Thursday, July 31, 2014

10 rules for surviving divorce with young children

1. like nemo...... just keep swimming. some days it might feel as if you are swimming through honey. whatever you do, just keep moving. you will get through this. what is coming next might be crappy or maybe (hopefully) amazing but whatever you do..... just. keep. swimming. dog-paddle, if you must. just don't stop. if you stop, you might drown.

2. figure out who you can talk to...and who you can't. most people in your life will come from a place of love when offering advice. however, even the best intentioned may only help to increase your anger when expressing their own emotions of hurt and anger towards your ex. i don't know about you, but anger was not an emotion i needed more of. depend and rely more on the friends that will listen and offer support and love....and not express as passionately the anger and hurt you may be trying (oh, so hard) to keep at bay.

3. there will be causalities of war. you will lose some mutual friends and family. it will hurt. this, sadly, is inevitable. relationships change, people take sides loudly or in a quiet way by silently slipping away. but at some point, it happens. if you are a person who cares deeply about people (like i do) it is a painful heartache to see relationships change and even disappear. 

4. get a paid best friend (aka a therapist). a paid best friend is someone you can talk to about everything you are feeling and can listen with an unbiased ear and offer advice and support. it will be the best money you ever spent. it doesn't mean that you are weak or something is wrong with you. you are strong and brave....and (bonus): having someone to vent to will keep you from being one of those people that write crazy facebook status updates sharing more than they should.

5. put on your big girl panties and do whatever is best for the kids. it will sometimes go against everything in your nature, just do it. it is not their fault this is all happening. they will be affected by your divorce no matter what. so, try to keep them out of it as much as you can.  take the high road. protect the kids at whatever cost. put a smile on your face, make them feel safe and protected and loved. do not put them in the middle. protect their image of their father or mother. it doesn't matter what happened and how much you hate your ex---he/she is their parent. don't be the one to shatter the illusion they have of their parent's perceived perfection. life moves too fast. the years are flying by and they are growing so quickly. they will, sadly, know the reality at some point in their life. let it not be from you.

6. learn to love yourself again. depending on your situation, divorce can leave you feeling like you don't even know the person you have become. somehow, throughout my marriage i lost myself. it wasn't sudden. it was in small, tiny ways that chopped away at who i was. once the marriage ended, i realized all of those tiny chips equaled some pretty major erosion to who i thought i was. take the time to find out who you are as an individual, not as the couple. it's taken time, but i really, really like the strong, authentic, loving woman i have become. i love her. find the silver lining...

7. be kind. force yourself to find kindness even where you think there is none. at all kids performances, weddings, realize quickly that your ex really is a part of your life forever. you know the for better or for worse part of your vows? the ones that you thought you needed for the marriage? turns out they come in pretty handy for the divorce part too. when all else fails? follow the golden rule and treat people how you want to be treated....even if you are not treated the same in return.

8. embrace schizophrenia - this may sound weird....but, listen up. it helps to think of your spouse as two separate people--- one is the person you married and made a life commitment to..... and the other person is the father/mother of your children. compartmentalizing like this makes it easier to have conversations. find a way to separate 1.  the two of you and the marriage that didn't work out and all of that baggage from 2. the two of you as the co-parents to your children. protect that.

9. think before you speak. we all learned this when we were young and it still applies today. most of the words you wish you could take back will be those said in a moment of extreme emotion when you speak without thinking it through. stop. take a breath. process...think.... and then respond. 

10. really think before you start dating. this may not your time of life. people often ask me why i have chosen not to date, up to this point, even though it has been almost 3 years since my marriage ended. short answer? it is because i choose to put my kids first. i am not saying that you can't date....or that i won't, at some point, if the right person comes along....i am just saying you might want to give yourself time. divorce has a way of chewing you up and leaving you at your lowest. through that pain, you will learn so much about yourself. if you give yourself the time and the space to feel that pain and move through it without looking for someone else to heal it for you, i believe you will be better off for that.

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