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If you and your spouse are experiencing marital difficulties, consider the following information before you divorce.
1. A divorce, no matter how ugly or amicable, causes stress. It is essential to get in good physical condition because stress and anxiety are best treated when you are healthy and fit. Try a regular exercise program. Or, alternatively, do what you enjoy most: take a walk or ride a bike, regularly.
2. Maintain a positive attitude. Divorce is the same as the loss of a partner by death. You will experience the five stages of grief, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Ask yourself how you would deal with death of a spouse. In many ways, divorce is worse because it has no obvious end point. But rest assured, it will end. Therefore, make that end point your focus.
Keep a positive mental attitude. It is a huge help. Enjoy your children, exercise, take up a new interest, keep busy. Each of these can be tremendously helpful. Most importantly, if you cannot prevent a divorce because your spouse gives you no choice, then accept it. You do not owe your soon-to-be ex-spouse all that suffering. So try to live your life on an even keel. Be busy, and try to enjoy life.
3. Learn to negotiate effectively, even if you will not consider going to a therapist to help deal with divorce, or to put the marriage back together. Speaking with a therapist could help you analyze the underlying problems you have as a couple. The therapist's role would be to teach you how to negotiate with one another, and to resolve the issues together. The therapist will help you to unlearn those things you do that stops negotiation between you and your spouse. In other words, when you learn to negotiate effectively you learn when to give and when to take. Good negotiators do both.
4. Learn to read between the lines. Practice the art of listening without interruption. Try to listen and understand what your spouse is actually saying, which may not be what you are hearing in your spouse's words. However, you will learn if you are open to listening. [By the way, most people judge you on your ability to listen. Think about the times when you really listened to someone, said little, and then they told you what a smart person you are.]
5. Sit down with your spouse and see if you can clarify the actual issues between you. Make a list. Perhaps these issues are about money, stress, or overwork. Or, maybe the issues are not even related to the two of you or your relationship. The desire to divorce comes in many forms and over many things, not just those things from which you would assume are the underlying causes of divorce.
For example, I once had a case where a wife was so angry with her Husband that she filed for divorce. The husband was at a loss to tell me why she was divorcing him, or what was the source of her anger. I advised him to meet with her and to just listen. He did. Finally, the wife said she had been trying to convince him to buy a house for themselves and their children.
The husband had never been able to reach a decision. He finally realized that he had simply avoided the subject, which she assumed was a rejection of her ideas and his non-commitment to the marriage. He finally agreed to buy a home for the family and she stopped the divorce. The arguments stopped as well.
Sometimes neither party can clearly express their needs or desires to the other spouse, and therefore resentment and anger flows. Stress causes conflict which leads to divorce, and are often times completely unrelated to the real desires of both spouses. But believe it or not, it is better to try and work out your problems before you divorce, than to go through a divorce that will have lasting negative affects on both you and your children.
6. Try to decide with whom you or your spouse is really angry. It sounds strange, but sometimes the cause of an argument is triggered by someone else. Perhaps it is triggered by someone who is not even in the room. For example, your spouse may be angry at his boss, or someone else in his life, and he starts a fight with you.
Frequently, this projection of anger upon a spouse causes divorce. If your spouse appears to be arguing, try to identify the source of the anger. This is a problem that probably needs treated by a professional therapist, yet may be identified by you. However, try not to engage in the argument if you recognize that it is really not about you or with you. This will help to diffuse the situation and not make you a target of anger.
7. Divorce is easy. Marriage is hard. Some say that divorce is too easy in our country. I agree. "Divorce your spouse and start again." But is it really a fresh start? Your children won't think so.
A child has only one father and mother. A new father cannot take his place, just as a new mother cannot take her place. Marriage is hard work. Patience, tolerance, discussion, and mutual respect have to be earned through hard work. Take the time put in the work. Your kids will thank you for it.
8. Divorce is extremely difficult on children. Before you divorce, allow your children to finish high school. However, if you cannot wait, at least let them finish grammar school before you divorce.
Do not argue in front of your children. Do not bad mouth the other parent. Your child suffers each time you do. And this suffering can cause lasting effects long after your anger is over. Also, remember that your child is not your best friend, so do not confide in or discuss your problems with your child, particularly problems with your spouse. Do not make your child your parent. It won't work.
9. Time your divorce. If you do decide to divorce, plan it out well in advance. Take into consideration what you will need to support yourself. What do you or will have to pay or receive as child support or alimony? Can you live on the amount of money that you will have after the divorce, as well as you did beforehand? Make a plan and a time line. The best time to upgrade your education, or to seek retraining to obtain a better job, is when your spouse has to contribute to that education or retraining.
10. Try not to hate your spouse because of the divorce. Forget religion for a moment, whether you believe that you should love your enemy or not. Hatred never really got anyone anywhere. Hating your ex-spouse means that you go into your next relationship with a history of being angry and having that hatred unresolved. It's like having a first date with a new person and discussing what a jerk your ex-spouse was. It's just not a good strategy.
If you are considering divorce or would like more information about your options before you divorce, contact an attorney at the Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation.