Divorce is not only tough on your finances but also your emotional health. Once reality settles in, you’re left to pick up the pieces and start building a whole new life. Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a Baltimore, Maryland-based relationship therapist and founder of The Marriage Restoration Project, says even though this is a trying time, it’s important to remember to put your differences aside long enough to work together as a team. This will help lessen the stress and anxiety that comes with going through a divorce.
Slatkin advises doing your best to avoid a contentious parting of ways. “As a relationship therapist, the advice I have for those going through a divorce is to learn how to work together. If you have children, even if you end the marriage, you will always be in a relationship. Learning how to communicate safely will help benefit your children and allow you to save a lot of grief. When couples get divorced, it is often volatile as there are a lot of hard feelings. If you don’t work on this, your children will be the greatest victim,” Slatkin told The Cheat Sheet.
How do you get through a divorce with grace and your emotions relatively intact? The Cheat Sheet reached out to a few top relationship and legal experts to get their best divorce advice.
1. Quietly get your financial records in order
If you are the one wanting the divorce, get all financial records copied before your mate is aware so there’s no vanishing money once you file the papers. And copy everything that could have an impact on the outcome — from checkbooks to bank statements to investment accounts. It’s much easier to avoid the “he said, she said” arguments with proof in your hands! And if at all possible, agree to use a mediator. You will save thousands of bucks but it will only work if you’re both game.
Mary Jo Fay, relationship coach and author of Blatant Deception
2. Approach the divorce like a business transaction
People who treat their divorce like a business transaction, and to the extent possible, control their emotions so their decisions are based on their best interests and not their hurt feelings, fare much better. For instance, some people might argue endlessly over values of certain assets, when in reality, if they just compromised they would save in attorney’s fees and time.
Sometimes people do prioritize what is most important and spend time and energy arguing over assets that might not have a significant value while ignoring the more valuable parts of the marital estate. Sometimes people get hung up over how something is characterized — for example, they might agree to a one-time cash payment to their spouse but balk if that same payment is labeled “attorney’s fees.” Taking a step back, looking at the big picture, and understanding the cost of fighting as well as potential risks and rewards will serve anyone well during a divorce.
3. Resist the urge to get even
The best divorce advice I ever received was, “Don’t get even, get better!” Instead of directing negative energy toward your ex, generate that power toward bettering yourself. When my ex-husband and I separated and divorced, I returned to graduate school and finished my doctorate degree. I used all of my energy to empower myself toward complete self-reliance and independence. That is the very best place from which to enter your next relationship.
4. Give yourself time to heal
Allow time to fully heal and reconnect with yourself before entering another relationship of any kind. The process of divorce is emotionally grueling. There is a lot to sift through and heal from. This is not the time to look to soothe oneself by entering another relationship. People make this mistake all the time. I personally went into a rebound relationship with someone who was sadder than I (like truly attracts like). It devastated me when it ended because I sought happiness and fulfillment outside of myself. This only leads to the same pattern to happen again. Learning this hard lesson pushed me forward and transformed me. I have a totally different mindset toward unconditional love and relationships now and I share this with my clients all the time.
Lisa Concepcion, relationship expert and founder of LoveQuest Marketing
5. Keep your children in mind when making decisions
The best advice for divorcing parents I’ve received and share with my clients is: Be sure that you love your kids more than you may hate your ex! Otherwise, you will make decisions based on anger, resentment, revenge, hurt, or retaliation. And that ultimately affects the well-being of your children. Kids love both parents and are hurt, confused and torn when parents ask them to take sides, become confidants, messengers, or spies.
What I learned is that children not put in this position do better during and after the divorce. They are not exposed to parental conflict and they adapt better to post-divorce life. The advice I have for all divorcing parents is to be a role model for your children. Show them how to cope with challenges and adversity with dignity, maturity, and integrity. Teach them to pick their battles and learn to let go of anger and resentment. Your kids will thank you in the long run.
6. Get a support team
The best divorce advice I have for others going through a difficult divorce is to find a reliable support system. What I mean by that is, the divorce litigant should have a reliable friend, family member, awesome therapist, or a divorce group they can count on to talk to about the divorce and the experience. This is extremely important because divorce litigants can foolishly squander thousands of dollars either attempting to utilize the judicial system as retaliation against their spouse or exploiting their attorney as a therapist rather than for legitimate legal advice. At the cost of accumulating thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees and avoidable headaches, litigants can easily mitigate mistakes like these simply by voicing their frustration and feelings through therapeutic means. Talking it out will help the litigant focus on the real issues, preventing hurt feelings, sorrowful emotions, and resentment from getting in the way of resolving the divorce matter quickly and fairly.
Diane Araujo Vidal, attorney at Iandoli & Edens
[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in April 2016]
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