Hits: 1681

Divorce is a difficult journey many of us enter into before fully knowing how much we'll actually go through.  Perhaps this is for good reason.  Otherwise, many of us may choose to stay in a bad relationship where love no longer exists for one or both spouses. 

So, many escape from the miserable depths of a failing marriage only to jump into the misery of dividing marital assets, negotiating terms of the divorce related to support and custody, dealing with heartbreak, loneliness and attorney fees.  And that's just pre-divorce!

It may seem as if you are jumping from a sinking ship into shark infested waters with land far, far...far away in the distance.  Panic and anxiety makes sense. 

During my divorce, I knew I needed to make good decisions during such an important time in my life.  However, obvious emotions about my divorce and trepidation about my future also induced some regrettable choices.

Below are some ways to avoid mistakes that are common during and after divorce in an effort to achieve happiness sooner.  Sharing the details of changes I made that only made things worse may help you avoid the same mistakes.

Mistake #1 

I tried to change myself to find the real me and I ended up feeling more lost.

Don't change everything about yourself.

Choosing to make a life changing decision like divorce can evoke an interest in evaluating other lifestyle choices.  We may suddenly find ourselves interested in trying new things, changing our look, going to new places, learning new things.   

It's also common to feel a little bored or lonely.  This gives us plenty of self-evaluation time.  In doing so, we may really start to overthink where we are in life, why our marriage failed or why we feel so crappy.  The answer almost always has something to do with our ex. foot-in-mouth  But, it's also easy to find faults in our own, current lifestyle choices.

Yes.  It is a good time to make some improvements, remove the barriers from past problems and evaluate some things that really haven't been beneficial in your life.  But, don't go to extremes, especially early on.  Be careful; it's rather easy during an emotional period of your life to begin to change what you actually like about yourself and lifestyle and belief system.  Don't change for the sake of changing.

Be cautious of advice also.  If it isn't right for you, don't buy-in.  Just open your mind a little to greater possibilities that will make your life better, not just different.

Mistake #2 

I felt hateful feelings towards my ex that I later discovered were rooted by feelings of hurt by someone I loved.

Don't expect feelings about your ex to be clear.

Don't try to change your feelings about your ex instantly.  You don't just love someone one day and hate them the next.   It's common to have mixed emotions that make damaging ones more powerful.

He/she may have significantly contributed to your feelings of anger and blame, but unfortunately it takes time to relinquish your love.  This means that if you think you feel hate in your heart, such feelings may actually represent how much you loved someone who hurt you immensely.   Some of you may have negative feelings for your ex one day, then actually miss him/her the next.  This is because you have not fully accepted the ending of good and bad times in your relationship.   It's normal to have mixed emotions.  This uncertainty will pass.

The opposite of love is apathy, not hate.  But, divorce often brings about so many strong emotions that our pain and stress propagate feelings that are easily considered hostile.   These feelings actually drain your positive energy and happiness; so why feed them?

A major goal following divorce is to let go of the love you once felt for one another as spouses, as well as, the pain experienced before during or after the divorce.   In some cases the end result can be apathy, in others, the couple can eventually form a reasonable friendship.  

Many divorcees eventually accept the past as the past and find more value in rebuilding their life without their former spouse.   

But, don't expect to complete this process overnight.  It takes time, courage and commitment to moving forward in an effort to gain peace and happiness.

Mistake #3 

I made some really bad decisions while I was still in shock over my spouse's confession.

Don't make major life changes while in a state of anxiety or stress.  

Let's face it.  Some of us were in a seemingly loving marriage one day and getting divorced the next.  Some decisions regarding life, divorce or family during times of great stress and shock are unavoidable.  But, don't let your anxiety and stress induce changes that can wait until you have had time to think through your situation.  This will allow you to choose the course-of-action that would produce the best possible outcome. 

Making decisions while emotionally compromised never produces good results and strong. legal teams know this.  When asked to make legal, financial and/or long-term decisions, don't be afraid to take some time to think it through. 

Let the requester know you will not make the decision currently, then request a reasonable deadline in order to make the decision.  This doesn't mean to damage the efficiency of your divorce progress.  If you ask for time to consider your decision, use your time to focus on it.  You're not the only one affected by the process of divorce; keep the decision top-of-mind in good faith to get the divorce finalized.  Just don't let anyone force you to make important decisions like they are asking you how you like your coffee.  But, for the sake of comparison, your decisions should be made with as little cream and sugar (emotions), as possible.  wink

Decisions that need to be made, but are not urgently in need of making, should wait.  If you are the kind of person who is bothered by loose ends and need finalization of such situations, you are going to have to use this experience as a time to learn the value of being patient and prudent in every decision you make.  These decisions will affect you, your family, money, home, health and well-being.  Don't be hasty.  Don't be impatient and don't allow your emotions to damage your potential for the best settlement and outcome possible.

