The best divorce advice I never got

 

Divorce is big business.

In fact, it’s a $28 billion dollar per year industry with the average breakup estimated to cost $20,000. In light of that I can easily understand the axiom “it’s cheaper to keep her”. But for those who’ve been through their own the emotional costs can be incalculable. The moment a couple decides to dissolve the marriage a noticeable and psychological shift occurs. Virtually overnight two people who once promised to love, honor, and cherish one another till death to they part don armor and become sworn enemies. Their attitude is suddenly defensive with self-interest being the preeminent motive, while their actions take on militaristic like qualities as they are near hell-bent on getting or keeping what they feel belongs to them.

Divorce is dirty business.

For most the thinking behind the divorce drama is “to the victor goes the spoils” and almost everything is considered spoils including grandma’s china set, the 401k, that lake house, and the bedroom furniture; even frequent flier miles become assets or at least bargaining chips for sweeter rewards. And is often the case the more spoils on the line the nastier and more drawn out the divorce can get. Sometimes the process moves at a rapid pace, when I realized there would be no reconciliation in my own marriage I pushed all parties and finalized the deal in 2 months while other divorces can go on for years held up by all that stuff  – especially money.

The depths to which some people can and often go in a divorce are startling. I’m still amazed at how quickly two people, who once claimed so much affection for one other, can turn so angry and vindictive. And it seems peoples’ depravity knows no bounds whether it’s subpoenaing unforeseen witnesses to denounce her character or making false and outlandish accusations about his parenting nothing is deemed off limits if it might help them win.

It all helps to make divorce juicy reality TV or intriguing courtroom showdowns but it’s hell on the spirit and when both parties finally and often resentfully come to an agreement the scars left are deep and painful. And to make matters even more difficult, if kids are involved the two battle weary warriors now must try to move beyond their bitterness and differences to become effective co-parents.

Divorce is emotional business.

But moving beyond is something men find particularly difficult to do. Research indicates women file 60-75% of all divorces and often the husband is taken by total surprise when he gets the papers. While admitting to martial difficulties he is usually oblivious (purposefully or not) to how bad things really are.  So harboring feelings of rejection he moves forward in the divorce relationship. But looking at life through a lense of indignation leads to choices based primarily on emotion which take any number of forms including disrespect and disparaging comments about the ex to temporarily withholding child support payments and flaunting the new girlfriend all as a way of ‘getting back’ at the ex.

The best divorce advice I wish I’d gotten earlier.

For several years after my own breakup I struggled to find a way of dealing with my ex without wanting to set her on fire. And those feeling of homicide were intensified every time I wrote a child support check and dropped my kids off at her house. Too often I allowed my emotions to take my actions in a direction that wasn’t healthy or helpful, which made a strenuous situation even worse. Until I finally came to an epiphany.[pullquote]Co-parenting is a relationship by court order and it’s indefinite.[/pullquote]

Treat the divorce relationship like a business.

No one tolde me this sage advice I just kind of came up with it on my own. I had to remember that settlement agreement and divorce decree are more than just a ticket to relationship freedom. It’s a contract with certain stipulations that her and I must abide by.  Co-parenting is a relationship by court order and it’s indefinite. With two children under the age of five we’ll be dealing with each other for a long time. So like any good businessman it was time to institute some standard operating procedures.

First, there is no room for emotional warfare in a post-divorce relationship. Hostility, anger, and revenge serve no purpose but to further deteriorate an already difficult situation. So it became incumbent upon me to pack away any of that remaining emotional baggage. A co-parenting relationship is only adversarial if we make it so and her and I share one common goal, to parent our children the best way we can in light of the circumstances. The change hasn’t been easy but therapy, time, and insight from the Queen made it possible. Our relationship today has become one purely of business and it’s treated as such. I have put boundaries in place that aren’t crossed. Our discussions center on issues with the kids and their schedule while never delving into each other’s personal lives. We are cordial and polite but I wouldn’t consider us friends. Managing a divorce relationship is often a fulltime job.

But there’s an upside to all this businesslike demeanor. And that upside is two priceless gems, namely our kids, that have acclimated brilliantly to the modern family. Which I’m convinced would not have been possible were it not for taking care of business.

 

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33 responses to The best divorce advice I never got

  1. Great advice there! I wholeheartedly agree that we need to treat it as a business partnership. There will be times where we want to strangle them but we’d just have to suck it up and do what’s best for that lifetime of ‘investment’ that are our children. Luckily, my divorce did not involved those Grandma’s china kind of situation but yes divorce is expensive and I am still trying to recuperate from it all.

  2. Pauline

    Agreed — absolutely no place for hostility when co-parenting.

  3. Solid Advice, I too went through my own unhealthy period before bucking up and treating my ex like a “co parent” and not the enemy. 8 years later we are on good terms and our daughter is a happy, healthy well adjusted child. 

