Okay, so, you are divorced or about to end your marriage. With the new year approaching, it is not a bad idea to create a list of resolutions, designed especially to make your ex (or soon-to-be-ex) easier to deal with in the new year for you and your children.
Before you commit to some or all of these resolutions, you might want to invoke a ritual to help you transition into a new mindset. Create something that makes these changes really feel like an important decision and therefore, easier to implement. My favorite “Get Ready” ritual for New Year’s Resolutions involving an ex is to create a bonfire. This can be a private experience or one wherein you invite some close and trusted friends/family who have been there for you during the painful divorce/separation process. Write down on pieces of paper your hopes for the future and for yourself. These hopes should include patterns of behavior with regard to your ex that you would like to get rid of in the New Year, such as untimely parenting time exchanges, being uncooperative with schedule changes and not encouraging regular telephone contact between your children and your ex, during your parenting time. If you invite others to attend, ask them to do the same. They can write things down that they want for you, such as seeing you smile more and relinquish worry. Make this gathering about joy and positivity. Be as creative with your ritual as you want. The ritual is merely a symbolic way to bring you joy and relief in the New Year. You may want to throw things you want to get rid of into the fire as well, to relinquish pain. Whatever works, do it! Perhaps you want to organize a bowling outing or a kick boxing class instead. The idea is to release pain because, honestly, there are few things in life more painful than divorce!
When you feel you are ready, consider making these resolutions part of your life in 2015:
1. I will live by the rule “less is more”:
The general public does not need to know your personal business. If your spouse is a cheater, an addict or an all-around bad person (in your opinion), it is still not information for public consumption. You do not want your family’s laundry, no matter how dirty, being discussed by your children’s classmates’ parents at the corner Starbucks or your child’s next swim meet. How can this possibly be good for you or your child? Even if you do not have children with your spouse/ex, who really cares about the private details of your life? The gossips who care about your pain and sorrow for a few gleefully vicious minutes then move on to the next victim of the grapevine? Or those few, trusted and loyal friends who have been there for you through thick and thin? The choice is yours.
Whether you are in the midst of the process or your divorce is finalized, your former mate will remain a part of your history and may remain a part of your family, albeit in a very different role, for the rest of your life.
Word to the wise: A good therapist is worth his/her weight in gold over the local gossip mill.
2. I will support my child’s relationship with my ex:
Make a commitment to find a good thing to say about your ex to your children on a regular basis, no matter how hard this may be. Take your child holiday shopping for your ex. Help him/her choose a birthday present for your ex. Commit to remaining “child-centric” at all times. Keep all negative comments about your ex to yourself. It’s not your child’s burden. Remember, it took the two of you to make your child in the first place. More importantly, always be cognizant of the fact that every time you criticize your ex, you are sending your child a message that half of him/her is no good.
3. I will keep my cool:
Close your eyes. Think about the one thing that most easily sets you off that your ex does that sends you into a tail spin. What pushes you from zero to 60 on the “angry meter” the quickest? When this happens, what is your typical response? Okay, now take a deep breath and try the opposite approach. This takes a lot of willpower and is not always possible, so do not be too hard on yourself when you fail. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try it again. While you are taking that deep breath, picture the faces of your beautiful children. A new approach may require some trial and error. Be patient and consider the long-term effects of your behavior, keeping your children’s best interest at heart, at all times.
4. I will pick my battles:
Divorce is extremely difficult, no matter how hard you try to make the best of it for you, your spouse and your children. Remember, you cannot shield your children from every painful situation that arises in your life. Staying married for the sake of your children is a recipe for disaster and the burden and pain such reasoning places on your children is much too long of a talking point for this particular post. Suffice it to say, resolve that, when a challenging situation involving your ex arises, you will not immediately become reactionary. Do not put anything in writing (e-mail, text, etc.) while angry and at the spur of the moment. Consider all options and compromises and of course, what is ultimately best for your child, before you decide when to bend and when to hold your ground.
5. I will understand that “you give what you get”:
What I have learned, time and time again, is how you act and what you put out there comes back to you in spades. Behave well. Exude kindness and love and you will attract good, kind and loving people in return. Make the decision to cut out all of the toxic, selfish and unsupportive people from your life this year. You do not need their negative influence or energy. And guess what? You are an adult and you get to make this choice! As long as you are being a kind, decent, loving human, who puts his/her children first, then the rest does not matter. You can’t please all people all of the time and you certainly can’t stay in a toxic marriage, family situation or friendship for the sake of others.
Your marriage ended or is ending for complicated, personal reasons, beyond any third party’s comprehension. No outsider will ever understand your unique union with the person with whom you once chose to say “I do”. My hope for you in 2015 is that these simple resolutions will help provide you, your ex and your children with a lot of extra peace in the New Year.