Nobody Said It Was Easy
Changing and managing your expectations about the divorce process can help make you a better advocate for yourself and your kids.
For the entire extent of my separation and divorce, my goal was to make the process as easy as possible. People don’t go into a divorce thinking that they want to make this as challenging as possible.
“Let’s battle this thing out for years and spend all our kids’ college money to fight over, er, our kids’ college money!”
So I decided I would take the high road, or at least, not the low road, which meant I was extraordinarily agreeable to even the most ridiculous requests. I went out of my way to be accommodating and helpful, and I asked for as little as possible, essentially doing my best to quietly cross the bridge without provoking the troll, because if I tiptoe, then he will not hear me!
Of course, it doesn’t matter how little noise you make because it will still awaken the troll and tick him off. And the compromises I was making of not only my wants, but also my values and my needs, were not worth the slightly smaller amount of ire from the troll.
Uh, I mean, my ex.
Now I didn’t figure out all this out on my own, but rather it was after I explained the ridiculously generous agreement I was offering my ex to my therapist and all the situations where I was basically letting him off the hook, allowing him to skirt responsibility (of the various kinds) pretty much like our entire marriage, all of which were met with varying levels of anger that she called me out.
“It’s not going to be easy,” she told me. “Divorce is not easy for anyone.”
And then it clicked for me. I was putting so much of my energy into appeasing him and keeping feathers smooth and unruffled that I wasn’t being a good advocate for myself. And in some cases, for the kids.
I had rationalized these false assumptions that it would somehow save money and protect the kids and make everyone happy.
If I just lay down like a doormat… then what?
It’s not that being overly agreeable didn’t work to my advantage. The same skills that apply to dealing with a toddler tend to work on ex-husbands: Pick your battles and decide what’s worth fighting over. You really want that ugly piece of artwork? The bar that we never actually used as a bar but rather a storage place for random crap? Go for it!
But in other cases, it was worth dropping the gloves, or a least one, anyway, and standing my ground.
And once I was able to accept that pretty much anything I offered would be met with some level of disdain, no matter how generous or selfish it was (or was perceived to be), I was able to better advocate for myself and my children. I was able to negotiate based on actual needs, rather than worry about a completely unattainable and useless goal.
Once I realized that an “easy divorce” wasn’t really my desired outcome, and that what I really wanted was a fair agreement, or at least, one that made sure my kids were properly cared for now and in the future, then I was much more able to weather the punches thrown at me.
Or at least, know when to duck out of the way.