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Woman celebrating after surviving a nasty divorce.

How to Survive a Nasty Divorce (And Take Care of You, Too! )

Every divorce is heartbreaking because it abruptly ends the dream of living happily ever after together. But a nasty divorce is doubly painful because of the ongoing onslaught of your Ex’s aggressive behavior.

Aggressive behavior during (and after) a bad divorce can take many forms.

Purposeful cruelty

People who resort to purposeful cruelty do things that range from petty to dangerous. At the petty end of the scale, your Ex might spread rumors about you or flaunt his* new relationship.

However, some Exes seem to lose their common sense and do hurtful things simply out of spite. They can get so wrapped up in hurting you that they’ll destroy property, kill beloved pets, or even deliberately attempt to cause you (or your children) physical and/or emotional harm.

If your Ex is behaving in dangerously cruel ways, be sure to get the help you need to protect yourself and your children. Do you need to file a restraining order? Talk to your divorce attorney to hear more.

Making false accusations

Other tactics Exes use in a nasty divorce include calling the police to falsely report you as being abusive, filing restraining orders against you for actions you’ve never taken, and accusing you of stealing marital property.

On the other hand, his accusations can be less legal in nature. He may denounce you for wanting to make his life miserable, for only being concerned about money, or some other perception he has that is not based in fact.

Unpredictable rage

Divorce and anger often go together. However, when you’re dealing with a nasty divorce, it’s a bit different. Your Ex will regularly explode for no apparent reason and be unable to speak to you in a civil tone unless he is compelled to.

His rage can strike fear in you and/or your children. And in the worst instances, his behavior can be emotionally abusive. If this is the case for you, get the protection and support you need to heal.

Each of these behaviors is an attempt to control you. A nasty divorce is all about control.

Your Ex may even use the divorce process to attempt to dominate you. He may refuse to communicate with you to drag out your divorce. He may petition for primary custody when all he really wants is joint custody or simply visitation, and he may refuse to pay support until required to do so by the court or until you do something he wants.

The list of cruel tactics someone who is out for revenge in divorce will take is virtually endless. Feeling hurt by any kind of cruelty is normal.

However, what makes a nasty divorce especially painful is that the person you thought would always have your back has turned on you. He is using everything he knows about you as a weapon in his hate-filled arsenal. He knows your vulnerabilities and is ruthlessly exploiting every single one of them.

It’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that the person you married is behaving this way. And addressing this thought is exactly where learning how to survive a nasty divorce begins.

The fact is the person you married is not the person you are divorcing. The person you married does not exist anywhere except in your memories.

The person you are divorcing is someone else—someone who is filled with thoughts of revenge and making you pay for the end of his marriage even if he is the one who wanted the divorce.

Once you begin acknowledging that the person you’re divorcing is a virtual stranger, you’ll find it easier to distance yourself from the nastiness of your divorce by doing the following:

1. Accept that your Ex’s behavior will be unacceptable at times.

He will push your buttons because it’s how he can control you. He will be cruel and vengeful. And the longer you remain a victim of your emotions, the longer you will be vulnerable to his attacks.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t feel hurt by your Ex’s actions. It simply means that you begin expecting that he will behave in abhorrent ways. That way when he does something terrible you aren’t completely derailed for a lengthy period of time.

2. Don’t let his behavior change you.

It can be incredibly tempting to treat your Ex the same way he is treating you. But don’t. If you do, then you’ll only escalate the situation, and your Ex will have achieved his goal of hurting and controlling you.

Instead, keep your cool. Remember to continue to behave in ways that you’ll be proud of years from now.

3. Get a support team.

Surround yourself with people who are on your side, can help you navigate the unfamiliar landscape of divorce, AND can help you keep your cool. Choose to confide in and count on friends, family, a legal professional, a therapist, and/or a divorce coach who can help you achieve your goals.

4. Keep your focus on your kids (if you have them).

Concentrating on helping your kids get through this major transition in their lives is another great way for you to navigate your nasty divorce.

