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How to Have a Friendly Divorce

So the marriage doesn't work out. But what about the kids?
Okay -- so despite our best intentions, the marriage doesn't always work out. People change, fall out of love, decide to live differently either alone or with a new partner. Is there a 'best divorce'? Well, the divorce that seems least painful for all concerned is likely to be an end to the marriage from which both partners emerge with little to no rancor or malice. You've heard the surprisingly sane explanations: "We grew apart. It wasn't anyone's fault. Neither of us felt as happy in the marriage as we wanted to. The separation was a mutual decision."

Sometimes two people are 'in love with love.' After the fairy tale wedding and tinseled honeymoon, reality sinks in. Perhaps one partner begins to feel penned in, as if a committed relationship for life may not encourage the type of personal growth the individual craves. Or the other partner realizes she married 'on the rebound', and the decision to tie the knot with her 'second choice' husband was simply premature.

Though some women believe they 'settle' for a great deal less in a partner than had always been hoped for, this might not always be a conscious realization. But then she suddenly feels that life owes her more than she bargained for. She begins to convince herself that she can 'do a lot better' in the mate-selection department.

A brutal lesson in human nature occurs when we realize how two people who once believed they were head-over-heels in love can be transformed into Worst Enemies during the throes of the divorce process. Though two vicious, vindictive people ending an ill-fated marriage is bad enough in itself, it's even worse when children are involved. Because children get caught in the parental crossfire.

Divorce can be civil if not amicable. Few of us hear of a truly 'friendly divorce.' But He, She, and Kids all fare a lot better when the couple involved in the divorce behave as rational, mature adults.

A short list of cardinal rules to be observed by Mom and Dad will improve everyone's adjustment to a reconfigured life. (1) Tell your children about the divorce together. (2) Assure them that neither of you will ever stop loving them. (3) Answer any questions they may ask. Yes, life will be different, but it won't be worse because your kids' needs will continue to be met by both parents. (4) Each partner must agree never to bad-mouth the other. (5) Honor visitation privileges, and be supportive of the other parent's time with the children. (6) Don't send messages to one another through the children. Continue to communicate if only in a polite, perfunctory way. (7) Both parents must expect and allow their children to vent, express feelings and opinions, and simply to talk. (8) Both parents should agree to abide by the same 'rules of the house' where the children are concerned (bedtime, whether junk food is permitted, types of movies allowed, etc.), so the kids don't play one parent against the other and to maintain as much consistency in the child's routine as possible.

But have you tried marriage counseling? How about pastoral counseling, where you explore the spiritual aspects of making a mutual lifelong vow to one another? Sometimes a separation is healthier for everyone, so simmering tempers can cool down. But what happens then?

Leave no stone unturned before ending up in divorce court. It's hard on everyone -- psychologically, financially, socially, you name it. And it's especially hard on the kids.

About the Author
Stephania is a human service professional with nearly 40 years in the field. She publishes a content-rich ezine, "Tidbits from the Pantry," about self-help, growth, and relationships to over 11,000 subscribers, and offers a life coaching service.

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