Divorce is looming for anyone that jumps into marriage without asking the right questions. Know thyself and know thy future spouse.
I’m compelled to write in the first person this time around. Divorce emotions are coming out in full force and what needs to be written needs to be personal. A drawn out contested divorce such as mine is difficult. My responsibility has tripled since separation (my youngest was one month old). It is too bad my younger self was not given a heads-up on marriage complications once children come along. Now that my youngest is almost a toddler and teething; my patience has reached an all time low. The drool, incessant cries and elevated temperatures come at nightfall and make me want to scream, because I never wanted to face parenting alone and I am so dead tired. I never thought I could have such negative feelings as I do for the father of my children, not in a million years. Oh wait, it was even worse when we were under the same roof after my first was born, because of the abuse that ensued once we both went back to work. (Both parents working is another topic for another blog.) I stayed quiet about the abuse in all areas of my life, because I thought every relationship has its peaks and valleys – the thoughts of an optimist. By acknowledging how bad it was then, I already feel better in the present. I only wish I had been more of a realist than an optimist. My naïve nature during it all kind of disgusts me now. If I had been more of a realist and faced the music I probably would not have had a second child from the seed of Jekyll & Hyde. It hurts my heart severely to reflect on that notion. I love my children and I wanted four children before the tides changed.
Oh, there is so much advice I have for my younger self. No one was giving the advice I needed and I knew several newlywed blended families at the time our camouflaged frayed knot was tied. Do people hold onto their past stories in secret, because they want to maintain a happy image to bury the hatchet or do people temporarily forget the divorce turmoil amid new bliss and love? I hope it is the latter and not the former. I also want to be the person that boldly remembers, so that I can help people make good decisions and minimize repeating a history full of mistakes (sometimes mistakes are inevitable and in a strong relationship mistakes make the relationship even stronger instead of destroying it). FYIDivorce.com aligns with that goal. If I could write a letter to my younger self, it would go something like this:
You have no idea what you’re doing when it comes to marrying someone, especially if you have known them for less than a decade or even less, only two years. You should wait and develop your career and goals before jumping into anything. YOU HAVE TIME. You have lasted this long without a committed relationship, what is a few more years? Please try to answer the following questions before you say “I do,” acquire a marriage license and decide to make all your life decisions with someone else steering the ship.
- Does the person make you uncomfortable in public situations? If the answer is “yes.” Please move on and kick this one to the curb before there is a proposal.
- Does the person isolate you from others in a group? If the answer is “yes,” please move on immediately. This is learned behavior from a dysfunctional family.
- Does the person talk about themselves most of the time? If the answer is “yes,” this does not mean they’re a good conversationalist, it means they’re self-centered and prideful. Take a hint, the person won’t change once your relationship is more serious.
- Does the person push your physical boundaries? If the answer is “yes,” they’re indirectly disrespecting you and they will do the same thing in different contexts later. Do not rationalize the behavior by saying “By doing this it makes things more fun or this is an indicator there will never be a dull moment.” This is the biggest red flag, do not stay. End it.
- Is the person critical of anyone in your family? If the answer is “yes,” stay clear of danger!
- Have you asked every question you can think of about their past? If the answer is “no,” make a list and start checking them off. Write down the answers, so you have a record. The history of a person determines how they will react in the future; it’s in their (nature) and in their learned behavior from childhood (nurture). Make no mistake, familial ties run deep. Any questions avoided, run like the wind and do not look back.
- Does the person have a busy schedule or are they spending most of their time on you? If they are spending most of their time on you; they don’t have a real job, they are not living on their own nor do they know how to manage a relationship when real life hits them in the face. They are only making you feel special, because they don’t have anything else better to do. Do not be a fool. Take it for what it is and say goodbye.
- Do you get along with the person’s family and do they feel like family? If the answer is “no,” and all the previous answers direct you to move on, what are you waiting for?
- Has the person done illegal things in front of you? If the answer is “yes,” you should no longer look to the last item on this list! That qualifies as corrupting. There is no way this person should even be dating you much less become your spouse.
- Do you often yield to that person’s desire? If you say “yes,” you should know this person is controlling and has no interest in sharing a world, but wants to monopolize your life to feel validated and secure. Once you show you have a voice, they will turn on you. Get out while you still can!
Please do not take this advice lightly. You have a life ahead and every decision you make impacts your life. Granted, even the bad decisions can make you a better person, but please avoid some turmoil by really understanding what it means to marry the wrong person. Being with the wrong person is worse than being single and truthfully being single can sometimes be better than having a relationship.
With enduring love from your older wiser self ,
I wish I considered the 10 questions above before marriage. Do not avoid these questions. I read so many relationship books it makes my mind spin and I wonder if someone gave me this advice whether it would have fallen on def ears. It is very possible it could have. I drank from the love cup, it happens to the best of us. All the questions above contributed to the demise of my marriage, because they all impact parenting. When there are only two people in a relationship there is less conflict, especially if one person is always agreeable. I was the agreeable one.
If your divorce has lasted longer than a year, you will eventually stumble upon divorce agony. There are so many emotions that are wrapped up in divorce. I have described them as an emotional jungle and the 5 stages of grief, but once your divorce hits the long-term divorce mark such as over a year you will eventually reach divorce agony. When you have been in a period of prolonged pain that twists your insides into new shapes, this feeling is agony. The pain is intensified if the estranged spouse is an abuser (neglectful, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc.).