You’ll want to keep in mind that no matter how heinous your Ex’s behavior is, your children still love both of you. And it’s up to you to respect your children’s love.

You’ll also want to avoid putting your children in the middle of the mess which means they aren’t your spy or messenger.

5. Keep communicating with your Ex.

The only way to get through your divorce is to do what needs doing which includes interacting with your Ex.

Although it may be tempting, stonewalling or ignoring your Ex will work against you. Refusing to communicate about any of the details required to move things forward will only inflame him more.

6. Shore up your Achilles’ heel.

Your Ex knows your weaknesses and is looking to exploit them. If you’re concerned about finances, he can control you with financial threats. If you’re concerned about spending time with your children, he can control you with threats of taking the children away from you.

Whatever your Achilles’ heel is, ask your support team for help to put together a plan to make you less vulnerable.

Even after you’ve accepted that the person you’re divorcing is not the one you married, each of these ideas can still be challenging to act on. You’ll do better some days than others. This is your normal and human process as you continue to heal in your divorce recovery.

So, make it a point to practice self-compassion. Don’t expect yourself to do everything perfectly—just do enough.

Dealing with your Ex’s aggressive behavior will be difficult no matter what you do. However, by disengaging from your Ex and taking care of yourself you will survive your nasty divorce.

SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “Divorce can be on your terms.” – SAS For Women

*Disclaimer: We fully understand and respect same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we have indicated your Ex as a male.

Single mother lifting her daughter

Coparenting Tips: 4 Ground Rules All Divorced Parents Should Live by (For Everybody’s Sake)

So that’s it. Game over. You’re all talked out, and the writing on the wall is clear. Something has to change, and you and your partner have decided divorce is the best answer. If you share children with your Ex, then before you can even think about how you’ll fumble through the world of dating (because, at first, there’s sure to be at least a little fumbling while you figure out what you want) you have to come to terms with your new situation. You need coparenting tips and someone to shine a light on the path that leads forward and beyond. So, let’s begin.

You could sit on the couch watching episode after episode of Ray Donovan (cliché carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream included). You could go to the gym and spin yourself silly with endorphins. Or, you could head to Vegas for a divorce party and toast your new beginning. Whatever you do, don’t settle for old stereotypes—images of women plotting their Ex’s demise in the shadows. You’ve got too much to look forward to and to discover. Concentrate instead on creating the best life possible for your children, and redrafting the shared connection you will always have with your Ex. Confront those negative feelings about your Ex, and work on building a successful coparenting relationship. When you realize the positive impact doing so has on your children, nothing else will matter. Trust me.

Stay focused

Remember those negative feelings I mentioned? (Of course you do—right now those feelings are still fresh and raw.) They’re your first hurdle to jump on your journey toward successful coparenting. Everyone needs to vent. That’s what friends, and coaches, and therapists, and groups are for. Sharing your experiences with and supporting others, can help you move past your own feelings and gain perspective. Your emotions can be obstacles when enforcing the following four coparenting tips, so learn to let go.

Focus on creating a warm and stable environment for your children. It’s a difficult time for them too, of course. They need their parents now, possibly more than ever, and they need you to be united. Not distracted by personal squabbles that have nothing to do with your role as parents. When talking to your Ex, try not to bring up the past or allow yourself to be drawn into arguments. Stay on topic.

You are bound to have more than a few disagreements about your differing parenting philosophies. Stay focused on your main goal: doing what’s right for your children. They need time with both their parents without disrupting their entire lives and routines.

Stay positive

Staying positive can be tricky, right? The end of a marriage can feel like the end of your world, but it’s only the start of something new. Your marriage may not have turned out as planned, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to be grateful for. Your children, friends, extended family, and pets should all add to not detract from your life. Maintaining a positive outlook is one of the best coparenting tips out there. Negative experiences are what you make of them. How you react to those experiences determines whether or not you learn from them.

Being positive helps you proactively pursue an ideal coparenting setup. Explore the potential of mediation, therapy, and counseling, and take time to learn about the processes involved in creating a parenting plan or custody agreement. There’s a lot of information out there. The legal aspects involved in creating a custody agreement can make it seem like a daunting task, but really, forming an agreement can be simple.