  4. Anonymous

    I have never agreed with a post more. It takes two people to make something like that work. I do everything I can to be the man you decsribe that you are despite hositility and non coperation from the ex.

    My children see me “take the high road” every day. I hope that manifests itself into making them raised well.

    great post

  5. Random Girl

    This really is the best advice, co-parenting is a business relationship. It has to be. When emotions and personal issues are brought into the mix, no one wins. And I agree that rules of engagement, outside of the court papers, are much needed to keep everyone on their own side of the yard and playing nice. Our marriage was flawed but our parenting goals are still intact and with that as our focus, that is how we conduct our business now. It’s not always easy, but it could be a hell of a lot harder if we were always at war with each other. Great post! 

  6. If you’re absolutely unable to be friends, then this is sound advice. The thing is, no matter how much you want to treat it like a business, the first year of being separated/divorced is going to be a bitch. The person able to right out the gate treat it like a business, is a super hero in my book! 

  7. I’d love to get there one day… unfortunately my ex is still in “high conflict” mode… two years later.

  8. If I ever get involved in a divorce, I’m coming to you, my man.  This is all such good, sound advice.  Thanks!

  9. This isn’t to say I was able to do it and even if they are able to be friends I’d argue that it still a very solid principle. Otherwise waters get murky and clarity is primo in a divorce. 

  10. Thanks RG! I will say that being on the same page in co-parenting is the only way to go. 

  11. I thought it would have, too. She got married a year after our divorce, and divorced again 10 months later… I’m holding out hope that time will make things easier.

  12. I wish I could email this article to my ex. Seriously. Unpredictable, emotional behavior during a divorce is the LAST thing either party (or the children) need.

  13. Glad that you found a solution that works for you and your ex. This isn’t the case with every divorced couple, though. My ex and I are what I would refer to as “friends” and are able to have personal conversations about more than just the basic needs of our two children. I do agree, though, that putting aside our own selfish emotional needs is what helped us get to a better spot in our relationship.

  14. I agree that divorce is traumatic and emotionally draining, and can be, as you say, a ‘dirty business.’ I just find, in my work, that mediation makes a bad situation better. I have a series on mediation on my blog (for example, today’s is how it helps all players, at http://candidaabrahamson.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/mediation-good-for-me-good-for-you-and-above-all-good-for-the-kids/)–perhaps you or your readers might like to stop by–and see if it is the better path on the ‘road not taken.’ Best in your continuing to make a full and whole life post-divorce, Candida

  15. Shawn

    Holy s**t, your blog is great. Thanks man, I needed this tonight.

  16. Papa – Author

    Thanks man! Stop by again. I’m getting ready to begin a new series “If I were getting divorced again, what I’d do different”.

  17. OK…Treat the divorce relationship like a business.

    Cool. Sounds great, but it does not work that way in real life in 2012.

    Here’s why.

    If you are blindsided by divorce, like you admit so many men are, why are they overwhelmingly getting a raw deal. Think about how most men deal with divorce with children. They wife says she is leaving and is taking the kids. Or the wife says she wants the husband out. He leaves, and she gets the kids and the child and/or spousal support.

    That is a bad deal any way you look at it.

    Why would any man pay a woman who wants out of the business deal? Shouldn’t she be paying him? SHE wants out, not him.

    I understand if the husband wants out of the marriage and leaves for another woman. Pay up. Why not the reverse?

    The issue of no fault divorce, especially when children are involved, needs to be addressed. Marriage, if you want to have it recognized in your state, is primarily a business deal and a contract. When one party violates this contract, there should be remedies. With the way no fault laws are written in all 50 states, it makes the marriage contract effectively no contract at all. A court can grant a divorce in response to a petition by either party to the marriage, without requiring the petitioner to provide evidence that the respondent has committed a breach of the marital contract.

    I say all of this not out of anger but out of the knowledge of how divorce is perceived and implemented in our country. The mere fact that any of you men reading this post pay your ex child support because your ex-wife wanted out is proof that the game has been played on you and you lost. I see absolutely NO reason to continue this game. It’s over – unless you are fine paying her. I have no problems with that. But…if you were forced out due to ‘no-fault’ of your own and you are paying a fee based on arbitrary formulas that are not relevant to your individual case, I have a problem.

    Yes, after the BS of dealing with lawyers who want to bill he hell out of you is done, you can treat your ex like an ex business partner. BUT, you must come out on the other side whole. Neither one of you needs to have 21 years of anger knowing you have to struggle to pay a woman who LEFT you for another man.

    I refused to pay and never did pay my ex a dime. She had no job, no potential job and I was not going to allow her to kick me out of the home I was paying for. I was not going to let my ex take out kids and have me ‘visit’ every other weekend just because our marriage was done. I was proactive, and I hope that by reading this blog, all of you are thinking long term. Manage your business BEFORE you get divorced so that you don’t wind up with a settlement that you despise more than your future ex.

