For some divorce means being ready to do battle at a moment’s notice. There is nothing peaceful about it!
There is a belief among those who were able to come through a divorce fairly unscathed that those of us who didn’t handled our situations poorly, that if we had worked a bit harder we also could be going out to dinner with our ex and taking “family” vacations and experiencing a “peaceful divorce.”
I take exception to that belief! As someone who bent over backward and played nice doggy when her ex was withholding money, disrespecting his children and using the legal system to abuse his family it gets my dander up for someone to tell me my ex behaved badly because I handled my divorce poorly.
An acquaintance recently said to me via email, “As friends tell me their horror stories about their exes and how poorly they handled their divorces, I often wonder to myself how did I get so lucky to have a peaceful divorce.”
A wrongheaded perspective on divorce.
I respect this woman and what she is striving to do for her family. I think the issue with her and people like her is that they are unable to view divorce but from one perspective…their own. They believe that if they made it work for them then everyone should be able to make it work also.
I was a lot like her when I first divorced. I had this idea in my head of no longer being married to my ex but building a friendship with him and co-parenting our children in a manner that promoted their best interest.
I had experience with divorce in my family. My paternal grandparents were divorced. They were friendly with each other. We used to go visit my grandmother and my grandfather would stay in her home during our visits. When he became ill with cancer she took him back into her home and cared for him until he passed away. They neither one ever remarried and are now buried next to each other.
My mother was married and divorced before she married my father. I have a half-brother as a result. My mother and her first husband weren’t friends but they were civil toward each other and worked together for the sake of my brother. My brother has a collection of photos taken with him and both his parents throughout his life. If there were a gathering and both parents were there they made sure to get a “family” photo of the three of them. There was never a time that I remember seeing my mother and her first husband engage in conflict. And I certainly never heard her disparage him in any way.
One size does not fit all when it comes to divorce.
When my ex decided he could no longer stay in our marriage I naturally thought we would end up having a relationship similar to those that I had experienced as a child of divorced relatives. I expected more than my ex was willing to give me, his children or himself.
Every time I extended the hand of friendship it got slapped. The man wanted NOTHING to do with being civil. It took me 3 years of attempting to play nice before I realized I was pissing into the wind and only damaging myself by continuing to “work” at building the kind of relationship with him that I had witnessed as a child.
Allison also wrote to me, “A friend of mine posted something beautiful on my FB page. She quoted Emily Dickinson saying ‘Luck is not chance; it is toil. Fortune’s expensive smile is earned.’ Our peace took work and that’s what I want to show people. Others who are willing to make the effort could get similar results.”
It would seem Allison has this stubborn need to believe that those of us who have spent years suffering the negative consequences of the bad behavior of another person or just unlucky because we didn’t “toil.” We weren’t willing to put forth the effort so we must have earned what we got.
Those of us who have dealt with abusive exes do so without a support system because of beliefs like that. We learn to keep our mouths shut and suffer in silence because opening up and talking about our high conflict divorce doesn’t get us empathy, it gets us judgments from those who haven’t learned that their perspective is not the only perspective.
I’ve been in a very lonely place since my divorce. My family was not supportive. After all, they experienced “peaceful” divorces and in their opinion, there must be something wrong with ME, if not my ex would be sharing meals and taking vacations with his children and me.
The majority of my friends and family suffer the same lack of insight that Allison does. They have an inability to look outside their own experiences and realize that every story is unique. Our own perspective shapes what seems right and wrong. Seeing something from a different perspective can raise our awareness and enable us to show compassion and empathy for the situations of others.
Allison and those like her filter everything by their own personal history, beliefs, motivations, and concepts that they hold true. So do I but the difference between Allison and me is that I’ve seen both sides of the coin so my perspective is broader. I’m able to see things from her perspective and my own because I’ve lived both. And, I’m also aware that just because something worked for me doesn’t mean it will or should work for everyone else.
It can take courage to see the perspective of the other person’s situation, acknowledge it and then look for the best solution for both. I think Allison believes she has a one size fits all solution to the problems that arise due to divorce. That belief is dangerous for Allison and women who buy into Allison’s words. She isn’t offering solutions; she is misleading people by showing only her perspective and dismissing the idea that there isn’t one solution for all situations.
