Regardless of why you are getting a divorce, the process itself is very difficult, churning up emotional reactions that you probably didn’t expect. Being civil during a divorce is absolutely one of the most difficult aspects of severing the knot, but it is also one of the most enriching ways to get through the divorce with your sanity intact.
For couples with children, the reasons for maintaining a civil attitude are really quite obvious and any deviation from that line is easily reflected in the children involved. When one parent trashes another, you will most likely hear it repeated out of the mouths of babes, reminding us immediately the damage that can be done from an emotional outburst that downgrades one of their family members. Being civil during a divorce is not just a testament of good practice for families with children. It should be the goal of everyone involved.
The problem with civility during times like these is that it is often faked. After all, you may be experiencing guilt, shame, anger, rage, even the occasional fleeting homicidal feeling. These feelings are actually normal regardless of whether there was a betrayal that ended the marriage or if the marriage just died a natural death. People are human with human emotions that can take them into some very dark and scary places when they are hurting. Of course, the easiest and most “deserving” place to vent these feelings would be in the direction of your about to be ex spouse. After all, you can probably list over a hundred reasons that their behavior has caused your anger, rage, and your general disappointment in what was supposed to be happily ever after. Why should you have to be the one to exercise civility?
Because in many ways, that is how you are going to get through the process faster, better, and with less damage. You have every right to your feelings, however, you do not have the right to spread your feelings of resentment around to the entire world. While it is perfectly acceptable to go into deep and involved conversations with your friends, the majority of people experiencing a painful divorce find some temporary therapy is a much more productive place to sort out everything that has happened. In many cases, people who enter counseling are able to be more honest and admit their mistakes and move forward unlike those who only use friends as support who feel a need to protect their reputation in case there is competition among friends.
For some people, being civil during a divorce is the key to taking the high road, which is reason enough for many people. Some day you will look back on your behavior and hopefully, there won’t be a lot that you will regret and wish you cash in a do-over chip. Sometimes not allowing someone else to lower your standards for yourself is enough to keep you on the civil track. For others, the emotional pull that occurs with every conversation and every interaction is so strong, there is almost no way that they feel they could be talked into calm, rational, and civil conversing. Understandable. However, for those who are struggling that badly, you need to remember that the more you present yourself in a poor light, the more ammunition you are handing your spouse for use against you in court. Especially when there are children involved.
For you, and only for you, your ability to maintain civil discussions will eventually lead you peace. It is a long and arduous road, but you can walk it with your head held high if you’ve managed to keep your tongue. Every time you manage not to attack, or counter attack, you know that you have also managed to think through the reality of your divorce. When we are arguing, we tend to just spit out the first good slam or insult that comes to mind without really considering if there is something worth learning in the exchange. While we might not enjoy the process of being attacked or hearing about ourselves, maintaining a strong sense of fairness can allow you to learn how to view the situation through the most honest eyes possible. And that will always be a huge gift to yourself. As painful as your divorce may be, there are lessons to be learned thus they need not be repeated. Being civil during a divorce allows you to learn how to grow through one of the most trying times of your life. It allows you to negotiate the terms better and often you will end up with a better deal if you are able to present yourself as a calm and level headed individual who is simply asking for what is fair. Women in particular have to battle the perception of emotions equaling hysteria, even in today’s society.
Despite your best intentions and your incredible determination, you are also human. If you slip up, and find yourself yelling out some of the most horrid insults known to humanity, let yourself off the hook and figure out what your trigger for the situation was. Then find an alternative method of dealing with it, because it is definitely bound to happen again. If you were seriously out of line, bite your bullet and apologize, as you would want the same in return if your spouse had done the same sort of mouthing off. Being civil during a divorce comes with huge challenges, and you are bound to miss once or twice. Know who you are, offer your own forgiveness for your own mistakes, and take what you can from this very painful experience and put it to good use in your life. Divorce can be a growing experience, and if you can learn to view it that way, you will find it is easier to hold your tongue when necessary. You are not likely to repeat the same mistakes later on in life if you have learned your lessons as they have been presented to you. If you have children, you are offering them a fabulous lesson on forgiveness, self control, and inner strength. There is no better gift than that during this treacherously difficult period.