The divorce process can drag on forever. At this rate, I'm wondering if my divorce will be final before my daughter goes to college (she's 4 years old). During the process, it's completely normal to have highs — days in which you feel happy about the divorce — and lows — days in which you feel burdened with grief and pain over the decision.
It's also just as common to have highs and lows with your former spouse, especially as the two of you attempt to get into a rhythm as coparents. Distance helps any drama the two of you may have, but being diligent coparents requires that sometimes you'll have to deal with each other. If you're ready to blow a gasket because your divorce is becoming ugly or stressful, these are six things you can do to calm your head.
1. Review, Review, Review
Before you hit send on that text or email message to your ex, back away from your words for at least 20 minutes if the two of you have been fighting. Sometimes we say things out of anger but things said out of anger can be used against you in divorce.
Write. Breathe. Walk away. Return. Review.
Do you really need to send what you're sending?
Ask a trusted friend for advice. Don't ask your parents. By nature, your parents are probably also angry at your ex-spouse as you are and won't have cool heads about them unless they're good at being objective.
When you're ready to pull out your hair (or your ex's) it's time to move — physically. Getting exercise will help release anxious and stressful energy and allow you to have a space to release toxic feelings. Not only will exercise give you that ability to let go of bad emotions, but it will also flood your brain with feel-good emotions. To this day, running has been the best therapy since my divorce. And even better? It's free!
3. Put Out the Fire
Are you fueling the fire by commenting or engaging with your ex in unnecessary conversations? For example, if he messages you about how he's still mad about something you did when you were married, do you respond? You should only be discussing coparenting and nothing else. If you start to engage in old fights from the past or get involved in "tit-for-tat" commentary and passive-aggressive warfare, you are part of the problem too.
Disengage, and don't respond to anything unless it's about your children or a mandatory financial or legal conversation/topic. The two of you are over for a reason; let the fighting be gone. It wasn't fun when you were married so why continue it now?
Your ex will parent differently than you and this is the hardest thing to often accept when you see an ex doing something as a parent that perhaps you find unsavory. If it's something that is legitimately damaging to your child, such as speaking unkindly about you so that the child repeats it back to you or engaging in inappropriate behaviors that could harm your child, document, document, and document! Be precise and simply note the behavior or incident that occurred, leaving any opinions out of the matter.
If it's something that is simply different from how you parent, such as allowing television before bed, you will have to let it go, unless your child has special needs or some other issues that would make a choice like that harmful. You can certainly say something to your former spouse but it's likely your ex will ignore it simply to get a rise out of you.
Some things you must simply accept and deal with. Most likely, your former spouse doesn't like everything you do as a parent as well. As long as both of you are genuinely working in the best interest of the child, that's all that matters. Use your discretion.
Having a group of mothers to turn to and/or friends who can let you vent rather than you blowing your cool with your ex is an amazing resource. My friends have been a wonderful resource and haven for me to share my stressors, fears, joys, and heartaches with. I highly recommend joining a single-parent support group as well, whether virtually or online.
You can also extend this support to include therapists as well as religious and spiritual advisers too. Having a team of people to help you through the transition so you can stay positive about yourself and your life is mandatory!
6. Write It Down
Many times former spouses fight because they don't have a solid custody plan in writing about everything from drop-offs to after-school activities (payment, pick-ups, and more). Get a solid plan in writing, whether you hire a lawyer, mediator, or seek court mediation. When things are written down in black and white it's rather difficult for there to be any confusion. Plus, this also helps prevent fights. Is it fun to hash out the nitty-gritty details? No, but it's a must. One mistake we made (my former spouse and I) was making a custody schedule we weren't crazy about for her future school days and so now we have to rehash it again. Thankfully, we both have her best interests at heart but still — get it done and over with. This will also help prevent fights. "Did you review our agreement?" and "Pick-up time is clearly stated at 6 in the evening" will be all the words you'll need to squash a growing fight.
Keep this as your motto when emailing or texting your ex as well: simple and to-the-point messages with clear expectations outlined for all involved.
Divorce can feel like a killer when you're in its grips, but the fact is you will survive and thrive and one day — this will feel like a distant memory!