In family law we often refer to the two parties as “good people at their worst”. Divorce is one of the most emotional of court proceedings. It’s not just about money or property, it is about love gone awry (or gone away), and about the loss of your hopes and dreams for the future. One of the easiest ways to deal with this is to turn your spouse into a bad guy: to remember only the bad times you’ve had with your spouse and his or her family, to think only about the bad characteristics and habits – all of the aggravating and annoying things you’ve endured throughout your marriage.
This is normal, and your spouse is likely going through the same emotional turmoil as yourself; but this kind of thinking can be counter-productive to the divorce process, leading you both to be rigid and unwilling to compromise. In order to smooth the way for yourselves and for your children, consider these few things when you go through the process:
1.Your history with your spouse
- What was it that brought the two of you together in the first place?
- Take stock of what characteristics led you to marry in the first place. Were they ones to value? Do they contribute to making your spouse a good parent?
2. Your spouse’s current character and values
- How would you describe your spouse’s character now?
- Have you seen a change since you were married?
- What about his or her core values?
- How do your character and values compare to your spouse’s; generally and as parents?
3. Conflicts between you and your spouse
- How do you and your spouse handle conflicts now?
- How do you react to each other now?
- Do you know how to push each others buttons?
- Do you know when not to?
- Do you make the efforts not to?
4. Your expectations: now and for the future. How do you anticipate your spouse reacting to…
- Following through with a court order?
- Following through with a negotiated agreement?
- Parenting and being actively involved with the children?
- Remaining current on the child support or paying child related expenses?
Unless there are reasons to doubt your children’s safety, make the effort to not feel threatened as a parent because of the break-up of your marriage. You are leaving your roles as husband and wife. And if there are no children, that should be the end of it. You may mourn the end of the relationship, and you may find it hard to move on, but it will happen.
But if there are children, your lives will be interconnected at least until the children are grown and probably even longer as the family grows with grandchildren. It is in their best interests that neither of you leave your roles as their parents-so long as there are no safety issues involved. Your children’s best interests are paramount, and are a court’s prime directive
in determining children’s issues as between mother and father.
Your children need their mom and dad. Find a way to work that out without getting in each other’s way. Try to work together, not at odds. Kids learn early how to manipulate mom and dad. That’s hard enough if all of you live in one home, but impossible in a separation. Furthermore, kids need consistency. If you can’t accomplish that then you need to at least make it clear that dad has his rules and mom has hers, and as long as the kids are safe with each set of rules, then they must respect the rules in each home-and so will mom and dad.
The bottom line is: What’s in your children’s best interests? Do you trust your spouse as a parent? Are your children safe?
Many good people may be at their worst now, during the divorce. But their core character and values don’t really change. When the dust settles, so will you and your spouse. In the meantime, resist the temptation to tear at your own and your children’s emotions because of issues with your ex.