Thanks to movies, television, and bitter, angry friends needing to vent, we’ve all heard at least a few brutal divorce stories. Yes, that happens sometimes. In the movies, it happens that way almost all the time (dramatic tension is the name of the game in screenwriting).
This being said, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are countless instances of amicable divorces where both parties walk away, having not said or done anything they’re ashamed of. Sometimes life is complicated, and two people who used to be able to handle it better together are now better off handling it without each other. The reason you don’t hear about those situations as much is that it doesn’t make for as good of a story, and they’re not complaining to their friends about the horrors of their experience; they’re busy restructuring their lives in a way that works better for them.
The following will break down a few of the commonalities that have been found in friendly divorces. Of course, every relationship is different, and so every divorce is going to be different too. You feel what you feel, and it’s okay. It really is. If you need a cry or a vent or an evening with too much junk food and reruns of your favorite show, that’s okay too.
Blame Will Sink the Pleasant Ship Faster than Anything Else
None of us are perfect. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all done the wrong thing. We’ve all lied at some point or other. We’ve all been wrong about what we wanted. We’ve all changed our minds. We’re humans. Your spouse messed up. You also messed up. It happens. The fastest way to bring an amicable divorce to an aggressive level is by playing the blame game. If you must talk about the reasons for the divorce, psychologists suggest the best route is to talk about your marital struggles in relation to:
- Outside stressors that you or your partner were dealing with. This can include things like differences in vision, mental health struggles, deaths in the family, addictions, job losses, illnesses, or infidelity. Take names and faults out of it.
- Skill deficiencies such as poor listening skills, anger management problems, and challenges when making decisions. These sorts of deficiencies are never entirely someone’s fault. Factors like upbringing, cultural expectations, fears, and coping mechanisms all play a part, and these are often baked into our systems when we’re young—usually before the age of five. Yes, you can work through them or around them, but that takes time, effort, energy, awareness, and further skill sets that any of us may not have been given growing up.
- Life stage development factors like marrying at a young age, before our adult personalities were more stable, retiring, graduating, and becoming parents. These sorts of milestones often drastically change who we are, and that’s no one’s fault. It’s just one of those strange elements of living a human life and sometimes, the changes are too drastic for another party to handle.
Understand that Divorce is a Process
Divorce isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s going to take time. There are legal steps that need to be taken, emotional steps that need to be taken, lots of physical things to organize like your living situations, and ongoing shared responsibilities like parenting and business management. Because it’s a legal process, there are also legal requirements that need to be met. Depending on the country you live in and the state or province, these requirements may vary, sometimes drastically.
For example, there are three reasons for a marriage to be dissolved in Alberta: infidelity, a separation of a year or more (without reconciliation for more than 90 days throughout the year), or an instance of cruelty that occurred. This website has more information about the specifics of divorce in Alberta and the process by which the above three points are examined by the legal system. Again, these standards vary across different legal systems, so be sure to do your research.
This is a tough one, especially if you’re hurting. But again, we all make mistakes, and you can bet that our mistakes helped contribute to the marital situation we find ourselves in. Take responsibility for the things you’ve done and said. If possible, and if you’re ready, apologize. Admit what you did (or, more accurately in most cases, what you didn’t do). Leave space for your partner to do the same, but don’t rush this process either.
The above steps should help you get oriented towards a collaborative divorce. A friendly divorce almost always ends up costing you less money and time. It tends to cultivate a healthier situation for children and mutual friends and often promotes faster healing. It is something that every divorcee strives for and, with these steps, they can most certainly obtain!