I am in the middle of a divorce. We’re in the home stretch and I have chosen to keep pretty much all of the details private for a few reasons.
What I want to share, however, are some of the things I have used as my personal guiding principles and tools, as it were, as I navigate divorce. Let’s call these “Mayim’s Tools for Divorce.”
1. Put the kids first. They didn’t ask for this. They will have a hard enough time coping with the irrevocable loss of their intact home; they don’t need more drama than already exists for them. Even if they’ll be better off in two happy unfighting homes than one unhappy fighting home, divorce sucks for kids. Period. I kept pictures of my boys all over my house and dressing room during this period so I constantly am reminded of them in this whole mess as I negotiate contracts and such.
2. Keep your marital issues where they belong. Whenever any decision has to be made and you feel like being vindictive against your spouse, or angry, or punishing, take a deep breath, call a girlfriend, have a soda–whatever it takes, do not act prickly to get revenge on your spouse in this divorce. It will only hurt your kids. Use representatives where appropriate (see below) to communicate your legal and emotional needs, but always remember that every nasty thing you do towards your spouse will somehow get back to your kids either directly or indirectly, or even just by the fact that you are kind of putting out bad energy into the Universe.
I am not advocating for not speaking your mind or taking care of your needs; I am simply imploring you to remember that your kids will feel the kickback of every prickly thing you do to get revenge on your spouse. Resist the urge.
3. Use a mediator. Mediators are an alternative to lawyers and they basically have both of you sit in one room and just figure it all out together. They serve as both of your advocates, and they force you to be honest, precise, and fair. Since if you have kids you are going to be their parents forever, marriage or not, this experience can help you figure out how to talk, how to not talk, and when to leave the room before you throw a blunt object at anyone’s head, a trick of self-restraint which I am sure will come in handy as the years progress. The thing I liked about a mediator is that as quick as you can get done, you are done. You pay them for their hours working with you and drawing up papers, so the sooner you finish, the less money you pay them. We had a handful of long and very intense sessions but then we were done and could let the mediator draw everything up and email us with questions and stuff. You can also each speak to the mediator confidentially and I really think it was a healthy way to start this phase of our life as opposed to behind lawyers or–G-d forbid–ending up in court litigating.
4. Exercise. You will likely have a ton of angry and hurt feelings as divorce proceeds. You will also be very confused about your marriage, your choices, and your future. You may also feel depressed which is a normal response to the loss of a marriage. Exercise helps with all of these emotions. I took up running and returned to weight-lifting which I loved in my college days. Walking is also good, as is yoga, dancing, or any other activity that makes your body move and sweat. I tend to favor solitary activities since I’m a solitary person, but I’d imagine if you like being with people, group exercise or team sports might also work for you.
5. Don’t randomly hook up. I have not done this, for your information, and at some point to be determined, I won’t be “just divorced” and can choose to hook up or not hook up with anyone I gosh darn please, I suppose. But in the immediate interim of a divorce, I strongly suggest you resist engaging in that kind of “exercise.” I know: you’re lonely, you’re sad, you’re in fear about ever finding anyone. Me too. But please know that if you go for a random hook up, you will likely a) end up crying about your ex in the middle of trying not to think about or cry about your ex, b) end up possibly messing up something that might have potential if you just wait out all of the emotions you are going through and give it a healthy year or so, and c) end up hating yourself. I’m just guessing here. I could be wrong. My therapist says I’m probably right. She’s really smart, so I’d listen up.
6. Read this book. My almost-ex and I consulted with a child specialist who was amazing and helpful in choosing the best way to separate, tell the kids, adjust to life after telling the kids, adjust to two homes, etc. Everything she told us is also in this book*. You shouldn’t have to pay a child specialist to help you help your kids through divorce. This book makes it so you don’t have to. It has “scripts” for explaining divorce and separation to various ages of kids, it lists questions each age bracket may ask along with appropriate answers, and it helps you understand how to best function so that your kids can thrive. It’s wonderful and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
7. Listen to this music. I am a musician and I don’t know what I’d do without music to help me navigate everything in my life. This divorce is no exception. Here are my Top 10 Divorce Songs.
1. Rolling in the Deep – Adele
2. You’ve Got You – Eric Hutchinson
3. I Won’t Give Up – Jason Mraz
4. After All That We’ve Been Through – Chicago
5. January Hymn – The Decemberists
6. Turning Tables – Adele
7. Not Your Lover – Blitzen Trapper
8. Look Around – Blues Traveler
9. I’ve Been Delivered – Wallflowers
10. The Weight of Lies – Avett Brothers
Divorce sucks. No way around that. But I hope that maybe a few of these tools can be added to your toolbox to help make the process a bit easier.
See you soon with more fun divorce advice, experience, and musings.
For more from Mayim on her divorce, read how she handles attachment parenting for single moms, her time alone during Christmastime, and how her son weaned right before her divorce was made public.
*As always, for every purchase you make on Amazon through the above links, a portion of the profits will help support Mayim’s writing on Kveller.