Get organized, but be flexible

Staying focused and positive are two coparenting tips that will help you create the consistency every family needs, especially those going through divorce proceedings. Having a set visitation calendar helps both you and your coparent understand your responsibilities with little room for conflict or misunderstandings.

Something I’ve touched on in a previous article is respecting your coparent’s differences and parenting style. It’s great to have shared values and rules about how to properly raise children, but there are bound to be points you simply don’t agree on. Structure is crucial, but being rigid is a barrier.

For the initial transition period, it can help if everyone (parents and children) has a routine. The routine will change—that’s just life! If you still need to iron out the kinks in your routine and lock down schedules, a temporary custody agreement might be the best option for your family.

Be prepared to compromise. I know this isn’t easy. You love your kids. Your feelings for your Ex, on the other hand, are complicated (to say the least). But just remember any feelings you have for your Ex can’t compare to the love you have for your children. Any compromises you make are for them.

Communicate often and effectively

In my last article, I also spoke at length about keeping the channels of communication open. Nothing has changed since then. Avoid misunderstandings by communicating often, and be a positive role model for your children (and your Ex).

Keeping your Ex in the dark about important matters will only jeopardize your ability to stay positive and focused. Be civil (even when they aren’t making it easy). Being civil helps control everyone’s emotions, and you will leave exchanges feeling all the better for it.

If you have children, it’s not news to you that your Ex will most likely always be a part of your life. These coparenting tips will help you set aside your feelings and do right by your children. A rocky marriage does not have to translate to a rocky childhood for your kids.

Whether you are navigating the experience and aftermath of divorce, or in that confusing but fertile place of recreating the life you want to lead, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of “After Divorce.” “A successful divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and how it will benefit you in a free 45-minute consultation.

 

This article was authored by Krishan Smith: senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans and schedules.

Father coparenting his daughter by tending to her hair.

How to Parent Your CoParent (Without Him Realizing!)

You know that setting an example is always important. And you can guess, I’m not just talking about the model you demonstrate to your kids. When you separate and become coparents, it is so easy to disengage and consequently, communicate less and less with your ex. It can be such a relief! Yet, communication more than ever remains key. If you want a healthy coparenting situation where both parents are informed and active (the best scenario for your children), then how you share information is vital. What’s more, communicating healthily in front of your children provides them with a model to base their own behavior.

The value of setting the coparent example

If you want your children to grow up as kind-hearted, thoughtful, respectful people then screaming at your coparent is not going to cut it. Your ex needs to realize this too.

So, if you lead, if you set the example, this will show your coparent “how it’s done” (potentially, he* may have no idea, otherwise). This might well encourage your ex to emulate you (but don’t ask him to acknowledge that!)

There should be a clear distinction between setting an example for your ex-spouse and making an example of him/her. If the other half of your coparenting duo is failing in some way, don’t complain about this to your children. If your coparent is breaking arrangements or missing dates, speak to him about it whilst keeping the interests of your children the focal point of your conversation. You must always frame things and behaviors as how they impact the children. Try explaining that lateness and missing appointments “are not values we want to instill in our children” and simultaneously how “it’s not fair to keep them waiting or give them false expectations.” “They are excited to see you and disappointed when you don’t show up or appear unreliable.”

This seems self-evident, but your coparent is rarely going to be motivated to please you (–although some ex’s are evolved). So venting to him about your plans being foiled or your appointments being missed because of him and his lateness or no show, is not going to necessarily cause him to be more reliable in the future.  Again, it’s the kids, it’s the kids …

It goes without saying that you then need to do everything to keep your word, and you must honor your appointments. When you reach an agreement, stick to it. Parenting plans and schedules are designed to be flexible but simultaneously need to be stuck to unless enough prior notice is given to all involved parties (including your kids).

