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Nobody walks down the aisle for what they anticipate will be the first of multiple marriages. No one gets married with the plan of getting divorced. As a matter of fact, most people behold a long and prosperous life with their soul mate. Alas, it’s not a perfect world.
Almost 50% of American married couples divorce. Many first-time married couples get divorced within the first seven or eight years according to a 2015 study. At the end of the day, life doesn’t always heed your plans for romance and happiness. Marriage and relationships seldom coincide with your expectations.
Divorce is an infamously messy life event. The breakdown of a marriage is a difficult, unpredictable, complex, and downright agonizing reality. Amidst the unavoidable emotional turmoil, simple, healthy divorces do exist. There are certain steps you and your partner can take to lessen the blow.
Put your mind at ease by getting to work — both independently and with your divorce lawyer. Prepare yourself emotionally and logistically. Start by gathering the necessary paperwork and make copies for your records. Dig up old pay stubs, credit card statements, property tax bills, mortgage information, and anything you think might be important. Get a hold of a certified copy of your marriage certificate. Fill out the necessary forms, disclose the essential information, and provide the required documentation. Look to your lawyer for help.
Think about what you want in a fair divorce agreement. Consider the terms of the division of assets, marital property, custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and debt.
Start recording your divorce on paper. Document anything that concerns the effect of the divorce on your children, your experiences, and your thoughts and feelings. Personal journals can help you and your lawyer plan your case.
Sit down with your spouse and a neutral mediator and open a sincere dialogue about each other’s needs. Be honest with one another about what it will cost to go to trial. See if you can figure out some of the big-ticket items before the time-consuming, expensive, and draining consequences of litigation.
Take Care of Yourself
One of the best things you can do to successfully manage and cope with divorce is concentrate on yourself. Start working out, reach out to old friends, get a new haircut, keep a journal, watch the sunset, enjoy a spa day, get a pedicure, find a support group, go on vacation, take a class, pick fresh flowers, and the list goes on. Do something constructive for yourself. Do something nice for others. Rediscover the old you and reinstate what you deferred in favor of your marriage. Do whatever you need to do to give yourself a break.
The breakdown of your marriage is heartbreaking. You may be worried about the future, about how the divorce might affect your children, about whether you’ll be able to pick up the pieces. You might be angry beyond understanding. You might be pondering the painful reality of the loss of a dream. You might want to egg your spouse’s car or hide away in a dark room for weeks.
Don’t resort to negative or unhealthy behavior. Give yourself time to mourn. Vent to friends and family. Take out your frustration and anger at the gym. If you resort to resentment, blaming, self-wallowing, or degradation, you’ve lost. Deal with your pain and frustration in a healthy way at your own pace to stay optimistic and constructive. Even when it seems impossible, keep calm, respectful, and positive. Don’t let your emotions control the outcome of your divorce.
Focus On What Matters
Here’s a piece of controversial advice: don’t fret about the expense. Of course divorce is a grueling, expensive process. It is hard to control the amount of debt you will rack up in legal bills alone, particularly during a lengthy courtroom battle. If the outcome includes what is best for you and your children, it’s worth the price tag. If the expense is unavoidable, or if it’s worth it, focus on keeping your eye on the prize for now, rather than the growing stack of bills.
Divorce is all about compromise. Listen to your lawyer, and hear your spouse. You might have a crystal clear idea of what you want and deserve, but you’re not the only factor at play. There are some things you want to be firm about, and others you’re going to have to bend. If you’re eager to be free of the headache of your divorce, being realistic is key.
It’s perfectly natural to want to blame your soon-to-be-ex-spouse for your marital problems. But for your sake, don’t. Refrain from blaming mainly because of the emotional strain of holding onto anger and resentment, and also because your spouse is likely not the only one to blame for the breakdown of your marriage. They say it takes two to tango, and there were probably things both you and your spouse could have done differently. Resist the urge to find someone to blame. Stop going over every detail in your mind. At this point, all you can do is accept that your marriage is over.
Forgiveness heals emotional wounds and allows you to move on from your divorce. Try to forgive your ex-spouse, and, perhaps more importantly, forgive yourself for being anything less than perfect during your marriage and throughout your divorce.
Try to Get Along
This might seem impossible at the moment, but it is no less important than any other items on this list. Working together with your spouse will increase the efficiency of your divorce if anything. Your children will better cope with the divorce if you and your spouse show respect towards each other — both in their presence and privately. Children can detect hostility even if unspoken or out of view. If you and your spouse have trouble keeping things cordial, convince yourself to do it for your children. If you do not have children, consider getting along out of respect for the relationship you once had.
Consider these steps to lessen the chaos of divorce and begin making room for your new life. Hopefully one day, this will all just be a blip on the radar — a distant memory — and you will have found the peace, love, and joy you thought you had found the first time around.