructively.
There will likely be moments when tensions flare and you fear the worst, or you may not have a spouse who is willing to play nice. While you can’t control your spouse’s actions, you can control your own energy and reactions.
Instead of focusing on external circumstances, try bringing that focus inward. Take more time for self-care, much-needed rest, and connection to your inner wisdom through whatever means work best for you.
5. Understand the Importance of Ritual and Ceremony
Chances are you put a bit of thought and planning into your wedding. You and your spouse likely selected the location where it would take place, the people who would surround you, the clothes you would wear, and the vows you would recite.
For humans, ritual and ceremony are important. They provide touchstones during a lifetime and honor significant transitions. Unlike the care and preparation given to a wedding, however, during divorce, the parties often simply want the proceedings behind them with little acknowledgment of this life-changing event.
In much the same way as a memorial service commemorates a person’s memory, a ceremony around your divorce can be a very healing endeavor.
Depending on how contentious things are, you may be the only one doing this ceremony. It doesn’t have to be big. It simply needs to be meaningful. This may mean selecting some photos or mementos from the marriage and burning them as an effigy in your backyard.
Or going to your favorite river or body of water and performing a cleansing ritual to release the old and embrace the new. Or holding a divorce gathering, similar to a wedding reception, where friends and family can support one or both of you as you enter into the next chapter of your life.
Simply ask yourself what you need to feel whole and complete around the process. How can you best honor the past and embrace your future? Whatever that looks like for you is perfect – like your wedding, it should reflect your unique desires and intentions, whatever those are.
Although the path through your divorce may include some twists and bumps, the above tips can assist you in making the journey a bit smoother. Empower yourself with the constructive strategies and suggestions listed here or elsewhere that resonate for you, and you will be well equipped to have a good divorce.