Respect your differences

There are many different parenting styles and it’s highly unlikely that you and your ex will see eye to eye on all aspects of raising the children. In fact it’s highly unlikely these days you see eye to eye on anything! That being said you can’t expect each co-parent to share the exact same ideals and try to implement the same parenting methods. Differences don’t mean that one approach is right and that one is wrong. If you want your coparent to see things from your point of view, or if your ex genuinely needs a metaphorical kick up the backside in terms of effort levels, then the best approach is not belittling the parent in front of the children.

Parenting styles you may be familiar with range from Authoritative to Permissive with plenty of room for grey areas in between. Of course, if your coparent is massively lacking discipline in an area of their parenting then you should have a quiet word. You need to agree on values you teach your children and consistent rules regardless of which household they’re staying at. This doesn’t mean being too involved in your coparent’s time with your child though; give your ex room to naturally develop his relationship, solo, with the children.

Don’t give up!

If you can accept your differences then you can work together. Don’t dismiss your chances at having a successful coparenting relationship, because your marriage did not work. Your children are one of the wonderful things that remain of your relationship. And it is for your children that it’s worth doing your best now with your ex. Giving your children the quality of life you want, the parenting relationships they need, and the easiest transition between households are your goals.

Listen to your co-parent, acknowledge his opinion and respect prior arrangements. Reinforce the fact that you are a parenting team. Be considerate towards your ex, co-operate, apologize when necessary and communicate effectively whilst applying restraint. Keep your coparent informed, updated and most importantly involved with your children.

Be prepared to compromise and work on your patience! Apply constructive criticisms SELECTIVELY and be ready for the response. It may seem like a lot to remember but eventually it will come more naturally and once applied you should be able to get a mirrored response from your ex-spouse. If not, he will run risk of being the “bad guy” and in that situation at least your children will have one positive role model to look up to.

Doing the right thing improves your coparenting relationship and your parent/child relationship. It may seem obvious but then again nobody will claim it is easy. When past love, hate, bitterness and emotion is involved it becomes very difficult to be the bigger person and control your actions, words and body language. Nevertheless you must put the hurt and anger aside and separate your feelings from your behavior. Your children must realize that they are far more important than the issues that ended your relationship with your Ex.

This article was authored by Krishan Smith, senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans and schedules whilst additionally providing free co-parenting resources and a scholarship program for single parents.

(* Disclaimer: For the sake of brevity, this article relies on the pronoun “him” as the gender of  your ex; while we well realize your ex may be a she.)

Should I divorce a woman wonders

Should I Divorce My Husband — Or Stay for the Kids?

Your home has become a war zone. You and your husband are always fighting — or it’s eerily silent — and you are both miserable. What was supposed to be happily ever after has become an ordeal you cannot escape. Or can you?

A voice inside your head whispers, again and again, “Should I divorce?”

While another voice asks desperately, “What about the kids?”

If the word divorce sends chills up your spine then you have one thing going for you – you aren’t taking this decision lightly. It means something and this scares you. That’s good – very good. Divorce is never easy – on anyone involved. It changes your life and those changes are not always good — especially for your kids. But will getting a divorce ruin them? If you aren’t sure, then we need to talk.

Divorce isn’t always good. But, it isn’t always bad either. Like any other big decision in life it can go either way. Your job as a mom is making the best decision you can; working hard to limit the fallout; and helping your kids persevere through it all.

The Impact of Divorce Isn’t Always Clear

If you have been contemplating a break-up, maybe Googling “Should I divorce?” at various intervals in your life, odds are good you have been scouting out information about how it will impact your kids.  Maybe you have read a few articles that cite all kinds of bad things that will happen to your kids: like, they will develop behavioral problems; they won’t be able to sustain a lasting relationship of their own in the future; they will fail in school; or they will become young parents.

As a mother, you may be focusing on these negative reports, fearing the decision you are making. But there is another side to this story. There are plenty of reports that contradict these negative findings. One study done at Dartmouth indicated that 75-80% of children from divorced homes showed no lasting psychological effects from their parents’ breakup. Another study showed that 42% of young adults who came from divorced households received higher well-being scores than their counterparts who came from a two-parent household.

