Adapted from Make Any Divorce Better
Experience and academic studies have helped us identify the basic elements of a successful divorce. “Successful,” means completing the process of emotional separation, reaching a new center of balance as a single person, maintaining the welfare of your children, and establishing healthy attitudes toward yourself, your ex-spouse, and your past marriage.
Absence of conflict is not part of the ideal divorce. A degree of anger and conflict is natural, useful, even constructive. It helps to break the bonds of attachment and old patterns of relationship; it makes you think and reflect; it makes you change. But excessive and destructive conflict requires special treatment. The discussion of severe conflict and how to deal with it is found in Make Any Divorce Better, along with specific steps you can take to reduce conflict, solve problems, and negotiate a fair settlement without a court battle.
Apart from peace of mind, growth and other human values, there are very practical advantages to struggling as hard as you can to make your divorce better. The closer you can get to the ideals discussed below, the better it will be for you and your family:
- You will ease tensions and conflict
- You will have a far greater chance for compliance with terms of agreements
- You will save thousands in legal costs
- If you have children, you will greatly improve co-parenting and cooperation
Elements of a successful divorce
Mutuality. Lack of mutual sharing in the decision to divorce is a primary cause of conflict in the divorce and post-divorce periods. In an ideal divorce, the decision is arrived at together. This does not mean that one spouse may not be sadder or more distressed than the other, but that both come to accept divorce as the best thing under the circumstances. The spouses should be mutually active in negotiating terms and in co-parenting. The most stable settlements occur when both spouses take an active role in the negotiations, not simply leaving it to a lawyer. A good divorce is an actively mutual enterprise.
Attitude. Each spouse should end up with a balanced view of the other spouse and of the marriage experience. There should be a sense of emotional and spiritual closure. You should be free of any lingering feeling of blame, guilt or failure. You want to create increased self-understanding, the ability to form healthy new intimate relationships, and a sense of self-confidence.
Children. In an ideal divorce, injury to children is minimized, primarily through maintaining good co-parenting relations. Children can literally be destroyed by fighting between their parents, so it is very important that parents be able to work together for the well-being of their children. When not resolved, conflict can go on for years, even after the legal divorce is over. Children must be free of the feeling that loving one parent is a betrayal of the other. They must be free of the thought that they are the cause of the divorce.
Setting goals. Trying to create the ideal divorce is like any other ideal you try to achieve, like ideal health or achievement in some sport. Your goals are something you work toward, but you don’t want to beat yourself up every time you fall short. Just try your best. The closer you can get, the better and smoother your divorce will go, and the better your future will be.