I am so appreciative of my guest blogger Lori and her piece “The Friendly Divorce.” Not only is it great to know that there are others who have found a way to have peaceful relations with their former spouses, but it also reminds me of some of the lessons that I have learned along the way of my divorce. Some of the commentators on Lori’s post revealed that they wished they had had a role model like her when they went through a divorce. When my ex and I broke up, I felt the same way, and so I called the only friend I had who had divorced amicably and asked her how she did it. She made two points that I will never forget, two lessons that Lori also emphasized. Never make yourself a victim and always let your kids believe that they have the best father ever.
As Lori highlighted, it is really easy to blame your spouse for the breakdown of the marriage or the ensuing conflict. My friend Julia had discovered that her husband had been having an affair for three years, so if any one was entitled to feel like she had been wronged, it was her. My own ex had initiated our breakup and he had also become infatuated with someone else (it was never consummated but it was hurtful nonetheless), so I was feeling very justified in my anger. Julia’s advice to me hit home, though, because I realized that it didn’t feel good to be a victim. It made me feel powerless, and that’s not a place I enjoy at all. As Lori stated, playing the blame game only deepens the cycle of victimization and leads to more resentment and anger. Every time I blamed my ex for our breakup, it would only propel him to point out all the things that I did wrong and then we would travel down an ugly path that just brought more unhappiness to us both. My mom gave me wise advice, Failing to forgive someone is like taking poison and hoping that the other person dies. In other words, portraying yourself as a victim only makes you feel worse. I noticed that as soon as I stopped reminding my ex how he had done me wrong, our relationship vastly improved (big surprise, huh?).
I also realized that I couldn’t portray my ex in a positive light to our kids if I was constantly focused on his betrayal and abandonment. Lori hit the nail on the head when she said that intense anger inevitably infects your kids, no matter how well you think you are masking it. Julia said it beautifully when she told me that the greatest gift you can give your kids is to let them know that they have a wonderful father. So I made that my goal. I would ask them about the fun things that they did with him, I would remind them of the ways in which he treated them tenderly, and most importantly, when they noticed tension between us, I was quick to tell them that no one was to blame. In other words, I actively cultivated appreciation for my ex as a father and I sought to instill the same feelings in my kids. And that has made all the difference in the world.
Like Lori, who said that her mantra was to be proud tomorrow of what she did today, I feel that the way that I have handled my divorce is one of my life’s greatest achievements. I feel proud that under the worst of circumstances, I was able to demonstrate poise, compassion and wisdom. Shakespeare has famously written that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. In my less poetic terms, I would say that heaven hath no bliss like a woman at peace.