Divorce and Separation in the USA

A global perspective of the human effects of separation and divorce

Month: March 2017

Don’t blame me. It’s not my fault.

First reactions to ending a relationship are shock, confusion and disbelief. How did this happen? Why didn’t I see it coming? What went wrong? This can’t be happening. How could she/he do this to me, to our family?

Confusion becomes reluctant acceptance. Shock is replaced by accusations and blame. Disbelief frequently turns into an intense and burning anger. We did nothing wrong. The other person is at fault. She is betraying us. He is hurting the children, our friends and our families.

We know we didn’t cause this. “I did nothing wrong; it’s all your fault!”

We feel wounded; maybe even betrayed. We want to hurt the other person even more than we’ve been hurt. We want to punish them. We want justice.

These emotions are real and powerful. Our feelings can become the energy that pushes us forward. Or, we can become consumed with proving our spouse is to blame.

Connie had enough. She told Antonio to move out. He wasn’t home much anyway. He had little time for his family, with his job, fishing trips, and restoring his antique motorcycle. Connie worked 25 hours per week and took care of everything in the house, including their 7-year old son. Last year she gave Antonio an ultimatum: “Spend time with Joey and me, help around the house, or get out.” She no longer loved the man who had been her high-school sweetheart. He never mistreated her. He was an excellent provider. He just wasn’t part of her life-or Joey’s. She had grown used to being alone, to handling everything on her own (even plumbing repairs).

Some people hold onto emotions like a lifeline. They can’t let go of the belief that the other person deserves to be punished. And, what often follows are increasingly bitter feelings, meetings with lawyers, court appearances, and huge legal bills. Worst of all children are caught between their warring parents.

To be clear; some divorces are caused by infidelity or by addiction to gambling, alcohol or drugs. In some instances, physical or emotional abuse may be the reason. For many couples, divorces come about because they drifted apart, became strangers to one another, or just stopped loving their spouse/partner.

No matter what caused the end of the marriage/relationship, the reality is that it’s over. It’s time to think about the future. Holding onto bitterness, blame, anger and a desire for vengeance keeps us from moving into that future.

By the time Connie reached the breaking point, she had talked with a lawyer. She was ready to fight for custody and child support; and was advised to seek alimony. She told him this in an angry outburst as she “kicked him out.” Antonio did not go quietly, slamming doors and as he left he said, “I’ll be back in a couple days and then you’ll be packing your bags.”

Anger and bitterness are real. Denying our animosity or outrage isn’t healthy. But—and this is very important—there comes a time when we need to focus on our future. That doesn’t mean letting go of the past. It means we realize we need to rewrite our lives, make new plans, deal with the reality we face—whether we wanted it or not.

Connie’s brother, one of Antonio’s fishing buddies was the one who “talked some sense into both of them.” He got them to begin talking together about getting divorced. Their anger hadn’t gone away, but they put it aside for their son’s sake. They recognized that blaming each other wasn’t going to help them when it came to making smart decisions about their future. They had both talked with lawyers. They didn’t want a judge to decide things for them. So one afternoon they met at a restaurant and made a commitment to figure things out together.

It isn’t easy. It doesn’t matter whether you asked for the divorce, or whether your spouse/partner is to blame. This is your life. You either remain the object of your resentment or you become the subject of your new life with its new challenges and possibilities.

Talking it out—can we really do this ourselves?

There are some big decisions to make when it comes to making a parenting plan, dealing with the family home, working out child support and alimony, and figuring out how to handle assets and debts. Somehow you and your spouse need to find a way to work out solutions for all these issues. But, the person you need to talk with may also be the last person you want to talk to right now.

So, how do you work out whether you can handle this yourselves or if you need help?

You know these are important issues. You know you need to be smart about your decisions, but will bitterness between the two of you get in the way? You may worry that conversations will turn into arguments, and nothing will be decided. You may worry that the two of you won’t agree on anything, in which case why bother.

This is a deciding moment for you.

Do you try to work with your spouse, or do you involve an attorney who can advise, assist and even speak for you? Friends and family may urge you to “get a lawyer right away.” They don’t want you to be taken advantage of, or they want to be sure you get what you deserve. And, there are good reasons for talking with an attorney. Knowing the law and understanding what you can expect will help you determine what you want from the divorce. Having this knowledge can give you confidence and help focus on the decisions to be made. However, there are still choices as to how you talk about the issues that affect you both. Do you work out the solutions yourselves or use a mediator or ask an attorney to speak for you?

You can find more information on when and how to use professionals to assist in your divorce in our book, Divorce and Separation: A Practical Guide to Making Smart Decisions (http://www.divorcebookflorida.com)

Many people, even those in very intense situations, chose to work things out with their spouse. And, if you want to consider this approach, we suggest you follow these steps:
1. Be prepared. Gather all the information you might need; whether that’s financial or regarding the children. You can’t make good decisions without complete and accurate information.
2. Meet in a place where you will both be at ease. You don’t want the children around. There shouldn’t be any distractions.
3. Set a time limit. An hour is usually a good limit for a discussion. If you spend more time, there is a good chance the conversation could drift away from the issues and into topics such as who is to blame for the divorce. You want to stay on task, focused on the issues at hand.
4. If the discussion gets heated and seems it could spiral out of control, use SALT to see if you can bring the discussion back to the important decisions you and your spouse need to make.

SALT is a 4-step process:
Stop — Do either of us need to cool down? Take a break—might be as little as 5 minutes, or a couple of days. Step away from the table. Don’t do this in anger. State that things are getting out of hand, and you need a break. But, commit to returning to the table.
Ask — Use questions to understand the other person’s point of view—and in particular, their reasons. “What is happening?” “What’s wrong?” “What should we do?” Your spouse should do the same for you.
Listen — Don’t interrupt. Don’t be planning how you’ll respond. Just listen attentively.
Talk — Restart the problem-solving discussion. Use what you’ve learned from one another and see if you can look at the problem in a fresh way. Try to think of alternatives to what you want and what your spouse wants.

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