This blog post features a We Chat Divorce podcast interview with Michelle Dempsey-Multack, author of the upcoming book Moms Moving On. Together with Catherine and Karen, the We Chat Divorce hosts, Michelle provides a framework for moving on peacefully after divorce.
Setting the Stage for Serenity After Divorce
It can be uncomfortable when you’ve transitioned out of your own marriage but so many of your friends are still together and in love. It’s no small thing, and it’s a lonely place to be if you don’t have the right support and mindset.
Healing from divorce is rarely a linear path. Most divorcees experience challenges and setbacks on their road to building a new life. There’s no magic bullet or life hack to healing.
You have to put the work in to achieve serenity after divorce.
Self-Reflection and Unpacking
Untangling yourself from a bad marriage is a complicated process. Recognizing and taking ownership of your own faults as a partner is an important step – those issues don’t just go away once the marriage is over.
At the same time, you have to be fair about apportioning blame; you’re not solely responsible for the way things ended, but you do have to own your part. Maybe you consciously or subconsciously acted out in an effort to end it, but there are also underlying factors that might have contributed to you staying longer than you should have in an effort to try and salvage things.
We often instinctively assume that divorce is adversarial, and assign judgment accordingly.
In reality, the divorce process doesn’t have to consume the whole family, and we can do things to shield children from it.
Gracious for the Children’s Sake
There’s a tendency for moms to want to play sides with their children, and it’s made stronger when moms see their children as their confidant. But turning children against the other parent doesn’t benefit anything except, possibly, your short-term satisfaction.
In the long run, turning children against a parent is one of the worst things you can do to them. No matter how poorly your spouse might have treated you, it’s never justifiable to poison their relationship with their kids out of spite.
What’s best for your children is a happy relationship with both parents. Even though it may not have worked as a marriage, there’s no reason that two willing and loving parents can’t work together to provide a positive environment for their kids.
While you’re entitled to your feelings of anger toward your ex, it’s a worthwhile endeavor to keep that anger separate in a way that allows your children a fair shot at a good relationship with both parents.
Being gracious when it comes to expressing your opinion about the other parent can be one of the best things you do for your children. At times, they’re inevitably going to make complaints. It’s in everyone’s best interest to guide that complaint towards compassion. For example, if a child complains that the other parent was late for school pick-up, try to explain the lateness in a way that is more forgiving (ex: there may have been a lot of traffic).
A great thing about letting kids speak their mind about the other parent without actively encouraging or discouraging it is that you’re allowing them a safe space to vent, but you’re not turning it into an opportunity to jump on a narrative. When you give children the chance to form their own opinions and then engage those opinions in a balanced and respectful way, you’re helping them on the path to making sense of a new situation and eventually developing a healthy and thoughtful mindset around it.
Children are naturally intuitive, and they can really take to a narrative if you let them run with it. It’s helpful to guide them toward a humanizing mindset and away from a one-sided perspective.
Coming from a vulnerable place as a child, it’s natural to want to seek protection wherever it can be found. Siding with one parent against the other can feel like a way of securing protection through an alliance, so it’s important not to indulge that temptation.
Instead, you can validate their feelings by empathizing with your kids. We can let them understand that it’s okay to be frustrated or upset sometimes, but that those feelings are temporary reactions which can be dealt with. Provide kids with the tools to work through their emotions, and keep the focus on that process instead of turning those feelings into judgments.
Navigating the Journey
Divorce is a journey that usually starts off on a rough uphill stretch. The best advice Michelle can offer to those in the beginning stages is to deal with the obstacles along the way as if they are a logistical hurdle on a long trip; fix the problem, get back on the highway, and keep your focus on the big picture. Whatever your feelings at the current stage of the journey are not reflective of where you’ll be later on down the road.
Most of us struggle to put aside the pain and ugliness of the present for the promise of something better in the future. We have to consciously remind ourselves that our current circumstances are not going to be forever. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s tough because you just want to put it behind you, but you’re forced to be patient and just let time take its course.
The goal is worth achieving, and patience does have its reward in the form of what is ultimately a fulfilling journey. Once you’re able to really embrace a new mindset that is forward-oriented and away from one that is focused on the past, there’s an exciting world of opportunity ahead.
Learning to embrace opportunity is a big part of getting over the hump. The chance to start fresh and the excitement of new beginnings is there for you when you’re ready to dive into it!
My Divorce Solution was co-founded by two divorcees, Karen Chellew and Catherine Shanahan, who are committed to changing the face of divorce by shifting the balance of power from the legal system to divorcing families.
Even though you may not feel this way right now, #UwillbeOK!