Earlier this year, Don and I decided we would be better parents and happier people if we were no longer married. Don’t get me wrong – I will always love him for the two beautiful children we have and the memories we share. However, I was unhappy and I believe he was to. Our unhappiness with each other and our situation was spilling over into our family and how we interacted with each other and the twins. We decided to get an amicable divorce. But, is there really such a thing?
Amicable divorce is when both parties mutually agree on all decisions relating to the divorce – spousal support, division of assets, visitation and custody. Is it all puppies and rainbows? Hell, no. But it is possible. In late March, we decided to divorce. Our divorce was final in early June. Are we still friends? Yes. Do we hate each other? No. Does it suck sometimes? Yep.
Here is my unofficial guide to amicable divorce. Read it. Laugh. Cry. Take it all with a grain of salt – possibly on the rim of a margarita.
Establishing a friendship after divorce takes great effort and a lot of swallowing of your pride and ego. Yolanda Hadid.
Do not. I repeat, do not, go wild once your divorce is final. No partying like you are 20. No tattoos. No quickie marriages in Vegas by Elvis or one night stands with college students. Go straight home from the courthouse. Stop and grab an expensive bottle of wine and some damn good chocolate and relax. Call your best friend. Eat fattening food for dinner. Go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day. The first day of the rest of your life.
Do not bad mouth your ex to the children. If you have an amicable divorce, chances are your ex isn’t a sleaze bag. So, no bad mouthing your ex. He/She is the other parent. One, that your children love unconditionally. You might disagree with how they act or what they do, but there is no reason to run your mouth. Just think it and keep your lips closed.
Divorce isn’t the child’s fault. Don’t say anything unkind about your ex to the child, because you’re really just hurting the child. Valerie Bertinelli.
Set rules for dating. Before either of you even think about dating, set rules for dating. Be very specific. Write them down. Both of you need to agree on them. Don and I decided that if we became serious with someone, they would be introduced to the other parent prior to being introduced to the kids as being a “significant” other. Be honest with your kids – age appropriately. Don’t share everything with your kids – they don’t need to know the person’s name if it is just a date. “Mommy is going out tonight.” That’s all they need to know. Trust me… telling them too much results in questions being asked that the other parent doesn’t have the answers to.
Be flexible with custody/visitation. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t use the kids as pawns. If your ex needs to switch weekends for a legitimate reason, do it. You might need to swap kids for a business trip or illness. Having a hot date is not a legitimate excuse. Just saying. Remember, the most important thing is the kids’ safety and happiness.
I’m very fortunate because we’re committed to co-parenting our children together. Elle Macpherson
Be ready for family and friends to shun you. This one hurts. I have been in Don’s family for 20 years. After we separated, some family members shunned me. They quit talking to me, unfriended me on Facebook. I still struggle with this. I have had a couple family members be within spitting distance and not even acknowledge I was standing there. Even my family has taken sides. I have lost people who I considered “good friends.” No one knows what life is like behind closed doors, so they have no right to be vengeful over your divorce. Darling, hold your head up high and keep being you. You did what was right for you and your children. Besides, Karma’s a bitch.
Make a budget. Stick to it. This might be the first time you have been on your own with money. You might have to cut back. You might have to make your own coffee. Make yourself a budget and learn to live within your means. If you are struggling, I highly suggest Dave Ramsey’s programs. He will walk you through, step-by-step, how to make a budget and what you can do to pay off debt and plan for the future. You will thank you self later.
Take up a new hobby. Learn to knit. Learn to paint. Take some classes at your local craft store. Paint happiness rocks. Read that book series you haven’t had time to yet. Heck, take shooting lessons and use your ex’s face as the target. You need a hobby. Don’t sit at home in the dark, depressed, and stuffing your face with potato chips. You need to start developing yourself as a single person. There will be times when being alone is very hard. The silence is deafening. You will be bored Having something fun to do is a great diversion.
Broaden your horizons. Don’t be afraid to do things on your own. Travel. Explore the world. Do things you have always wanted to do. Don’t sit at home and be negative. The world is yours to explore! Try that new Thai restaurant! Visit that museum across town. Go to Vegas. Go. Do it… don’t be afraid!
