You probably didn’t end your marriage on a whim. Maybe it was years in the making, or maybe it happened suddenly and the rug was pulled right out from under you. Whether divorce was a long process or happened quickly, as soon as the last paper was signed, you were probably ready to get far away from your ex.
While getting away from a dysfunctional, hurtful or contentious relationship may be the first thing on your list, did you know that there are actually some risks to pushing away your ex? It feels so natural to finally say good riddance, but you may want to consider a different perspective and think about the benefits of continuing that relationship.
Here are a few things you may want to consider:
1. You don’t want your kids to feel the need to pick sides
Children of divorce are sometimes caught up in adult problems. The last thing you want to do is make it worse for them by placing the burden of picking sides on their shoulders. Kids will feel partly responsible for divorce, and they can also tend to feel the responsibility to help mom or dad feel better. If they sense that you are “against” each other, they will feel the need to pick sides, and will sometimes fear that they are hurting the other parent.
Maybe you are thinking, “But, I want them to be on my side.” This may feel good to you at first, but take into account that this adds extra burdens, pressure and upset to your kids. Feeling better at the expense of your kids — I doubt that is what you had in mind.
Instead, be on the same team with your ex — your children’s team. Let your children know that it’s good that they want to be with mom, and with dad. They should feel completely free to love both of you equally.
2. You don’t want to repeat the same bad relationship
Relationships tend to repeat. No matter how difficult your spouse may have been, there is a part that you played in it. Someone may say that their spouse was angry and difficult. How did that effect you? Did you feel at fault? Was it hard for you to think you were disappointing someone?
No matter what the problems were, you were a part of the dynamics of the relationship. You can embrace the opportunity to continue to learn and understand where the problems were in your relationship. I’m not suggesting that you need to stay best of friends. But be open to understanding, so that you can be a new person, ready for a new and healthier relationship in the future.
3. You want to honor your true self
Do you want to be someone that pushes people away? Someone that contributes to a contentious situation? If you allow your ex’s behavior to dictate your behavior, then you are not honoring your true self. Are you someone who lives with integrity and treats people kindly? If so, why would you compromise your own integrity? Besides, if there are kids involved, then the best possible situation for them is one free of contention. You can’t control what your ex does, but you can choose to bring peace to the situation, to honor yourself and to give that gift to your child.
4. You may deny yourself of the best feeling
One of the best feelings we can have is unconditional love. And guess what? That is always an option. I know you might think this sounds crazy, but I work with my clients to find and feel unconditional love for even the most difficult people in their lives.
Who benefits the most when you feel love for someone? You. This does not mean that you have to like or condone bad behavior. It does not mean that you don’t set boundaries that protect you physically and emotionally. It certainly doesn’t mean that you are a doormat. Being a doormat happens when you allow someone else to “make” you choose anger or resentment. If you want to be strong and courageous, take responsibility for how you feel. Work to find feelings of love for your ex. I find that compassion for what someone else struggles with is a great starting point for this. Love is always the best option.
Divorce is not an easy situation for anyone, but you don’t need to add extra misery to it. The work doesn’t end once you are divorced. You will continue to work to make things great for your kids, understand how to be a good partner, live with integrity and find love for even the most difficult people in the most difficult circumstances. Take the high road — life is much brighter up there.