We have all heard the stories. A couple has been married for over 20 years. Admittedly there has been ups and downs, however, the majority of the marriage was peaceful. Although the parties love each other dearly, they’ve finally decided to stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It simply isn’t working. Besides for the last three years, the parties have been living more as roommates anyway.
Although the parties had discussed divorce and what that would look like for them numerous times, once the divorce discussion became real and steps started happening, now everything has changed. A couple who had been able to coexist peacefully for over 20 years are now mortal enemies. The police have been called to the house four times in the last week alone stemming from arguments regarding missing wine glasses to vague assertions of infidelity.
Despite the numerous accounts similar to the one above, there is another way to do divorce. There is a way to divorce with dignity. One of the first steps to divorcing with dignity is setting boundaries. It is important to establish at the onset of the divorce process what each person’s boundaries and triggers are. You may think you know what a person’s triggers are and how they may react in certain circumstances, however, reality is that divorce sometimes introduces a “new” person that you’re not familiar with and that is distinct from the person you knew for the last 20 years. So, setting good boundaries is important.
One of those boundaries should include refraining from sexual intercourse with your spouse. For legal reasons, sexual intercourse blurs the lines of ‘bona fide separation’ and can lead to a dismissal of the divorce. For more practical reasons, still engaging in intimacy with your spouse can confuse emotions and feelings and cause tension in the household, especially if the parties are attempting to nest or share the marital home during the process.
Boundary number two is refrain from dating. The consequences of dating while divorcing should seem obvious, however, many people throw caution to the wind and take on a new relationship while divorcing. I can understand the frustration in not being able to have sex with your spouse and then also being forbidden to engage with anyone else. However, it’s necessary. You might even say that it is required. The introduction of a third (or fourth) individual into the marriage almost always causes more friction than it’s worth. When you do, all of a sudden, issues that you never thought were issues have turned into mountains out of molehills.
The third boundary is forgo social media. I recently wrote a blog titled “To Half or Half Not: Prenuptial Agreements in the Social Era.” The blog discussed the use of “social media clauses” in prenuptial agreements that prevented the parties from disparaging each other on social media outlets during the midst of a divorce. Even without the presence of a social media clause, it is probably a good practice to refrain from using social media during divorce. Not only will you likely see memes or reposts about divorce and relationships that will trigger you, but there will also be times in which at a low moment or when tensions are high, you want to post something that you normally wouldn’t post with a clear mind. It may be an impossible task to ask you not to use social media at all but you should limit your use. Or at the very least, when you type a post or begin to reshare a negative post, step away for 30 minutes to an hour and then come back to it and see whether it is still something that’s a good idea to post. Just think to yourself, “what would the Judge say?”
Finally, it is necessary to sometimes put the pettiness aside and be the mature person. In recent years, I have seen way too many people pride themselves on being petty and self-adorning themselves as the “Petty Princess” or “Petty King” and wearing the moniker as a badge of honor. To be ‘petty’ is to be trivial or by definition, “mean or ungenerous in small or trifling things.” It’s childish. Being petty serves no purpose other than a temporary sense of self satisfaction in a never-ending effort to feed vanity. It surely does not advance solving any disputes, especially when children are involved.
When divorcing, make an active decision to take the road less traveled, and divorce with dignity. We’d be happy to show you how.