Taking the high road in divorce is not easy. As a matter of fact, it might seem downright unfair, and even stupid sometimes. Why would you ever want to do anything good, or fair, or nice to someone who just destroyed your family, your dreams, and your heart?
If you have kids, the obvious reason is to do it for their sake. Because whether you like it or not, you and your ex are going to be your kids’ parents forever. The better the two of you get along, the easier your divorce will be on your kids.
It really is that simple.
The second reason for taking the high road in divorce is less obvious, but it is no less important.
You can divorce your spouse. But you can never divorce yourself.
After your divorce is over, you are going to have to look in the mirror every single day and face yourself.
You – who you are and what you stand for – is far more valuable and far more important than acting in a way you will later be ashamed of or regret. In the long run, your integrity is worth more than the extra dollars you may get in your divorce settlement if you lie, cheat, or act like a jerk.
You have already lost your marriage. Don’t let your divorce cost you your soul, too.
Here are 10 ways to taking the high road in divorce:
1. Treat your spouse with respect, even if s/he doesn’t deserve it.
Your spouse is a human being. No matter what s/he has done in the past, you owe it to your spouse to at least be civil (especially in front of the kids) simply because s/he is human. (In truth, that may be the only reason you can think of for not ripping your spouse to shreds. But that’s okay. You work with what you have got.)
2. Freely share information about the kids, without needing to be asked.
No matter how angry you are at your spouse, remember, your kids are a part of both of you! Your kids know it, and they feel it. Openly sharing information about your kids lives is a simple, but powerful way to start to build a relationship as co-parents. Like it or not, that is what the two of you will be for as long as you live. Anything you can do to make that relationship better will benefit your kids beyond measure.
3. Switch parenting days and times without making it a big deal.
So what if you don’t feel that it is fair to you that you have to constantly re-arrange your schedule to accommodate your ex’s last minute plans with the kids. If it is better for your kids to switch, then just do it! Obviously, if you can’t switch because of your work schedule, or if you already have plans, you may not be able to switch parenting times. But, if switching is just annoying, suck it up and do what you need to make your kids’ lives easier.
4. Don’t tell your kids all of the details of your split.
Yes, you want to tell your kids “the truth,” especially if they are older. But, there are some things that your kids never need to know, no matter how old they are! You are not “hiding information” from them by not sharing inappropriate details about your marriage with them. You are protecting them. You are their parent. That is what parents do.
5. Just because you have the upper hand in your divorce, that doesn’t mean you have to play it.
This probably goes against everything that a “good” litigation attorney would ever tell you to do. But, there is more to life than safeguarding your “legal rights.” So what if you have the power to destroy your spouse legally, financially, or emotionally? If you were in charge of a nuclear weapon, would you use it just because you could?
6. Don’t take the bait.
If your spouse says something mean to you, or does something really stupid, or pushes your buttons, take a deep breath, and walk away. Do not engage! It will take a huge amount of self-control, but I promise you, it will be worth it. The more you fight, the longer your divorce takes and the more it costs. Fighting affects your kids, and it takes a toll on your own health. While you may think that “giving in” makes you a wimp, the truth is that, keeping your temper when all you want to do is lose it, is the strongest, most courageous thing you can do.
7. Don’t text your spouse 97 times a day.
You are getting a divorce. It’s time to cut the cord. The same thing applies to social media. Don’t Facebook stalk your spouse, or your spouse’s new squeeze! All you are doing is torturing yourself … and giving your spouse grounds to get an Order of Protection against you! Yes, it’s hard to let go. But until you let go of your spouse, you are the one who is tied up!
8. Resist the temptation to lie, cheat, or hide money.
It’s tempting to want to be a little “creative” with your money when you are getting a divorce – especially if your spouse has already done the same. Stooping to your spouse’s level just drags both of you down in the mud. If preserving your own integrity is not reason enough to take the high road with your money, then look at it from a practical perspective. If you can show the judge your spouse is dishonest, your case will get stronger. But if you have been dishonest too, any advantage you may have had will be lost.
9. When your spouse nickel and dimes you in settlement negotiations, let it go.
Again, I’m not telling you to be a doormat. But you also don’t want to be penny wise and pound foolish. If it costs you $10,000 in attorney’s fees to argue about $5,000 in assets, even if you win the argument, what have you gained? Plus, psychologically, some people just need to “win.” If your spouse is one of those people, and allowing him or her to feel like a “winner” costs you a little bit of money, but lets you put your divorce behind you, you will be much better off by rising above your spouse’s pettiness.
10. If you make a mistake, or you screw up, apologize.
No, you don’t necessarily “owe” your spouse an apology. But, wouldn’t you appreciate it if your spouse apologized to you when s/he did something wrong? So what if hell would have to freeze over before your spouse ever apologized to you. We are not talking about your spouse. We are talking about you, and about the kind of person you want to be, as well as the kind of example you want to set for your kids.
Karen Covy is a divorce attorney, advisor, mediator and coach who is committed to helping couples resolve their disputes as amicably as possible. She is also the author of When Happily Ever After Ends: How to Survive Your Divorce Emotionally, Financially, and Legally. Karen has been featured on the Channel 7 News, WCIU You and Me This Morning, WGN Radio, MarketWatch, The Goodmen Project, and numerous other radio shows, publications, and podcasts. You can find her articles on The Huffington Post, Divorced Moms, Divorce Force, GUYVORCE, and Your Tango, as well as on her own website at karencovy.com. This blog was originally published on Karen’s website.
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Admitting wrongdoing is ill advised if your ex is a vindictive narcissist bent of revenge. They will use anything they can to punish you for including them by divorcing them.
Outstanding advice. It makes yourself and children better, because they need both parents. However, I am surprised it comes from an attorney, because many increase acrimony, cause problems, and work on lose/lose mentality. Certainly it is not the lawyer’s fault, because litigants are constantly looking for that supposed tough lawyer who will scare everyone, when all she does is justify the other lawyer taking an equally belligerent approach.
Divorced mom wrote, “Admitting wrongdoing is ill advised if your ex is a vindictive narcissist bent of revenge. They will use anything they can to punish you for including them by divorcing them.” Small acknowledgements are unlikely to cause serious problems. If the spouse is angry this is a good approach, because actually they are looking for a nasty divorce to engage with you, and ventilate their anger.