If you and your spouse have children together, a lifelong relationship has been created, regardless of whether or not the marriage endures. The way you conduct yourself during this difficult time will lay the groundwork for future interactions with your former spouse regarding the children. Additionally, the way you conduct yourself now will have a direct impact on the divorce itself. Be mindful that there are going to be areas of disagreement throughout the entire process, but these disagreements do not need to turn into a “War of the Roses” scenario. Additionally, be mindful that your children are closely dialed in to your behavior as well as the behavior of your spouse. Utilize this opportunity to set a good example. Even if your spouse has violated this rule, do not lower yourself to that level.
Additionally, times of strife naturally lead us to turn to family and friends as a source of support, and a solid support group is an essential element to coping with the devastation of divorce. However, indiscriminately unloading your problems may not be in your best interest or the best interest of your family. Care must be taken when approaching others with intimate details of your relationship. Nothing is more certain to create added discord between you and your spouse than criticism and unfiltered discussions with a family member or friend who is less than discrete with the information.
Experience has revealed that indiscrete conversations can sometimes be harmful, hurtful, and even dangerous. Prior to exposing all of your concerns to another, ask yourself the following:
- Does the person I am speaking with understand that I am hurting and looking for support?
- Does the person I am speaking with respect me enough to refrain from gossiping about my situation?
- Is it possible that this person will be an agent for my spouse and will only be seeking information for them?
- If my family and I are able to heal and recover from our current difficulties and problems, will this person be able to disregard what I have said to them?
- How will discussing this situation with this person affect my children?
Respect your friends, family, spouse, and most importantly yourself, by using discretion before airing your marital dirty laundry. When angry, sad, frustrated, or outraged, it is natural that you want to vent. We often act without thinking. But by implementing certain rules of conduct for yourself, you may prevent behaving in a manner which you will later regret. By way of suggestion, the following rules should be considered:
General Rules of Conduct:
- Do not make statements to others that may result in rumor or affect the listener’s relationship with your spouse.
- Do not argue in front of the children or place your children in uncomfortable situations.
- Do not hinder or interfere with your spouse’s employment situation.
- Do not act on impulse and attempt to punish your spouse for his or her conduct. Actions like this often backfire.
- Do not stalk your spouse by following him or her continually. Many states have laws against this.
- Do not intentionally do things that you know will aggravate your spouse.
- Do not call everyone your spouse knows, giving the impression of checking up on them, when you are not certain of your spouse’s whereabouts.
- Restrain your behavior and avoid any conduct involving threats, harassment, pushing, shoving, throwing objects, or any action that might be considered violent.
- Respect your children enough to leave them out of your marital problems and do not ask the children to make decisions or take sides.
- Remove yourself from confrontations or heated arguments with your spouse, by going for a walk or a car ride when a conflict is arising.
- Give yourself and your spouse some time and space if an argument occurs, to avoid further escalation.
Approach the problems, no matter how difficult, with a sense of respect and integrity. In addition, consider enlisting the services of a good counselor, a pastor, priest, rabbi, and/or spiritual advisor whose confidential relationship will ensure you a safe haven for discussing your problems. Take advantage of community services which may offer free or reduced assistance to you. Join a support group to interact with other individuals going through a similar experience.
Going through a divorce is not easy. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it will. However, a final resolution will come. By surrounding yourself with a good support network and implementing some of the sensible suggestions and Rules of Conduct herein, you are equipping yourself with the necessary tools to avoid additional damage to the relationship.