I’ve experienced first-hand the effects of divorce. As a life coach, I’ve worked with clients who were struggling to find their new normal and learning to forgive and accept. While divorce can and may be the best choice for you and your spouse, it is never easy – or simple.
I admire couples who can be civil and find a way to shield their children from mud-slinging ridiculousness. I stand in reverent awe of those couples who have found a way to be friends with their ex-spouse and new partner. But in the society of entitlement that has become our norm, I find it difficult to believe that friendliness and fairness will ever be a part of the new equation that would allow for it to be so.
In fact, our belief systems about what we “deserve” have created a new way of being that is not only destroying our ability to have healthy relationships, it is impacting how we shape our children’s view of the world.
I’m not suggesting that we toss aside our worthiness to appease a relationship. We are human and Americans have the right to the pursuit of happiness and prosperity. But what I am suggesting is an approach to adulthood and parenthood that is not riddled with entitlement.
A balanced and fair approach to custody and the equal distribution of assets at the time of divorce is necessary and healthy. It evens the playing field and allows for a clean slate and a fresh start. But what I’ve witnessed in the recent past is how entitlement has permeated and poisoned the healthiest intentions and has, among other things, destroyed the integrity of the court system.
Lop-sided laws have promulgated the idea that we deserve something simply for having been married to the wrong partner. How is that powerful? It allows for bad decision making and a lack of accountability because the burden of keeping the playing field “even” is put onto one party – the ex. It seems as ludicrous to me as the idea that life is fair. It’s not. In fact, it can be challenging. But at what point do our past choices no longer haunt or handcuff us?
There was a time when our society required laws to protect the rights of those who were not monetarily compensated for their contributions to the family. I support the intention of those laws, but the letter of the law has allowed for it to be abused and the truth distorted.
When dealing with two able-bodied and educated parents, there should be a statute of limitations on how long the ex should be liable for the poor decisions of the former spouse, especially when there is shared custody of the children.
I could ramble on about what is wrong with our legal system, but it essentially boils down to the attitude of entitlement – that we deserve something for nothing.
Imagine what our children would learn from observing the powerful perspectives of acceptance and accountability instead of greed and fear-based decision-making?
Following are several ways divorced couples can leave behind entitlement and move toward personal empowerment.
1. Your finances are your responsibility. Your former spouse is no longer in charge of your lifestyle or financial decisions and should not be expected to be responsible for the consequences of your choices, particularly when you are an able-bodied adult. If you’re job doesn’t pay enough for you to pay your mortgage or afford you the kind of lifestyle you desire, get a new job.
2. Life as you know it is over. Holidays, weekends and previous family-related functions will cease to exist as you know them. It seems obvious, but it’s not and it impacts some people’s ability to move forward with logic. Looking backward to what “used to be” or “what you’ve done for years” will only bring about disappointment and unrealistic expectations. The traditions you created while you were married were part of the marriage and ended with the marriage. It’s time to create new traditions with your children.
3. Your former spouse’s family is no longer your family. Your ex spouse’s parents are simply your children’s grandparents; and your ex spouse’s siblings will (and should) choose their sibling over a relationship with you (if it comes to that). Don’t expect the relationships you had with your ex’s family to be the same. Your involvement in the ex-siblings life is unwelcome and uncomfortable, at best. Be cordial, but remove the expectation that you’re part of that clan.
4. Respect, respect, respect. Schedules matter. By all means, create a new life with a new partner. That’s healthy. But no matter how badly you want to forget your past, your children’s time with the other parent deserves to be respected. Don’t make plans with your children during times when you know they are scheduled to be with their other parent. And if you don’t have a written schedule of custody, make one and honor it!
5. Avoid hashing out your differences on social media. If you need to sling mud, do it in private. If you have something to prove, find a counselor or a coach who can help you heal and find your confidence and grace again. If there are serious concerns about your well-being or the safety of your children, hire an attorney. Involve those who can help, but going social with your issues is destructive and will only delay the healing process.