Is it really possible for a couple to divorce with dignity? Amidst the media reports we hear about famous couples levelling nasty accusations at each other and fighting over the custody of the kids, there are many people who are opting for divorce with dignity over an acrimonious split.
These husbands and wives want what’s best for their kids, which is family, and they want to salvage their own sanity. Many are doing things differently because they saw the carnage of their parents’ divorces, with mum and dad not speaking or badmouthing each other in front of the kids. There are good reasons why some divorces go very badly: chronic infidelity, abuse, mental illness and addiction can make separating traumatic. But for others parting under less extenuating circumstances, divorce can be an awakening: Some people find they are better ex-spouses than they were spouses.many of these exes are actively trying to drop the antagonistic timbre of separation. They’re choosing collaborative divorce and hiring mediators to avoid adversarial litigation and high court costs.
These are some of the cultural shifts surveyed in U.S. journalist Wendy Paris’s new book Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well. Through a rigorous review of the existing research literature on divorce, plus interviews with more than 200 exes, as well as lawyers, therapists and coaches, Paris offers a new mindset around separation. She examines why divorce has remained so shrouded in ignorance, why we fear bad splits but fail to recognize bad marriages, and why “horror stories suck up the airtime,” even as many couples are taking a more civilized way forward – leaving the old-style, cold-turkey divorce behind. She believes that divorce with dignity will eventually become the norm.
“People are going to partner up and hope it lasts forever. Those relationships are going to continually break up. The law and research is pushing us toward shared parenting. This is a shift in doctrine that forces people to remain involved with each other. It has to go this way,” the author said.
Research shows that shared parenting is the most beneficial way of sharing custody of the children of divorce. In the absence of violence or neglect, children did best when they were able to have e meaningful relationship with both parents. To this end, many ex-spouses are overhauling conventional arrangements after divorce. Paris traces the rise of bird nesting, where parents rotate in and out of a matrimonial home while children stay put. Others choose to live a few blocks away, directly next door or even temporarily on different floors of one family home, so kids get a softer landing and nobody is relegated to “weekend parent” status. These families will often vacation together, share major holidays and maintain old weekend rituals.
Of course, there are bound to be negative emotions when it comes to divorce. Pain, anger and fear lie at the heart of many divorces. Paris says that “emotional regulation” is important if you want to divorce with dignity: getting those hot feelings of anger, insecurity and unfairness under control. Instead of dumping every emotional ripple on your ex, take responsibility for how you feel. Drop the old marital expectations and build some healthy distance. The endpoint of these divorces, she says, isn’t cozy chuminess with your ex but “benign disinterest.” This may not be possible without the help of a counsellor or mental health professional, but if it allows you to divorce with dignity rather than experience a prolonged court battle, it’s worth it.
Behaviours To Avoid To Achieve a Divorce With Dignity
Don’t be defensive.
This may be hard to swallow, but if your ex says ‘I want the children on Wednesday night’ or ‘I’m not paying for that’, your job is to understand their needs before becoming defensive.
When you immediately react defensively, you just prolong the war.
Quit the Blame Game
Taking responsibility for your role in any conflict that may arise at this challenging time is probably the last thing you want to do. But playing the blame game only allows the problem to continue. Ask yourself: ‘How am I partly responsible for this conflict’?
However resistant you are to the idea of negotiating these issues with your former partner, taking responsibility for your part in disagreements will make it easier to reach resolution.
How To Divorce With Dignity
Build some distance
Set rules against returning to intimacy with each other and against talking about dating. If you have children, limit your conversations to parenting. And if you feel yourself getting nostalgic, remember the bad times. Instead, you have an opportunity to create a new life for yourself. Make lots of plans with your own social circle. For those temporarily living with an ex, setting timelines is helpful so that you have clear dates to work towards.
For exes who are bird nesting or sharing a family home, it’s important to reach agreement and document that agreement to avoid fights. How will you share the housework, parent/teacher interviews and doctors appointments? What kind of behaviours will be acceptable? With bird nesting, basic respect is also key. It won’t work for long if one ex refuses to do their share.
Even the friendliest of exes should foresee that they will need privacy once one or both parties start dating again. If you’re still living together, this gets especially tricky. Is there a separate entrance? Do you let each other know that someone is coming over? Are there off-limits days when kids are home? If you’re on great terms with your ex, how does your new partner fit into the equation? Is there a possibility for insecurity in the new relationship?
Be honest with you kids
Children hang onto their reconciliation fantasies, usually until one of the parents finds another partner. Parents to keep the dialogue going and be ready for some kind of regressive behaviour or outbursts from your child when someone finds a new partner. It’s also important to be completely honest about how the relationship between you will look as you move forward. It might be important to explain that even if you are getting along well together, it doesn’t mean that you’ll reconcile.
If you’d like to talk to one of out friendly and experienced family lawyers, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We specialise in low-conflict divorce.