10 Things I Learned About Divorce/Vicki Lansky
Divorce: 10 Things I Learned by Vicki Lansky
For anyone who hasn't been divorced, trust me, divorce is never
what you imagine it to be. Here are a few insights that may save
you a trip to court, or at the very least, give you some idea of
what may lie ahead. Everything listed here might not apply to
everybody. There will always be exceptions to every rule, but it
covers most of us.
1. It takes longer to get your divorce behind you than you
think, or can allow yourself to believe.
I thought I had it together after a year. Then I thought I had
it together after three years. Then I was impressed when I could
say I had been divorced five years. Then I was devastated that I
could be brought to tears in seconds after eight years when
something inappropriate, I thought, was said to me. I guess it's
always "there," but fortunately with each passing year it feels
longer ago, less important and more comfortable. But unlike your
child's owies, it's never quite all gone. As that old saying
goes, marriage may not be forever, but divorce is.
2. Going through divorce is a physical experience.
This one took me by surprise. My body seemed to experience a
death-defying whirlpool. I hate speed, roller coasters and the
feeling of one's stomach dropping when on a turbulent airplane
ride. But I can remember having all those feelings --
simultaneously -- while just sitting in a chair after we
separated. Yuck! Fortunately this usually passes in three to
nine months. Shorter than #1, but not short enough!
3. It never works out according to plan -- yours, that is!
And even when it does, it's only for a short time. Life after
divorce is always changing and you won't have a lot of control
over those changes. We often get hopelessly caught up in
parenting plans when we first separate, and, while that is
important, it doesn't usually prepare you for the ongoing
changes and negotiations that go on for years -- changes that
you don't always like but learn to live with. There is the
ongoing tradeoff of deciding which battles will catch your
children in the middle, and figuring out when one must learn to
lose a battle to win the war. Or should I say the peace -- the
peace of mind your children need. Life takes twists and turns
that will never be in the "plan," so you must learn to go with
the flow or be hopelessly mired in your own anger or
4. Parental time (a.k.a. custody) and shared financial
responsibility (a.k.a. child support) are NOT tied together.
Though they might be tied together in the eyes of your mother or
your mother-in-law, these are two separate issues. When you
confuse them or make them cause-and-effect items, you do a
squeeze on your kids. It seems like such a natural ("If he
doesn't pay support on time, well then the kids just won't be
ready on time or at all" or "I'll be damned if I'm going to send
a check this month if she and her honey are going on a ski trip
with the kids -- that's not what I'm sending support for.") but
this is not a life situation where each month comes to an even
tally. It never is even. Equitable is the best you can hope for.
Marriage isn't even, so divorce sure ain't gonna be.
5. You never outgrow your wish to be the favored parent.
Remember when your kids asked you who you loved best, you knew
what a silly (but honest) question it was because everyone likes
being first in the hearts of those they love. Unfortunately in a
divorce, when parents aren't together to hear news in a shared
situation, your child will tell one before the other. It doesn't
mean you're the less favored, secondary or unfavorite parent,
but it sure does feels like it. So you have to learn to forgive
yourself when those competitive feelings crop up from the dark
depths of your soul and learn to laugh at them. Remember you're
6. Divorce doesn't "fix" your ex.
If your former spouse was cheap, never on time and thoughtless
before the divorce, he or she will continue to be tight, late
and prone to saying stupid things in the divorce. The things
that you tolerated in marriage under the perfume of love will
infuriate you in divorce. You thought you were done with putting
up with "_____" (fill in the blank), but it continues just like
it was in your marriage. You have to learn to accept, overlook
and forgive, or else you are going to expend lots of wasted
emotions on someone you're not even married to. You can only be
angry with or hate someone you care about. (Ain't that a
bummer!) Also, your lawyer can't make your ex-spouse be a
sensitive person or parent, so don't waste unnecessary dollars
trying to have your lawyer get "through" to him or her. When you
can begin to replace the word "wrong" (as pertains to parenting
skills, money values, personal habits, etc., etc., etc.) with
the word "different," you'll have come a long way toward
7. Divorce, unlike marriage, is FOREVER when there are kids.
Unless you really wish to lose your position as a parent (which
is THE hardest on kids), you will have family occasions,
graduations, shared holidays, christenings, weddings and
funerals that will continually bring you together over the
years. Those knots in your stomach at shared public events,
especially in the beginning, are known only to others who have
been through divorce. No one else has a clue. Approaching your
ex first with a friendly word at such events puts everyone else
at ease and is a worthwhile practice. And with practice, and
some history, you may find those stomach knots actually
loosening. Mortal enemies have been known to actually become
friends, sometimes good friends, and many find they can be kind
of comfortable "cousins."
8. If you don't hate your exiting spouse when you first
separate, you will within three months to three years.
It's next to impossible to skip this one, though it always seems
to come as a surprise. Why, I'm not sure. Now you both have
different agendas and no way will your priorities (usually money
concerns or kid issues) be the same as your ex's. It's okay, and
sometimes even important, to be angry with your ex (for a
certain amount of time -- not forever), but it's not okay to
share or show that anger with your children or in front of your
children. Not easy, but for their mental health, their need for
a safe haven and their need to love both parents, you've got to
keep these volatile feelings to yourself -- or limit them to
your therapist or support group.
9. The day your ex remarries is really painful.
The only thing worse than hearing from a third party that your
ex is remarrying, is actually hearing the news from your ex.
Obviously this is a no-win situation. No matter how glad you are
that your ex is your ex, you'd never take him/her back, and
you're thankful you're divorced, it's still a painful time. It's
that last nail in the coffin of what was once your marriage, and
your hopes and your dreams. If you know anyone whose ex is
getting remarried, don't let them spend that day alone. And if
you know your ex is getting remarried, don't spend it by
yourself, unless you really enjoy digging a dark hole and
crawling into it. (Obviously the kids will be attending the
wedding and unsure of how to be of comfort to or deal with the
10. After all this, know that there is still such a thing as a
Yes, you read that line correctly. Now this is not to be
confused with divorce is good, but there are ways of turning
this lemon into lemonade. Read up on how to do it. There are
lots of books to help you -- I've written one. Making peace with
life's changes is good for you, for your kids, and for your
life. Divorce is not the path to be recommended easily, but it's
not a terminal illness, or a contagious disease either.
I did not come up with the term "good divorce." I'll credit that
to Constance Ahrons, author of the book "The Good Divorce." "A
good divorce," she says, "is not an oxymoron.
Astonishingly, in my studies I found half the divorcing couples
we interviewed had civilized, and many amicable, relations with
Another surprise was that almost everybody wished to be on
better terms with his or her ex, even the ones who had bad
I'm tired of the doomsday reports and the label of the 'broken
home.' We have been so inundated with negative stories of
divorce, that men and women need to hear the message that they
can make their families work better, minimize stress, and not
feel like total failures. In a good divorce, a family with
children remains a family -- one that is sufficiently
cooperative to permit kinship bonds to continue.
Perhaps if we begin to revise our expectations of what divorce
means, all parents who divorce can do so with civility and
Vicki Lansky's practical, common sense approach to parenting and
household management is familiar to thousands throughout the
world. Her books, audiotapes, newsletter, media appearances,
magazine and newspaper articles and reviews, make her one of
America's most popular and visible parenting figures. According
to one parenting newspaper, "If you have young children and you
don't use Vicki Lansky's books as a reference, you are working
Visit her website at http://www.practicalparenting.com
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