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January 16, 2014

Divorcing with Integrity

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The divorce rate has been hovering around fifty percent for many years in the United States. As many of you know, divorce is often a very painful process for all involved, even in the most amicable of situations. In those divorces that aren’t amicable, the damage done is hard to fathom. This is especially true in those divorces where children are involved. I can think of no worse example of this than a recent incident in Florida in which a mother is alleged to have shot and killed her two teenage children and then turned the gun on herself. Allegedly, the mother was under extreme duress about the divorce and the father’s alleged unwillingness to provide child support, alimony or anything else (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/fla-mom-allegedly-kills-teens-murder-suicide-cops-article-1.1579512).

Although I don’t know what the “truth” is in this case, I do know that many people go through divorce angry, bitter and determined to “get” the other person. I have seen countless couples emotionally bash one another throughout the divorce process, attempt to get every last cent from the other person and try to make the other person hurt as they themselves hurt. These maneuvers cause nothing but more pain for families already reeling from the loss of family as they knew it.

As you can imagine, children often get pulled into this craziness. They frequently hear one parent constantly bad mouth the other parent. Day in and day out, they hear what a louse dad was or what a bitch their mother is. Because they have half the genes of each parent, they wonder what that means about who they are or who they will become as adults. When divorce turns ugly, it impacts the children to their core. 

These children live in a nightmare with no one to take care of them because their mother and father are too busy spinning in anger and hurt to be able to be there for the children. The children end up getting into a loyalty battle, having to prove their loyalties to each parent. They feel guilty if they love both parents, since that means they’re going against one parent at times. They learn to act as though they hate one parent in order to take care of the other parent. Caretaking their parents leaves the children no time to figure out their own feelings so they learn to go along to get along. 

My heart goes out to not only the kids in divorce situations, but to the parents as well. The parents are often heartbroken, angry, scared and overwhelmed at the myriad of issues that arises with the break up of the home. If the break up was sudden and the result of an inciting incident (i.e. affair, lies, addiction) then it’s very difficult to stay grounded and respectful when your world has been rocked. Although most of these parents love their children immensely, their own pain (or the other spouse’s vindictiveness) makes it very difficult to go through the divorce amicably. And, although I get how difficult it is to take the high road when your world seems to be spinning out of control, that is exactly what every parent going through a divorce is responsible for doing. 

Once a couple decides to divorce, it is their job to go through it as humanely as possible for all parties involved and especially for children. Both parents are responsible for protecting their children from any ugliness associated with divorce. Neither parent should bad-mouth, purposely try to harm, or in any way try to “stick it” to the other person. Both parents are responsible for being role models for their children, not a source of pain.

If you are going through a divorce, with or without children, take the high road. No matter what your spouse did or does…take the high road. Hold them accountable, protect yourself, seek legal council and…take the high road. If children are involved, it is even more important that you take the high road. Don’t pass your anger onto them and don’t wreak havoc on their lives with your determination to exact revenge; it’s not worth it.

Challenge: If you’re struggling through a divorce, be determined to go through it with integrity on your end. If your partner is going for the jugular, seek legal help, stay steady and have your back, without trying to cause them hurt. You and your children will be glad in the long run that you did. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is exactly what I've always preached! Having been divorced twice, I've always taken the high road and preached "the kids welfare is most important". On top of that , why don't divorcing couples ever seem to realize that they were once in love and treat each other as such?

I am a mental health therapist and am involved in Collaborative Divorce. It is a team approach in which each spouse has their own lawyer, there is a financial
person and a mental health person. The six person team meets together in different configurations until there is a compromise decided on financial decisions, child custody and visitation. The goal is to have the parents be able to parent the children together after the divorce without all of the hurt that is made when you go through litigation. It works!

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