I’d like to talk to Allison again in ten years after her ex has remarried and has a wife who doesn’t buy into him having dinner and taking vacations with his ex-wife. Or, after her ex-husband gets tired of playing house with his ex-wife. When she has some true experience with the outcome of divorce I’d like to talk to her.
I’ll do something for her at that time that she hasn’t done for women like you and me, I’ll listen, attempt to view her problem from her perspective and show her some empathy. I don’t wish Allison conflict in her life BUT things change and with her inability to understand that her situation isn’t static the time is going to come when she will need understanding, empathy, and compassion. Good thing for her there will be women open enough to not only offer her support but listen to her without judgment.
L K Harry says
Loved this article! Author hit the nail on the head on so many points!! People who have never had the misfortune to be in an abusive relationship should be especially careful about suggesting that a divorce can be “friendly”.
Karen Rodriguez says
I completely agree with you. This article is on point with how my divorce is going. Alot of people think that because my ex and I don’t get along then it means we’re harboring feelings for one another.
I am divorced from a Narcissist and there’s no such thing as civil. He lied, didn’t turn in paperwork on time (with no consequence), his accounts with money (no consequence) and even moved my 5 children for 6 months to his girlfriends one bedroom apartment (on his weekends), no consequence. With a narcissist, there are his rulers for you, and no rules for him. He couldn’t get a hold of my daughter today, who called him twice last night about a script and he didn’t answer, so he threatened to call the cops on me if I didn’t call him back within minutes. He never lets the children call me on his parenting time, he rarely returns my calls or even my emails, but if he tries to call I must respond immediately. It’s complete insanity. After our divorce, being not religious at all but knowing I am, he tried to get back with me sending me flowers and saying God doesn’t want it this way. This, after he stopped paying child support and I had to get it done through a state registry, he lied…there is no rational thought.
Honestly, I think people who had an easy nice divorce didn’t try hard enough to be married.
Karen Rodriguez says
I feel your frustration. My ex is a narcissis as well and treats me in a similar fashion. When things don’t go his way or he feels he is being left out of something he starts with his threats.
You are not alone. I was married to one of those too. Plus he’s passive/aggressive.
He won’t answer my texts at all but if he texts me he wants an answer immediately. Has lied continuously. Doesn’t want to be held accountable for any of his actions or lack of actions. I live in a small town. I know the whole police department. I’ve had all of the officers kids in scouts or babysit for them. I laugh & tell my ex to go ahead call the police on me now, he’s done it so much & I know the officers know the truth.
This is going on 15 years for me. Keep your head held high & keep smiling. No more crying. I’m sure you’ve done enough of that too. Stay positive & give the kids lots of hugs
Diane Miller says
It is such a relief to know others understand what I went through and am still going through. The deep down pain and fear of knowing this person happily causes suffering to me and OUR children is something I will never understand. The best thing I ever did for myself was deciding i deserved better. Knowing I’m not the cause…this is on him…gets me through the days. Each day I get stronger but 3 years after I asked for the divorce he is still trying to manipulate me and my our children. He doesnt deserve them. I’m learning to love and to trust again. learning I am worthy of love. It’s a recovery. Support is everything. Thank you.
Karen Rodriguez says
Yes you are not alone. I’m happy that you are moving forward and beginning to get started on a path to happiness. As for me I’m not there yet. Trusting people now is very hard for me. My ex cheated on me and I asked for a divorce. In the beginning he wasn’t like this but now he as well tried to get to me through my kids. He refuses to help me when it comes down to things that the kids need. But I am grateful to know that I’m not suffering alone and there are people who understand where I coming from. We can lean on each other.
Flip the genders and this was pretty much the story of my divorce. My ex-wife is a highly educated woman that can’t seem to hold a job. She is very passive aggressive and is an expert at playing the victim. It took over 3 years of trying to be pratical and comprimiing with that woman and all it left me was financial ruin and a hefty alimony and child support payments. Meanwhile she gets to live with someone for free while she goes back to scholl for yet another worthless degree. Things that I have learned about this experience is that family court doesn’t really care about a fair or equatable divorce and if one side decides they want to fight the other side has little choice but to spend 10’s of thousands of dollars in legal fees just to keep from getting screwed over royally.