For people who decide to divorce, they start the process with a vision for a better life. Early in the process, it is a good idea to state your vision. Where will you live? Describe your relationship with your children. Most important, what would you like your description of your former spouse to be? The reason this is important is that the relationship between parents is the single best determinant of whether your children will grow to be healthy young adults.
For people who find themselves divorcing against their will or better judgment, it is important to get your bearings. Then decide on a vision. Do you want your future life to be filled with strife and anger? Or do you want your future life to be more peaceful and harmonious?
Having a vision early in your divorce case is important because there will be very stressful times. If you can pull back, take a deep breath and consider whether the actions you are considering will bring you closer to your vision or take you further from achieving that vision. This can often serve as an anchor when things get really tough.
About those visions. Let's examine what is possible.
Anger - this is not my fault and now that the dye has been cast, I will always hate my spouse. This is a vision that we sometimes see in divorces. Some people start with this vision, especially when their spouse has taken up another relationship and has rejected the spouse. It is understandable to be angry. However, in the long term this is not healthy. You are focusing on the past. You are refusing to let go of your anger and forgive. If you have children, you are influencing their view of the other parent. Also, you are potentially poisoning your relationship with other important people in your life. Why? People do not enjoy being around other angry people, unless they are also angry and want validation for holding onto that anger. Healthy people will not welcome you to their social circle, if you continue to focus on your disappointment and distrust. If you are having trouble letting go of the anger, consider working with a therapist to help you.
Victim - he/she took away my security (financial and/or emotional). I cannot forget or forgive this betrayal. I will not trust again. This can also be a vision at the beginning of the case when you did not want the divorce. In the long run, this is not healthy and will cause others to avoid you. You have to take responsibility for your own well being. You owe it to your children to model resilience, creativity and self-reliance. A therapist may help you get beyond this vision.
Entitled - he/she married me for better or worse. He/she owes me future support. In Michigan, this is not the law. From what I know of other state law, this is not a vision that will gain traction in their courts. Unless you are disabled and unable to work, you will need to provide for your support. Please refer to the blog articles on spousal support, also found at this website. If you have been married sufficiently long and your spouse is a high wage earner, you may receive sufficient support to avoid having to work outside the home. However, for shorter-term marriages or for lower wage earners, both spouses will need to work in the future. It is wise to work with both a therapist and a vocational expert to start planning for this eventuality.
The future will be better and I will be happier. This is the vision that I hope all my readers will achieve. As you progress through the divorce, you will probably realize that your marriage was problematic before the split. Since such changes are incremental, they often sneak up on you. You are not aware of the deterioration of the relationship until your spouse announces that he/she wants a divorce, which means that the marriage is not meeting their needs. Please note: that does not mean that you did not meet their needs. It means, literally, the marriage (your union) did not meet their needs. It may be that they changed so much that they are at fault. At any rate, it's no fun being with a person who does not want to be with you. So plan that happier future. It will take time, grieving and energy. It may also require professional advice. Working with a therapist may be one of the best investments you will ever make.
Many of my clients report after the divorce is concluded and they have had a chance to adjust, that they feel happier now than ever before. They would never want to repeat going through a divorce. However, they acknowledge that their lives now are better than before the divorce.
Let that be your vision.