Divorce: 10 Things I Learned by Vicki Lansky
For anyone who hasn't been divorced, trust me, divorce is never what you imagine it to be. Here are a few insights that may save you a trip to court, or at very least, give you some idea of what may lie ahead. Everything listed here might not apply to everybody. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but it covers most of us.
1. It takes longer to get your divorce behind you than you think, or can allow yourself to believe.
I thought I had it together after a year. Then I thought I had it together after three years. Then I was impressed when I could say I had been divorced five years. Then I was devastated that I could be brought to tears in seconds after eight years when something inappropriate, I thought, was said to me. I guess it's always "there," but fortunately with each passing year it feels longer ago, less important and more comfortable. But unlike your child's owies, it's never quite all gone. As that old saying goes, marriage may not be forever, but divorce is.
2. Going through divorce is a physical experience.
This one took me by surprise. My body seemed to experience a death-defying whirlpool. I hate speed, roller coasters and feeling of one's stomach dropping when on a turbulent airplane ride. But I can remember having all those feelings -- simultaneously -- while just sitting in a chair after we separated. Yuck! Fortunately this usually passes in three to nine months. Shorter than #1, but not short enough!
3. It never works out according to plan -- yours, that is!
And even when it does, it's only for a short time. Life after divorce is always changing and you won't have a lot of control over those changes. We often get hopelessly caught up in parenting plans when we first separate, and, while that is important, it doesn't usually prepare you for ongoing changes and negotiations that go on for years -- changes that you don't always like but learn to live with. There is ongoing tradeoff of deciding which battles will catch your children in middle, and figuring out when one must learn to lose a battle to win war. Or should I say peace -- peace of mind your children need. Life takes twists and turns that will never be in "plan," so you must learn to go with flow or be hopelessly mired in your own anger or disappointments.
4. Parental time (a.k.a. custody) and shared financial responsibility (a.k.a. child support) are NOT tied together.
Though they might be tied together in eyes of your mother or your mother-in-law, these are two separate issues. When you confuse them or make them cause-and-effect items, you do a squeeze on your kids. It seems like such a natural ("If he doesn't pay support on time, well then kids just won't be ready on time or at all" or "I'll be damned if I'm going to send a check this month if she and her honey are going on a ski trip with kids -- that's not what I'm sending support for.") but this is not a life situation where each month comes to an even tally. It never is even. Equitable is best you can hope for. Marriage isn't even, so divorce sure ain't gonna be.
5. You never outgrow your wish to be favored parent.
Remember when your kids asked you who you loved best, you knew what a silly (but honest) question it was because everyone likes being first in hearts of those they love. Unfortunately in a divorce, when parents aren't together to hear news in a shared situation, your child will tell one before other. It doesn't mean you're less favored, secondary or unfavorite parent, but it sure does feels like it. So you have to learn to forgive yourself when those competitive feelings crop up from dark depths of your soul and learn to laugh at them. Remember you're not alone.
6. Divorce doesn't "fix" your ex.
If your former spouse was cheap, never on time and thoughtless before divorce, he or she will continue to be tight, late and prone to saying stupid things in divorce. The things that you tolerated in marriage under perfume of love will infuriate you in divorce. You thought you were done with putting up with "_____" (fill in blank), but it continues just like it was in your marriage. You have to learn to accept, overlook and forgive, or else you are going to expend lots of wasted emotions on someone you're not even married to. You can only be angry with or hate someone you care about. (Ain't that a bummer!) Also, your lawyer can't make your ex-spouse be a sensitive person or parent, so don't waste unnecessary dollars trying to have your lawyer get "through" to him or her. When you can begin to replace word "wrong" (as pertains to parenting skills, money values, personal habits, etc., etc., etc.) with word "different," you'll have come a long way toward acceptance.