I’ve been reading the blogs and writings of other divorcees for some time now and one thing is clear — not all divorcees are created equal.
Some still seem so bitter and angry at their former spouse; they’re still pointing fingers at him even if they’re many years past into their divorce.
Am I the only lucky one who gets along fairly well with her former husband?
No, of course not! Among the dozen or so divorcees I know, most are friendly or at least civil with their former husbands even if their marital history included bad behaviors — infidelity, alcoholism, financial deception — you name it.
So why are some couples able to divorce well and others not?
I can’t help but wonder if the way a couple divorces has something to do with it. My former husband and I mediated, as did several of my friends. A few used collaborative divorce. And, yes, a few litigated but still didn’t end up wanting to rip out each others’ throat.
Again, were we all just lucky?
Unlikely. Actually, I think most of us were smart. Although we acknowledged that we were no longer able to live together as husband and wife, we still had kids to raise — how were we going to do that? No matter which way we divorced, we were able to put our kids first and back up that important decision with actions that led to (relatively) peaceful co-parenting.
We weren’t perfect, we weren’t martyrs and we certainly weren’t always happy about doing it. But we did it anyway.
Our willingness to be flexible and perhaps even generous to our former spouses aside, the divorce process does make a difference in how you feel post-divorce, or so family mediator Roseann Vanella writes on my Facebook page:
Litigation creates and adversarial environment which does not really teach couples how to communicate and negotiate respectfully. Where as, mediation & collaborative does create a non threatening environment and through the process teaches one another to communicate in order to reach agreement. Peoples experience of divorce lasts with them for their lifetime and especially will affect how they interact post divorce and a big part of interacting is in co parenting.
True, people who are dealing with abusive, angry people are probably not going to be able to have a peaceful divorce through mediation or collaboration. But mediation should be the start, or so says LA family law attorney Mark B. Baer, who points out how successful mediation has been at resolving family law disputes (PDF) in Australia, England, Wales, British Columbia, Quebec and Utah because they changed the default.
As he notes in a speech at last year’s Divorce Expo:
unless and until the default process for handling divorce and other family law matters is changed from litigation to some form or forms of consensual dispute resolution, it only takes one person to sink the ship and thus destroy the family. Parents who end up in court are forced into an adversary system that knows little about child development and less about the best interests of children or the family unit. In sum, the adversary system destroys families. No one can expect a couple to effectively parent after being exposed to the court process.
I just cannot wrap my head around the rantings of parents who have allowed their divorces to drag on for years — it just can’t be healthy for their kids. And since some of them are now divorce coaches, I shudder to think about all the advice — based on one person’s unhappy marital dissolution experience — that they’re presenting as “the truth.”
It’s not my truth. But I’m also not positioning myself as an advisor for those who are divorcing (although I’d gladly talk about it for free for hours!).
Really, divorce is rarely easy, especially if we have kids. I think we all get that. We just aren’t going to make it any easier if we go into it looking for “what’s mine.” If you’re out to hurt your partner, get revenge, even the score, make him/her “realize the consequences of his/her actions” go for it. Just as long as you realize it will set the stage for the rest of your co-parenting life (and that can be a really long time if we want our kids to outlast us, as most parents do.)
So, am I advocating mediation or collaborative law instead of litigating in family court? You bet! Am I influenced by my own experience. Of course!
Regardless — it’s where all people considering divorce should start.
- How did you divorce?
- How has that impacted your life post-divorce?
Good news — the Kickstarter page for Susan Pease Gadou and my book project, “The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Cynics, Commitaphobes and Connubial DIYers,” is up! Please support us, but even if you’re not a position to help us financially, we’d greatly appreciate it if you could spread the word. Let’s give traditional marriage a kick in the pants!