National Ex-Spouse Day
by Charla Bradshaw and Jenny Gomez
Anyone who has an ex-spouse is going to feel aftermath from a legal standpoint and an emotional standpoint. I’ve been practicing family law for 29 years and I’m board-certified in family law. My co-author of this article, Jenny Gomez, is a licensed professional counselor with over 20 years of experience. We are both with KoonsFuller, P.C Family Law. We thought some advice from each of our professional standpoints may be helpful.
From a lawyer’s standpoint, Charla’s top five words of advice:
- Your case may have been decided by a judge or you may have settled your case. Either way, once your case is over, it is vital not to dwell on it, in order to be able to move forward. What is done is done. This includes talking to others about their divorce. They could have had a different result because they had a different judge or reached a settlement that may be better than your result. Every case is different. Some spouses are able to settle for better results than others. The realization that there is nothing about the law that is ever going to feel fair is the first step.
- After the case is over, make financial plans that are realistic, no matter what changes you have to make . Putting yourself in a situation of financial stress will cause more stress and bitterness after the case.
- There is always going to be something you wish you would have done differently. Dismiss it and move forward: you simply cannot make changes. Most all things we do in life, once we reflect, there is always something we wish we would have done differently. Put the divorce where it belongs: in the past.
- If there were children involved, realize that no matter how much you suffered and stressed during the case, you children probably did as well. If the relationship was toxic, then the children may improve. Children will handle the divorce as you handle the divorce. If your ex-spouse is still keeping the toxicity alive, then be the anecdote. Children should not be charged with taking sides. If they are charged with this task, it may come back to bite the parent putting them in that role.
- When spouses have been married for a very long time, it is natural to continue patterns of behavior that may not be healthy following the divorce. These patterns will usually be pronounced during the divorce process, which is normal. But realize that it is going to be the last time to have to experience the unhealthy patterns. It is a time of closure and moving on from the negative.
From a mental health standpoint, Jenny’s top 5 words of advice:
- Despite whatever the horrible situation that prompted the end of your marriage, remember that there was at least one day where you were completely in love with this person and couldn’t wait to spend the rest of your life together. A lot of bad things have likely happened since, but sometimes it’s important to remind yourself of that choice, good or bad and reflect on how far you’ve come.
- Holding onto anger against your ex-spouse only hurts you and is counter-productive to you being able to move on to your next chapter of life in a healthy way. Forgiveness is not about giving someone a pass for their bad behavior or excusing wrong doing, it’s choosing to let go of the overwhelming anger that is weighing you down. Let it go.
- If you and your ex-spouse have children together, you will still have to deal with each other for years to come. Divorce typically brings out the very worst in people, but post-divorce is an opportunity to create a new relationship as co-parents. Don’t try to co-parent your children as ex-spouses who can’t stand each other. Co-parent your children as their parents, putting them first and sharing the goal of raising healthy, well-adjusted kiddos. Think of it as being on a team at work with someone you’re not fond of, but yet you have a shared project/goal and have to work together to accomplish that goal. I can’t think of a more important project in life, than raising children well.
- Establish healthy boundaries with your ex-spouse and his/her family and friends. It’s important for you to start a fresh, new chapter in your life and to the extent you still need/choose to interact with your ex-spouse or those in his/her circle, decide what healthy boundaries you need to have, so that you can move on with your life.
- Learn from the broken relationship with your spouse and see it as an opportunity for growth for your next relationship. Every failed relationship in our lives can be a teaching moment, if we choose to see it that way. Try to identify and understand your own patterns of behavior, communication styles, and reactions and rather than always just blaming your ex-spouse for hurting you, look at how you contributed either directly or passively to the demise of the marriage, what your role was in the relationship and how you can make healthy changes before you move onto a new relationship. You can choose to focus on the horribleness of the divorce and your ex-spouse or you can choose to learn and grow from it.
If you are experiencing problems after a divorce, we highly recommend a mental health provider who has experience in this area. From our experience it is important to internalize what we are saying, both for yourself and those around you. We wish you much success and happiness going forward.