Lara's story: Five things I wish I knew before I got divorced
I’m sure that when we look back on our lives, and the decisions we have made, many of us wish we had had the benefit of hindsight.
Divorce is such an alien experience. Our world is turned upside down and inside out, and we often find ourselves reacting to what is happening, rather than standing back and trying to rationalise and plan.
Whilst everyone’s situation (financial and otherwise) and reasons for divorce vary widely, there are definitely things that are helpful to know in advance.
1. Start as you mean to go on
If you have children, get them into a routine as soon as you can. Trying to ‘cushion’ the blow by doing things ‘like you used to’ makes it hard for the children to adjust to the change. Every time Mummy and Daddy do things like they used to, they are going backwards not forwards and can potentially confuse children that you might get back together. If you have a very good relationship with your ‘ex’, I am not suggesting that you forfeit this dynamic. But beware that this may change once one of you starts seeing someone else – which means more change for the children.
2. Keep it ‘matter of fact’ with the kids and tell them sooner rather than later
The day I had to break the news to my kids that we (their parents) were getting divorced, was the worst day of my life. For several months, my ex-husband refused to let me tell the children. In fear of my children overhearing the news from someone else, I felt unable to tell a single friend. By the time it happened, I was an emotional wreck. This was not what my children needed to see.
No child wants to hear that their parents are getting divorced. But if it has to happen, what they want to know is that ‘everything will be OK’. That they will still see both parents and that both their parents love them. Seeing a parent in terrible distress will cause them more upset than they need. For advice on how to tell your children, click here.
3. Keep your friends out of it
I have never been keen on the idea of going to a counsellor or therapist – but in hindsight, it would have been a good idea. Friends’ advice and opinions can be clouded by all sorts of good intentions. A counsellor or therapist is there just to help you. Not to judge you or give you their opinion of your ex-partner. And most importantly, you can be completely honest, as nothing you say is going to be repeated to the wrong person.
4. Stick to the rules
If you have set days for the children to see the other parent, stick to it. I bent over backwards to accommodate my ex-husband changing his regular days and weekends due to ‘work commitments’. I did it in the belief that it was so important for the children to see their father, I had to be flexible.
After a while, he assumed that he could change days at his whim, to suit his social life. I can see no way to reverse this situation without causing a great deal of stress. This is something I most definitely would not have got myself into, had I had the benefit of hindsight. If you'd like help creating a Parenting Plan, click here.
5. Let your ‘ex’ make their own mistakes
Watching someone ‘mess it up’, or say something crass and stupid, is hard. But unless your child is in danger, you have to let it go.
Getting cross, arguing, telling them they’re ‘doing it wrong’, or in any way trying to change their behaviour is a mistake.
As harsh as it may sound, it’s none of your business any more. As the co-parent, they are entitled to do things their way when they are in charge of the children.
The only person who will suffer if you try to change things, is you.
If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.