When asking yourself, “Should I divorce my husband?” consider this important fact: a 2012 study at Notre Dame University showed that parents who fight in front of kindergarten age children set their kids up for depression, anxiety and behavioral problems at a much higher rate than those who decide to end their marriages. This study indicates that it is not necessarily the act of divorce that causes problems for kids, but the inability of the parent’s to provide a calm and loving environment that does the most harm.

Other studies suggest it is actually how you navigate the divorce process that dictates how well your children will recover.

How Divorce Can Benefit Your Kids (Yes, We Said That!)

Life is tough sometimes, and kids need to learn that no matter how tough it gets, they will survive. So, while you worry that ending a bad marriage is going to ruin your kids, statistics show that it can actually help make them stronger, happier people.  Here are just some of the things that kids learn when parents divorce:

  • Conflict resolution: Divorce can show kids how to overcome conflict. While it is a dramatic way to solve your marital strife, it does show a positive way to solve problems — as opposed to staying in a spin cycle of pain.
  • Co-parenting can means more parental involvement: statistics show that kids in shared custody situations actually spend more quality time with each individual parent. The Journal and Marriage & Family says that  “quality time with your kids has a bigger impact than quantity of time spent in their presence.”
  • What real happiness is: a household wrought with strife is chaotic and can even feel emotionally unsafe to your kids. But, when the parents finally end the marriage, the stress –and the fighting – is relieved. This can help kids experience life without the chaos; showing them a difference from what they have known. And also, that people have choices as to how they can live.
  • Perseverance: life doesn’t always go as planned. When kids see their parents’ reviving after a failed marriage they learn how to persevere through the tough times and create a new beginning, too.

The Negative Side of Divorce

Of course, we all know that divorce is not always pretty. A bad marriage can turn into a worse divorce.  Ending a marriage can bring out the worst in people, especially when kids are involved. If you cannot find a way to get along with your husband during and after the divorce, ending your marriage could do more harm than good when it comes to your kids’ future.

Statistics show that the trauma of divorce can send kids reeling. In some cases they experience an increase in depression, anxiety, behavioral problems; issues in the future connecting with others; trust issues; and more.

Add to that the negative financial impact many divorces have on mothers and children, and you are getting the picture of a different kind of stress. If you have a hard time financially caring for your children after a divorce, it will impact everything about their life. This may limit their involvement in extra-curricular activities like sports and music lessons; where they live; and the friends they make; as well as their ability to continue their education after high school. All of this can impact the quality of their adult lives.

Should I Divorce My Husband?

This is a question with no easy answer. If you are living in an abusive or dangerous situation or your husband is an addict, then it may be time to get out. We know that can be hard. But get help. If your struggles are another variety, it may be best for your kids to stick it out and work on those problems.  Consider professional assistance so you learn how to do things differently.  It is always best to work on your marriage, but remember, if your home is wrought with chaos, your kids will be harmed. Unhappy parents = unhappy kids.  With 1.5 million children facing divorce annually, the fact remains kids do overcome this change in their lives – and many actually thrive afterwards.

Is it time to give up on your marriage? Only you know the answer to that. And do not expect 100 percent clarity to the answer. Consider speaking to a professional to help you as a couple; or a divorce coach to help you evaluate what is real and what is not. Your kids are clearly a major part of your decision, but don’t let them be the deciding factor as to whether you stick it out or not. In the end you have to do what’s best for the entire family – including yourself, your husband, and your kids.

 

As mothers we are hardwired to put our children first. So, if you are stuck wondering, “Should I divorce?” ask yourself if this is the kind of relationship you would want your kids to have in their adult lives? For support, guidance and next steps now, consider joining SAS’ Annie’s Group, a divorce support online, learning community teaching you what a woman must know as she considers, or navigates divorce. Class begins April 10th at noon EST, and space is limited.  Schedule your chat to learn if this support-centered education is right for you.

 

 

Mother helping young daughter skateboard

How to Tell Your Kids You are Getting Divorced

Have you been worried about how to tell your kids you are getting divorced for a long time now? Did you stay in the marriage much longer than you wanted, because you were so frightened of what the news or changes might do to them? Have you put off telling them anything because you just don’t know what to say?