Divorce agony is like a wild horse confined to a cage and looking out to see a beautiful green pasture beyond its reach; the longing to be free is a desire that goes unsatisfied. Confinement creates a sense of claustrophobia. Things are cramped. Space is closing in. Turning around and around, but there is nowhere to go, but to stand in the same place looking out from the same viewpoint. Sweet scents come in on the breeze which provide some minor relief; however, no real resolution to the situation. There are moments when freedom seems obtainable; maybe someone from the outside looking in gives a glimmer of hope, however the moments are short lived and quenched quickly with reality.
Divorce with children is that reality in a contested divorce. Divorce with children are those steel bars that do not seem to go away. Children themselves do not create the steel bars that pin in the wild horse that longs to be free, the courts do. The divorce industry calls these steel bars coparenting. These steel bars are the constant reminder of the divorce state of your life. The issues that caused the divorce in the first place are still active and relived through coparenting and regular interaction with the person that caged you in the first place which creates agony. Coparenting itself is not the problem; however, the system does not customize coparenting according to relationship challenges. Happy coparenting cannot and will not exist in a contested divorce, do not be fooled. Also, it is common for a divorce to morph from an amicable divorce to a contested divorce very quickly when emotions run hot, be very careful there is no way to predict the outcome or plan for this switch.
Everyone will respond to divorce agony in their own way. If you are susceptible to substance abuse, stay clear of any situation that will expose you or tempt you. Do not let divorce agony impact your relationship with your child or children. If you can afford counseling consider it and schedule it. If you cannot afford counseling find an outlet, so that you are not facing this dreadful emotion alone. By joining a divorce group, talking with friends, starting a new hobby, writing or journaling you can better cope with divorce agony and tame the wild horse.
True love is supposed to last forever. Marriage is supposed to last until death do us part. There are some feel good relationship stories that stand the test of life’s circumstances; for example, the model that was severely burned and her devoted husband that remained by her side through all her surgeries. He still married her after the accident and they are still married today.
A longtime favorite comedian actor, Ben Stiller, and his actress wife, Christine Taylor recently announced their divorce. A divorce after 17 years of marriage and 2 beautiful children. Tragedy can make a couple stronger or it can rip the couple apart at the seams. Judging by his interview with Entertainment Tonight, it seems as if Ben Stiller’s prostate cancer and cancer removal put the nail in the coffin.
There are plenty of discussions among the blogging community about sex in a relationship and after years of marriage it takes effort and intention to keep the passion alive. Faced with a tragedy such as cancer, would you choose to keep your passion alive or end it, hoping to save your life? Any spouse would not dare ask the other to put their life in jeopardy to sustain their traditional sex life as a couple, or would they?
There are countless resources that falsely explain that divorce can be better for the children, because the children won’t be exposed to as much conflict or the children will be shielded from the parental relationship problems or co-parenting strategies minimize the effects of divorce for children. Yada, yada, yada. The ONLY scenario where it’s better for the children is when there is abuse; however if there is no probable cause against the perpetrator, there’s no guarantee of protection.
Relationships are not easy. A divorce relationship with children is probably one of the most difficult relationships that exist. Not only did the divorce happen in a public forum, family court, but the children are unknowingly catapulted into a world that’s ready to feast on their every vulnerability from the experience. The person that files for divorce does not have this insight beforehand, because the person that files is thinking only about their own circumstances and how the divorce will be an instant solution to whatever is going on in their relationship. There are countless resources that falsely explain that divorce can be better for the children, because the children won’t be exposed to as much conflict or the children will be shielded from the parental relationship problems or co-parenting strategies minimize the effects of divorce for children. Yada, yada, yada. The ONLY scenario where it’s better for the children is when there is abuse; however if there is no probable cause against the perpetrator, there’s no guarantee of protection. Any other excuse for the divorce being better for the children comes from rationalization which softens the blow of truth.
It’s a fact, relationships aren’t easy. The people who’ve mastered relationships are good at recovery. The people that have broken relationships struggle to master recovery. Any relationship without some level of conflict isn’t an example of a real relationship with real people. Every person that starts a relationship has a point of reference. Often the point of reference can get lost if you track the point of reference back to childhood. When people experience extreme circumstances they often block it out; who wants to be reminded of bad memories? Human brains don’t, at least not intentionally. In some cases this blocking of memories is defined by psychologists as Dis-associative Amnesia. These bad memories shape how you operate under stress and how you relate to others. When you divorce with children, you are placing them into this dangerous arena. Their brains are chemically changed during a divorce, because they are forced to experience ADULT emotions and deal with ADULT problems. Divorce emotions are a thing to be reckoned with as ADULTS; most ADULTS can’t handle the emotions much less children.
It’s a fact, by divorcing you’re making it that much harder for your children to navigate relationships, plus facilitating a number of side effects. Children that grew up with parents that kept things behind closed doors struggle immensely with conflict resolution as adults. Children in a divorce struggle with the same thing! Children learn by watching, hearing and experiencing. Stripping your children of your relationship takes this opportunity away from them and maybe they will eventually see healthy conflict resolution if someone remarries and STAYS MARRIED; however, the statistics don’t look good for second marriages.
It’s a fact, there is NO WAY to shelter your kids from the divorce storm. There are helpful resources like counseling, communication strategies and so on; however these are no substitute for a loving relationship between the people that your children love the most – you and your spouse. Finding a good qualified counselor is critical. If you don’t see results from going to counseling within the first month, find someone else. Find a counselor that is educated in the Gottman principles of relationships. If you’re considering divorce, but haven’t taken the plunge; please consider counseling. Take it seriously. Act as though the counseling is the next step in a business deal, career advancement, self-actualization discovery, living life to the fullest, whatever it may be. Be an active participant, instead of a spectator – you won’t regret it.