We shared 16 years of marriage and four children, things did not end well between us yet I was determined not to be the bitter, angry ex-wife. I am not saying I didn’t get angry. Oh I got angry, many times. There were times I called the police. There were times I should have called the police and I didn’t because I wasn’t strong enough. There were times (plenty I am ashamed to admit) that I lashed out, cried in front of our children, spouted off what I thought of their dad and more.
However, I did my best and this is how I did it. I recommend everyone going through a divorce follow these steps if they want to divorce with a good conscience.
1. Every single decision I made, I put myself in his shoes. I considered how I would feel or react if I was him. The golden rule was already my motto but I made sure I adhered to it in every situation.
2. Even though TD’s choices were the reason I filed for divorce I was fully aware that the divorce was destroying his world. I hated telling him I had filed for divorce. Our marriage was over, divorcing him and moving out was still horrible. I kept that in mind throughout the entire process.
3. I worked; at least had that to keep me preoccupied. He didn’t work. He hadn’t worked in years. Yes, he did odd jobs when he felt like it (which was the majority of the day) however it wasn’t a regular committed schedule to keep his mind busy. As he acted out and chose to use his time to torment and stalk me, I focused on work not on the choices he was making.
4. I kept his mental illness in mind at all times. It was the only way I maintained my sanity. No man I had ever loved would make the choices he was making. I don’t know if the doctors who diagnosed him as adult onset bipolar disorder are correct or not. I am not a physician. However I do know his behavior is not rational; he makes unhealthy, mean, cruel choices. He torments our children, he stalks and harasses me. These are not choices sane people make.
5. I kept his religious beliefs in mind. I don’t agree with his religious beliefs however I know what he believes; he believes divorce is always sin. This is why he thought he could get away with abuse in our marriage and I would never leave. He also believes he is still the head of my household even though we were separated and are now divorced.
His church teaches him that he is the head. It is messed up however I have to remember the crap that he believes. It makes dealing with him easier. I am careful to let our children know that it is ok to disagree with my beliefs and dads beliefs; I encourage them to research and find their own beliefs. I hope they are not torn between our differing religious/spiritual beliefs.
6. The example I was setting for our children never left the front of my mind. I can count on two fingers the number of times I cussed him. Our divorce took 3.5 years. He was extremely abusive. However because we have children together it is vitally important that I do NOT focus on the negative things about him. Not even throughout the divorce process. I failed, there were definitely times my kids heard me voice my frustration and say negative things about their dad. I had to ask their forgiveness so many times. However, I did not engage him in battle.
7. I deliberately chose and continue to deliberately choose to point out his positive traits to our children and to other people when his name comes up in conversation. I want my children to see the good in their dad. To recognize he is a role model in some areas.
8. I did not call witnesses to defame his character in court. This was a hard decision for me. He has a mental illness I believed he would hang himself and he did. Not every situation is the same, some situations you should call witnesses. Do not think that I am advocating everyone should be silent. I am not. I simply knew he would open his mouth and the truth would come out. It did. You know your situation, you know how to take the high road and what is appropriate.
9. I did not succumb to the he said/she said, tit for tat that is so common in divorce. He, his friends and family ran their mouths all over town. The harassing phone calls, cyber bullying, etc. My children and I were ashamed and embarrassed. However, unless our safety was threatened I did not respond. When I had to respond I did not respond directly, I filed a police report and left it alone. This meant they had no idea if they were getting under my skin or not. It took away their power.
10. Financially, he owes us a lot of money. Because he chooses not to work a job, he does odd jobs and collects cash under the table while collecting disability this puts us as at a disadvantage financially. There are options I could pursue, I could hire a private investigator to prove to social security that he is committing fraud, then once he finds employment I could pursue back child support and the medical bills he owes etc. Once again, I had to look at the bigger picture and decide what example I would be setting for our children.
I have decided to let karma work this one out. I am capable of supporting my family. We have had to adjust our standard of living, drastically. I need to finish school and so far have not been able to find a way to accomplish that goal so it is on the front of my mind but the backburner financially (ugh).
I send him the medical bills he is supposed to be paying and I don’t pursue it any further than that. Our life would be easier if he was paying the court ordered child support, the medical bills and 50% of the marital debt. However, it isn’t worth the battle. Peace of mind is priceless. Not fighting him over money provides a level of peace I need at this point in my life. This is not my battle. We don’t live well, but we do live for that I am grateful.
Each divorce is unique. However every individual is responsible to divorce with a conscience and to take the high road. Especially if there are children involved. Our children are our legacy. What are we teaching them? What example are we setting for them? Think about the choices you make even as you get divorced. Be the adult, no matter what the other party chooses to do. It is possible, I promise.
What advice would you offer someone who wants to be the better person and take the high road in a high conflict divorce?