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Divorce Test Run 101

Divorce Test Run 101

Think You're Ready? Here's How To Test It Out


Q:  After months of soul searching and talking, my husband and I have decided to divorce. We don't hate each other -- yet. What can I do to make our split go smoothly without giving up what I need? My best friend was divorced two years ago and I remember how messy the whole thing was. I don't want to repeat her mistakes.

This is a good time to think about what you can do over the next months, even years, to make this painful process as tolerable as possible. Don't expect that you will sail through this experience even though you and your husband have agreed that it is the best course for both of you. There are several things you can do, however, to make your split less traumatic.  

Perhaps you want to slow down the course of action now by having a trial separation before you initiate the actual divorce proceedings. You could find that behind the decision to divorce is actually a desire for more honest self-expression, personal growth or clarity about future goals. You may be able to address these issues as a couple rather than as two divorced individuals.  

Whether you begin with a trial separation or move straight to a divorce, keeping a journal will help you in several ways. Writing about your thoughts and emotions will help clarify them. You can vent your anger, even rage, on paper rather than to your ex or your children. When you are frustrated, express your resentments in writing. You can outline your goals for the future and plan how to go about accomplishing them. Use your journal to compose notes for discussion with your therapist and to prepare issues for meetings with your attorney.   

Putting a hiatus on dating now will give you the time you need to come to terms with this significant change in your life. Rather than rushing into new relationships, become more comfortable with yourself as a single person. Take it slow and get to know yourself better. If you have children, spend more time with them as they cope with this major upheaval. Don't subject them to a confusing string of new dates coming into and out of their lives at this time. And pass up one-night-stands with your ex – they may seem comforting in the moment but ultimately confound the situation. And it will only make the break up all the more difficult.  

Let your attorney know that, while you want him or her to aggressively represent you and your interests, there is no need to be belligerent or antagonistic. You will need to have future dealings with your ex, particularly if there are children involved, and the less confrontational these meetings are the better. And never use your children as messengers between you and your ex. That will only place a burden on your children, who have enough on their plates already. Try not to thrust your child into an adult role because there is a void where your partner used to be.  

Following these guidelines won't take all the sting out of your divorce but it may reduce some of the intense tension and leave you and your ex still on speaking terms. Consider the entire process as a learning experience and a means of preparing yourself for your new future.  

Dr. Rosemary Lichtman and Dr. Phyllis Goldberg have guided their clients through reassessing their lives, before, during and after divorce. They created http://www.HerMentorCenter.com, which provides coaching services and a free e-zine, and are co-authors of the book Family Relationships

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