Divorce doesn’t define you. Yes, you are a divorced. You know what? That is not the only thing you are. Make a list, if you don’t believe me! You are a mother. Friend. Sister. Daughter. And, that is just the start… think of all the good things and interesting things you do. Me? I am a blogger, accountant, scrapbooker, crafter, cook…Yes, you may be divorced, but that doesn’t define you at all.
Checking the “divorced” box. One of the hardest things after divorce is filling out forms… and you get to the box for marital status. Yikes. Nothing like summing up your relationship status in a tiny little box. Let me tell you a little secret – most of the times people don’t look at those classifications. Well, except for maybe the IRS. Maybe. Go ahead and check the single box if it makes you feel better. No one reads it anyways.
Spouses divorce. Parents are parents forever. Of all these snarky remarks… this is the most serious and most important to remember. You will be a parent forever and ever and ever. Amen. You have the stretch marks and scars to prove it. You divorced your spouse. You are still a mom. He is still the dad. You have children TOGETHER. Parent that way. Don’t be childish and undermine each other. Make major decisions together. You guys do you… Don and I occasionally go to dinner as a family. We plan on doing Christmas morning together with the kids. Don’t let anyone else in your life define your divorce. You create a healthy, happy environment for your children to thrive in. And, besides, when the youngest turns 18, you can stop talking to your ex.
The best security blanket a child can have is parents who respect each other. Jane Blaustone
No matter how much you love your kids, you will appreciate not having them 24/7. It is hard being a divorced parent. I am not going to lie. There is no one there to help with your kids when you need to run to the store or you don’t feel well. The transition from house to house sucks. There is about 12-24 hours of attitude adjustment and yelling (me) at kids over their ‘tude. You will begin to appreciate the times you don’t have your kids… you can clean and get all the stuff done you struggle to do with kids around. It will make you appreciate single parents that do it all every day. I raise a glass of wine to them. Do I love my children unconditionally?
Most days. Yes. They are amazing individuals. I love seeing how they are becoming their individual selves. But, for about 4 hours after they leave for their dad’s house, I am relieved. I get a break. There is peace and quiet and I can get things done. I can go to the bathroom without two kids, a cat, and possibly the neighbor kid joining me. I can eat hot food that doesn’t involve ketchup or golden arches. I can focus on me. Oh, and I can get shit done without kids killing each other in the other room.
Do not stalk your ex on Facebook or Match.com. Or anywhere else for that matter. Does it hurt when your ex moves on? Yes. But don’t rub salt in the wounds by stalking them on Facebook or dating profiles or anywhere else. It is not going to do anything for your self esteem or happiness. You divorced for a reason, remember that. Don’t make yourself unnecessarily unhappy by checking up on them. That being said, as parents I think you should share with your ex that you are in a relationship with someone. You know, so you don’t accidentally stumble across it on Facebook while your kids are sitting beside you looking over your shoulder. So, take that salt and make a margarita when the kids head back to their dad’s. THAT is a much better use for it.
You are not a failure. Just because your marriage didn’t last forever does not mean you are a failure. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed of yourself. And, don’t let anyone else treat you like that either. You are not a failure. You are a strong, beautiful woman who did what was right for yourself and your family. And remember, “unfollow” on Facebook is a beautiful thing.
I used to think that divorce meant failure, but now I see it more as a step along the path of self-realization and growth. Alana Stewart
Find your happiness. Take time to rediscover your happiness. Find out who you are. You might be surprised what you discover about yourself. This is your chance to shine and be truly happy with yourself and in life. This is your chance to discover and create a new future for yourself and children. Reinvent you. A great place to start is 365 Days of Happiness.
While this guide was supposed to be snarky, there is one very important thing to remember. There are not rules for divorce. None. The two of you make the rules. Not your mom. Not your best friend. Not your co-workers. You and your ex. Maybe that means family dinners, Christmas mornings together, or even family vacations. It doesn’t have to be hateful and spiteful and vindictive. Remember, at some point you loved your ex enough to want kids, no matter the circumstances now. You need to do what is best for the kids… first and foremost. Sometimes, you just have to suck it up, bite your tongue, and act like an adult. And throw some margarita’s in the blender. But, as my friend Ashley says, “You do you.”
Divorce becomes a holy moment when you choose to use it as a catalyst for having an extraordinary life. Debbie Ford