Choosing not to be ugly

There’s a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you’ll never see the end of the road
While you’re travelling with me

Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over

Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won’t win

Don’t let them win.”

I’ve often wondered whether I could tour the public speaking circuit discussing how (and why) to avoid a toxic divorce.

I think I need to slay one last demon – never ever wanting to meet my ex’s de facto – before that can happen. Right now it feels like a bridge waaaaaaay too far. So I still have some work to do.

Erm … I also need to get those non-toxic divorce papers signed … on the nag-the-ex to-do list for 2018.

But I’m pretty happy with how I’ve handled the journey so far, after those rocky first few months.

Sadly, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid a toxic divorce. It takes two to tango and if your ex-partner is determined to make things as nasty as possible it can be hard to disperse the poisonous cloud.

My advice to anyone trapped in an awful situation like that would be along the lines of that Crowded House song: don’t let them win.

It may seem like they hold all the power and that good isn’t triumphing over evil, but they only really win if they steal your hope. If they succeed in replacing it with the same bitter ugliness that’s inside them, they’ve dragged you down to the hateful place they’ve chosen to inhabit.

Stay strong, find joy, keep the hope burning brightly inside you.

I’m constantly inspired by those who’ve been dealt terrible, distressing, unfair hands in life but remain lovely, kind, positive people. It must be so hard when you’ve lost so much.

I’ve read a lot about why divorces get ugly and aside from the tough stuff like having an abusive partner or compulsive cheater, it mainly comes down to people not being prepared to look at their part in the breakdown of their marriage. I’ve realised you need to face your own issues and acknowledge that it took two people to get into the mess.

Both parents also need to make an effort to play nice, no matter how difficult that might feel sometimes.

Sasha Frere-Jones writes at The Guardian: “What kept us connected was our boys, then six and nine. They cut through whatever anger sat between us …” and adds that a rule went into effect early: “no badmouthing the other parent, whatever the topic. And we were lucky – we liked and respected each other, beneath the turbulence. That’s where we had started. So the irregular interactions led to a committed decision to not be ugly, even when that seemed impossible. There was enough doubt and hurt for all four of us – anything to clean the air helped.”

Finally, in much the same was as Facebook’s God reckons the 10 Commandments could be replaced with just one – Don’t be a dick – I reckon you’re on the right track if you can do just one thing in a divorce: put the kids’ emotional health first.

Actually, no, there are two things. Don’t be a dick applies to divorce too.

Follow both those paths and everyone – including you – will be much happier and richer for it.

Song of the day: Crowded House “Don’t dream it’s over”

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