Dear Jason, My ex-wife was so uncaring about my pain from our separation and divorce, I could not bear to go home so I spent the next six weeks sleeping on the floor of a friend’s house. What should I do?
Dear Brad, I notice your separation and divorce was important enough to make the newspapers and television. Perhaps you and your ex-wife, Angelina, are putting too much pressure on yourselves. Stop shouldering the burden of divorce by bottling it up inside. Do something outside your normal routine; make a movie, travel, do charity work. Oh. Wait a sec — apparently that is your normal routine.
Try letting Angelina know how you feel; maybe that’ll help.
If, like Brad, you are struggling with the pain, despair, and sting of separation and divorce, your divorce lawyer is not someone you usually turn to for emotional advice. But lawyers (despite rumors and/or evidence and/or legal opinions to the contrary) really are people, and we see a lot of couples go through divorce. The most successful couples emerge, not necessarily as good friends, but in a mental place where they can at least communicate with each other and treat each other decently. Place that as your bottom benchmark. Aspire to more. Here’s how.
It’s Okay to Brood a Bit Over a Divorce
Any life-altering change requires an adjustment period. Death of a loved one; job change; separation; divorce; job loss — these all require time for your psyche to process and heal. This means it is absolutely okay to wallow in your own bitter juices for a short while. Know a few things about the stages of grief, says Divorce Magazine, starting with the simple reality that divorce is common enough that an entire, profitable magazine has been created around it, so you are not alone:
- Pain and Fear
- Depression — Unfortunately, while some men go through the first five stages fairly quickly, many men get stuck in this stage, and have trouble emerging; life loses flavor, meaning, and wonder; you cannot get out of bed in the morning; you neglect your health
- Acceptance — This is the productive stage where you can get on with your life and get things done to improve the relationship with your ex-wife
Be Adversarial, But Not Adversaries
In our system of laws, the relationship between two sides of any legal argument is adversarial. In criminal law, for example, the accused is on one side and represented by a defense attorney, while the public is on the other side and represented by a prosecuting attorney. In divorce, your ex-wife probably had her lawyer and you had yours. The state of Virginia was the neutral arbiter overseeing the adversarial relationship.
Watch any two attorneys for opposing sides, though: they often are completely cordial to one another outside the courtroom, even after raking each other over the legal coals inside the courtroom. They understand their in-court relationship is adversarial, but they do not have to be permanent adversaries.
You and your ex-wife need not carry the weight of in-court recriminations far into your post-divorce life. You both played a part in the failed marriage, harsh as it sounds. She had affairs; were you loving and supportive, or did your coldness drive her away? She filed for divorce; did you pick up signals that she was unhappy? Part of the healing is to each accept some nugget of responsibility for the failed marriage and move on.
Moving on — that is the hardest part for many men. Set as a goal to learn from this painful lesson, to take something positive out of it. That keeps you focused on a future, not dwelling on the past. After the pain and resentment is gone, you can be open to the gift of insight your divorce can provide.
Sometimes, You Just Do It for Your Children
A strong motivator to learn and grow from your divorce is the child you and your wife created. On a practical level, say divorce experts consulted by The Today Show, your children compel you two to talk and solve problems. Whether you have shared or sole physical custody, decisions must be made just as they were during your marriage. Those decisions require you and your ex-wife to communicate, for the good of your children.
Do you want your darling daughter or sweet son to grow up amid two unhappy households? Do you want your visitation time to be some horrible mental intrigue, where you triangulate and manipulate your offspring to turn against their mother?
No — you want none of that, if you are a proud Virginian. You want happy, healthy children who love and are loved by both parents. Set as a goal of your relationship with your ex-wife to make your children genuinely happy, no matter what it takes.
Often the people most in need of help gain the most by helping others, so suck it up, do the right thing by your kids, and force yourself to get along with your ex-wife.
Focus on Gentle Reminders
When talking to, e-mailing or telephoning your ex-wife, keep pictures of your goals nearby. This could be pictures of your children, because they will be visual reminders of what is at stake in every interaction.
Another easy reminder: bite your tongue. If you are struggling to even say your ex-wife’s name, then speak as little as possible. Avoid later regretting something you said in anger.
Get In Touch With The Firm For Men’s Attorneys
At The Firm for Men we handle all aspects of separation and divorce, including post-divorce matters, and have seen many couples succeed at moving on with their lives. Contact us online or call 757-383-9184 for help with post-divorce legal issues, including improving your relationship with your ex-wife (whether or not she is Angelina Jolie).