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“Marriage is primarily a matter of mutual destiny . . .marriage sets up an indissoluble state of tension, and its very existence depends upon the preservation of this state. Man and Woman, both as individuals and as types, are fundamentally different, incompatible and essentially solitary. In marriage they form an indissoluble unit of life, based upon fixed distance.” Herman Alexander von Keyserling. This “unit” however dissolves with great frequency. Accordingly, almost everyone has been touched by divorce in some way. It has been said that: “The majority of great men are the offspring of unhappy marriages.” Herman Alexander von Keyserling.
Emotional divorce is not the acknowledgment of a mistake; it is a mistake not to acknowledge. If your marriage didn’t hurt, then your divorce will kill you. If your divorce doesn’t hurt, then your marriage will kill you.
The most frequent mistake made concerning divorce is failing to learn from the experience. This arises from engaging in blame and fault analysis, fraught with self-deception and defensiveness, rather than honest introspection. If you find yourself seeking solace and support from friends and relatives, presenting your case of victimization repeatedly, then you should assume that it is you that you are trying to convince.
Advice on Divorce
1. Don’t ever mention divorce or threaten divorce as a strategy, trick, or game. Never use the word in the heat of an argument. Mention the possibility of divorce only after you’ve thought about it, have a clear opinion, and are emotionally calm.
2. Don’t divorce your husband or wife for a single bad act, e.g., an affair, a slap, a poor financial decision, etc.
3. If you are seriously considering a divorce, do not seek individual psychotherapy or counseling. Seek counseling with your partner.
4. Before filing for divorce, see a psychotherapist for joint counseling at least three times.
5. Do not regard divorce as a personal failure, or something to be ashamed of. Try your best to understand it as an incompatibility of wants, desires, and inclinations.
6. If you are considering divorce because you’ve fallen in love with someone with whom you are having an affair with, then don’t mention divorce, the affair, or your dissatisfaction unless the affair has continued for six months and until you’ve arranged to spend several whole 24-hour days with your new love. Remember, it is always a biased comparison to compare the infatuation and titillations of a new relationship with the more sedate emotions associated with a long-term marriage.
7. Once you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce, it is essential that you proceed forward, i.e., file papers, divide property, and physically separate, as rapidly as possible. Do not introduce any unnecessary delays. Don’t use delays as a strategy.
8. If your spouse has gone ahead and gotten a lawyer, then you must get a lawyer immediately. Never let your spouse choose a lawyer for the both of you.
9. If at all possible, avoid lawyers and courts. Attempt to resolve all issues of monies, properties, child custody, child support, etc. on your own with a psychologist acting as a mediator. Use your sense of fairness, not technical rules of law, to resolve disputes about these issues. When you reach an agreement, then go to a lawyer who is hired by both of you (and who is mutually acceptable). Tell him that his job is to write up your agreement and expedite a speedy divorce. Remember that it is your right not to assert all of your rights.
10. Don’t use demands for money, support, child custody, etc. as a means of punishing your spouse, venting anger, expiating guilt or stopping the divorce. Use the principle of fairness to resolve all problems.
11. While this is not the law, a fair division of property for a working marriage (both partners have a full time job) is that each get back what they had prior to the marriage and all assets acquired during the marriage be divided proportionally by income. That is, if the wife earned twice as much as the husband, then she should receive 2/3 of the acquired assets. This formula doesn’t work if one partner worked both outside the home (job) and significantly in the home (housekeeper, childcare, cook, gardener, etc.)
12. If you have children, then you must meet and decide how you are going to announce the divorce and you must announce the divorce together, that is, both parents present and all children present. Neither parent should blame the other parent or encourage the child to take sides in the divorce. During this meeting, you must answer all the children’s asked and unasked questions: Where will we live? Who will we live with? When will we see you (the leaving person)? How will we survive? Will we go to the same school? Are you going to get back together again? and Why is this happening?
13. A parent should never leave suddenly without talking to his children.
14. Once separation has occurred, each partner should carry out their obligations, i.e., facilitating visitation (flexibly), paying child support, etc., exactly on time, without games or power struggles.
15. When children are involved, neither parent should ever make a promise that is not kept. The leaving parent should always arrive for visitation exactly when they say they will. No promises of trips, visits, new daddy, or anything unless you are going to come through.
16. Tell all your children, in no uncertain terms, that the divorce is not their fault. In your silence, they will often assume they are in some manner responsible.
17. If you have minimal assets, and agree on most things, then attempt to do the divorce by yourself. Buy a how-to-do-it divorce book. Always remember, attorneys make money by making trouble.
18. If your spouse is a chronic alcoholic, a chronic drug abuser, a person who has been charged with child molestation (if you have a child), or a habitual criminal, then divorce him/her now.
19. If you are unsure whether your husband/wife has a chronic problem, like the ones in number 18, above, then divorce him/her and live together as unmarried. If he/she is symptom free for years, then remarry. If you share children, then you’ll have to periodically meet. During these meetings, focus on the business at hand. Don’t talk about old resentments. Let it end.
20. After divorce, especially after being divorced, your greatest assets are your family and friends. Attempt to fill your life with dates – appointments with friends and relatives. Schedule and plan your activities a week in advance, avoid unscheduled, lonely weekends and weekday evenings. Maybe take a night class – something easy and fun.
21. After a divorce, share your confusion and depression with your friends, but don’t obsess about the divorce and don’t languish in depression.
22. Don’t take a vacation from work during or just after a divorce. Work longer hours and become more involved in work.
23. Give yourself 1 month to be depressed after divorce, then give up your depression, try being angry, and start trying to find a new person to “date.” If you have children don’t hide behind them to avoid the risks of seeing men (or women).
24. After a divorce, make a positive change in yourself that you’ve been postponing: lose weight, give up smoking, buy some clothes, etc.
25. Make up some view of your divorce that presents the divorce as a positive or necessary event. This is a time of emotional growth. Find some lesson in your divorce that you can use to tell yourself it was worth it.
26. In general, avoid the extremes of blaming the decay of your relationship on yourself or on your spouse. It takes two people to make and destroy a relationship. Accept responsibility for your shortcomings and work on these in the future. Recognize the shortcomings of your ex-spouse as well, perhaps looking for different qualities in your next mate.
27. Avoid talking at length about your ex-spouse to friends, and potential lovers. Never praise you ex or talk longingly about him/her with a new lover.
28. If the divorce is causing you depression and agitation that you can’t control, then try walking five miles a day, maybe during the early evening.
29. While in the throws of divorce, don’t use drugs or drink alcohol (in larger amounts than usual).
30. Just after a divorce/separation, allow yourself to cry; give yourself permission to release pent up sadness. But, avoid being overly emotional in the presence of your children. They will need you to display some strength and self-control.
31. Avoid long separations (more than six months), when you are using separation as an experiment. After six months get divorced or get back together. In general do not use separation to “help” the marriage or to “explore.” Separations only unnecessarily prolong the divorce and create pain-hope in the abandoned partner.