By Steve Litt, LCSW
In announcing his upcoming divorce a great guy I know asked what’s it mean when she said “ I don’t want to be divorced from you. I want to be divorced to you”?
Designer Divorce. Increasingly people are finding that divorce doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. It was so much easier when less people we doing it, say in the 1960’s. A divorce meant a lifelong estrangement. We weren’t going to talk, visit, go to the same places to eat, share family holidays and events. Nope, we were divorcing and that was the end of the relationship. Talk through the lawyers and just handle the money issues by mail or notes.
Some people are still using that older version of divorce. There are times when that is a great idea. Not talking can reduce the toxic level of conflict that led to a divorce. I worked with one divorced couple where he was willing to be cordial and claimed he was over it. She, however, just had a hard time being in the same room with a guy who beat her with a rifle butt before leaving. That one is very clear. The old way makes sense and the post-divorce situation may never get better. Trauma like that is hard to put aside.
Others have begun structuring their divorce the way they want it. It’s a kind of Designer Divorce. Some of these folks continue to date and be sexual, just not exclusively. They help each other move and call every day or so to check in. They show up at kids’ school conferences and events together. I have seen levels of cordiality and closeness in divorce people that would stun previous generations. My favorite is when they both remarry and everyone gets along well enough to work together to benefit the shared children. I once had a family session with two parents, two step-parents and one child. It went marvelously as the adults acted as one team.
So what does it mean to be divorced TO someone. I guess you get to decide. How about a handy dandy checklist like the one I have put in this article. Look at it and let me know your thoughts or suggestions for making it better.
Checklist to a Better Divorce
- Be polite and cordial, even if you don’t feel like it.
- Let the past go and focus on the future and the interests of the children
- Accept the new partners of your former spouse
- Never talk badly of your former spouse
- Always take the High Road
- Forgive and move forward
- Accept that divorce is 49% your fault
- Speak in kind tones avoiding derision and sarcasm
- Remember: Your Children are Watching