    I love 99% of the things I’ve seen on this site, but I must be the lone dissenter on this issue.

    I treat my ex like she is simply the adversary she once was. Who knows, things may change, but I cannot deal with someone that tried to ruin me financially and take our children away from me. Sorry. It’s not personal anymore, it’s business. She is our children’s mother and they NEED her, but they need me just as much. We share our kids equally and that is how a business separation should be. You take what you came into the partnership with, you split equally what you made together and the business is over. I feel that if you have to pay your ex a pension for 21 years simply because they wanted out, you got a bad deal.

    I agree with treating it like a business, but here is some more advice:

    Most divorces are settled and never go to trial. Do whatever you can do by minimizing the use of lawyers who are not looking out for anyone’s interests but their own. Never settle for anything less that what you had when you were married. There is no reason to see your children any less than you did before, especially is you are a loving caring parent. Keep the state out of your pockets. If you agree on any kind of child support (which my ex and I did) keep the grubby paws of the state away. Once they get you in their system it is over. Not good at all. I could go on and on, but my main point is this…be proactive and don’t let the notion of ‘dad leaves and pay child support’ be your story. It does not alway have to be like this. This is why there is so much anger and resentment.

    Take the road less traveled. I sure did. I’m a much better man because of it.

    I wish all of you well in your post-divorce life, but I am not the one to subscribe to stick to the script. It is a new day and time to think a little differently about divorce in the new millennium.

    http://cincopation.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/why-i-refuse-to-pay-child-support/

  18. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Clayton, Thanks for the feedback.

    Two things.

    1. Your comment is really directed towards the legal end of divorce and the disparity between men and women in the divorce process. Though I agree wholeheartedly that things need to change, and many states are doing so, it’s an argument that mostly falls on deaf ears in the scheme of things.

    2. As far a CS is concerned. I don’t have problems with fathers or mothers paying child support. I think that divorce shouldn’t mean our children fall two rungs down the economic ladder because mommy and daddy aren’t together anymore. One thing I always tried to remember during and after my divorce is this…anything I do in an effort to ‘get back/get even’ ultimately affects my children. As divorced fathers I think we need to judge all of our actions against that baseline.

    I’ll be sure and check out your writing.

  19. How great is this article? My ex wife Denise and I pulled out the big guns in 2008 when we decided we were going to go our separate ways. We had a lot of financial entanglements and I often felt just as you did, that it was just easier to stay together. In the end though I knew that this craziness had to stop. We didn’t have children so a lot of the anger that comes along with that wasn’t there for us. Mostly it was matters of finances and I felt as though I was, “being taken to the cleaners.” I never thought of dealing with it like a business though, and I am sure that at the time that would have proven to be truly helpful. I think there is a lot of wisdom in this article for anyone who is considering or is in the process of divorce. Sometimes it’s absolutely necessary for us to remove our emotions from a situation and in most cases divorces’ are no exception. It’s so hard but it can be done.

  20. I agree with the general sentiment that once a divorce has been decided, both parties should attempt to treat the divorce relationship like a business, but it’s so hard to imagine that working as planned.

    The fact is that divorce is no more of a business action than getting married is. And I believe far less people get married for business reasons than they do for purely emotional reasons.

  21. Alana

    Hi there,
    I love the advice you’ve doled out here, but you need to put in mind that not everyone is able to put their emotions aside and treat divorce as a business. I always say to think of the children first, and look to the future and the consequences of being cordial with your ex ; the fruits you’re going to reap in the lives of your children much later in life outweigh any aftereffects of harboring resentment. Plus, it’ll probably add to the quality of your life in the long run.
    Alana

  22. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Alana, your points are spot on. But treating like is business is doing what you’ve said. It is impossible to be cordial to a ex that you despise or resent, etc. We must, for the sake of the children, set those feelings aside and move forward with the current reality — that’s treating it like a business.

  23. I agree that divorce is emotional business. in fact it’s 99% emotional. haha

  24. Hello Chopper Papa – you’ve nailed in this post! Handle the divorce process in a businessm like manner and you’ll save yourself a lot of head aches, any possibly money, in the process. Being respectful to your ex, and the divorce process iteself, also shows you respect yourself. Everyone notices and appreciates that – including the kids.

  25. This is a great post and you have definetly found the best way to handle the situation. However im still wondering if that is the only and if there may be a BETTER way. If you and your ex, are keeping it business like, polite and kalm, how will your children learn how to treat their future spouse the correct way to keep a marriage alive. Kids usually make grow the same habits and ways of solving problems like their parents did. Is there a way to manage divorce right to have the least impact on kids.

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