You are not alone. Every mother will tell you the thought of inflicting pain on your child is unbelievably excruciating, and it can even be paralyzing.

However, you’ve also realized that staying in an unhealthy environment isn’t sustainable for you and it’s certainly not good for the kids either.  Having two happy or happy-ish parents has to be better than two unhappy ones who live together, right? (Yes, we agree with you!)

Telling your children about your decision to divorce is not going to be easy…but with a few guidelines in place, it can be a lot less painful and may actually open the door to a healthier and improved, ongoing dialogue with your kids.

How to tell your kids you are getting divorced: What to avoid

  • Don’t underestimate them. Children understand and see FAR more than we give them credit for. This includes reading your body language. Kids are masters at that.
  • Don’t be afraid to show emotion. Kids need to know that it’s normal, natural, and totally okay to be upset when something sad happens.
  • Avoid language like “don’t feel sad” or “don’t be scared.” These feelings are normal and associated with loss. If you discourage them, kids will keep it inside or begin to believe it’s wrong to feel that way.
  • Don’t give unnecessary or adult details. The kids do not need to know that Daddy is sleeping around or that your legal bills are piling up. Stick to telling them about the things that apply directly to them. Avoid blaming, name calling or labeling your mate. He is their father first and always will be.

What do you want to make sure you do?

  • Tell them together. Ideally, both parents will tell the kids as a couple – that means, at the same time. Keep the conversation simple and direct. Invite them to ask questions. Afterwards, talk with each child individually as well. Older kids may have different questions or need more details than younger ones, so talking individually gives you a chance to address their worries.
  • Use age appropriate language and details. When talking to all the kids together, make sure it’s in a way that your youngest will understand. You can have a deeper conversation with the older children separately.
  • Model for your kids how to express their feelings. Tell them honestly how you feel so they can feel safe doing the same. Kids will mimic you and if you act strong and show no emotion, that’s what they will try to do too. It’s ok to cry and let them know that you are sad.  Tell them what is in your heart, in simple terms and they will feel safe enough to do the same.
  • Tell the truth. Sugar coating it isn’t going to ring true anyway so it’s best to be straightforward and honest. Try, “This is really sad and it’s going to be hard at times.  But we have each other to get through it.”
  • Check in often. Feelings and understandings change as your child grows and matures. They may not feel free to talk about it in this moment, but that can change weeks, months or years later. By asking how they are, you are inviting them to share their feelings.
  • Be prepared to have the discussion more than once, possibly over and over again. Let them talk and ask questions when they are ready. Reassure them they can come to you anytime.
  • Look for outside resources to lessen your children’s sense of isolation. Find age appropriate books that discuss divorce, two households, or step families. Contact your children’s school, the administration and your child’s teacher to let them know what’s going on at home. Some schools even have after school support programs for kids whose parents are breaking up or already separated.

What’s next?

After the initial talk, it’s important to keep the conversation going and allow them to bring up questions anytime. As changes occur, like moving out or a new custody schedule is put into place, keep the kids in the loop and informed. Discuss what it means for them (both good and bad) and find out what questions they have in order to give them an opportunity to prepare themselves mentally for the changes to come. Help them to know what to anticipate next (for example, perhaps having a family calendar posted in both homes, so kids can see where they will be tomorrow or next week and take comfort in the structure) and always, always, encourage them to express themselves.

The decision to divorce is never easy, most especially when there are kids involved. Often the anticipation of the conversation, when or how to tell the kids, is much worse than the conversation itself. You may find that they kids are relieved to talk to you about it or even that they suspected all along.

One final note

This advice applies to telling kids of ALL ages, no matter how old they are. Even if they are grown up, with kids of their own, they will want and will appreciate a chance to be part of this important family conversation. Telling your kids about your decision to divorce is an opportunity to bring your family closer together, if you let it.

If you’d like to speak to someone more in depth about your particular situation, we invite you to schedule a free 45-minute consultation with us.