Mistake #4 

I agreed with my former spouse to amend our agreement without our attorneys or through the courts.  When I told him the amended terms were no longer working, he said if we went back to the original terms as set forth in our decree, he would take me to court to obtain a legal amendment to the terms thus reverting back to our then, current verbal agreement.  While my attorney said my ex was currently violating a court order, my ex may have had a good chance of being granted his request for the amendment if we went to trial. 
Based on my strict budget (a primary reason I wished to revert back to our original terms in our decree) legal fees would have been devastating and the result of the lawsuit may have left me with the same modified terms of which we were currently abiding. So I chose not to pursue it. 
Even though we both verbally agreed to go back to the original agreement if either of us wanted to do so, he claimed not to remember.  It would have helped to have it in writing, at the very least, to refresh his memory.

Don't amend your settlement without specific written guidelines and the advice of an attorney.

As the newness of the divorce wears off, many individuals reach the final stages of divorce.  These stages include letting go of much of the heartbreak and pain associated with the beginning of divorce and separation.  This is when each spouse is more comfortable in co-parenting, mutual gatherings and discussions regarding custody and the settlement or courts ruling.  

If you and your former spouse initiate friendly deviations from the original terms in your final divorce decree without going through the courts, in an effort to improve relations, schedules or monetary situations, the amendment should be written and notarized.  It should also note that either person can request to return to the original court ordered agreement at any time without reason (optional) and with reasonable notice.   

If you don't get your modification notarized or go through the courts

Anytime modifications or changes to the original order occur (temporary or permanent - major or minor) it's always best to have such changes in writing, such as an e-mail or letter.  It should be dated and include specific details with both parties indicating they are in agreement.  This way, it will clear up any confusion about what you two agreed on and when you both agreed to make changes.  It may not be a notarized contract or court order, but it may help with communication between you and your spouse regarding the decisions you both made.

Laws vary in every state, so consult a local attorney to understand any legal consequences for any changes or agreements.  Legal modifications may be possible, specifically to support or custody arrangements, but still must be granted by a judge.  In many cases, if there has been a material change for one or both parties (when both parties are in agreement) and the court feels sufficient time has passed - barring legal hinderances specific to your case or circumstance, the judge will often grant the request for modification. However, modifications to terms specific to the division of marital property are rare.

Mistake #5 

My family was fine for the first 2 years after divorce. My teens seemed to struggle later due to the stresses of two households and family financial problems. 

Don't assume your children have accepted your divorce because they initially seemed okay.

It's really easy to fall into this trap.  Your family dynamic changes instantly upon a separation.  By the time the divorce is completed your family is fully entrenched in a new lifestyle headlined with "Divorce". 

Some may call the new family: broken, reorganized, reconstituted, non-nuclear and non-immediate.  It can eventually become blended or dysfunctional.  Most of us would just like to be the same family we were before marital problems, the divorce with no headline, description or explanation made to every family friend and relative. 

Despite every attempt, the family seems to grow-up really quick.  The kids drift in one direction or another.  Parents may struggle to get used to their new role as co-parents who suddenly reside in different residences with individualized parenting methods, which in many cases, begin to differ.

Since the divorce is complete, it's common to want things to resume, "family business as usual", but things are different.  You can't ignore how things have changed.  Your new normal can quickly take on abnormal and dysfunctional characteristics.  It can come out of the blue and make you wonder when things suddenly went so wrong for your children. 

If you begin a new relationship, the void of a significant other or spouse may lessen.  However, your children still have one parent missing from each household.   It's something that some children never fully recover.  It's important to take the right actions to get help sooner-than-later in order to help your children cope with the changes and process their feelings.

Guilt trips for single parents free of charge

Your children may appear to get used to their new routine, then once something challenges them like:  schoolwork, friends, rules or extra chores they wake up. 

They suddenly realize that the last time there was something challenging in their life they had both parents in the home, continuously available. 

It's common for them to blame one or both parents.  The comparison of their old life to their new "reconstituted" lifestyle suddenly rushes at them.  It can bring about anxiety, depression, anger and blame.  Often, they may not be aware of why these feelings are so strong or related to the divorce.  They rely on you or a family therapist to help them explore their feelings in order to understand them.

Some parents may see this as attention seeking behavior, but the bottom line is that these kiddos need a lot of attention.  Divorce can leave children feeling powerless to save their family.  Children do not get to decide if each spouse has tried hard enough to save the marriage.  They simply must accept what their parents have decided is best for each spouse and their family. 

Dividing a family never seems like a benefit for parents or children, even if it is the best choice for long-term happiness.  Regardless most will feel a sense of loss at some point in the process.  Children may need extra time to cope with the reality of the changes and may benefit from counseling or extended family therapy

As always, be patient and aware of changes in sleep, behavior or grades so that you can help your child at the first sign of trouble.