If you have followed my guidelines including the most important, "fight for your marriage" and you find yourself divorced, it is time to reinvent yourself. If you have had an amicable divorce and you both are smart enough to know everyone's recovery will be better if everyone lands on their feet, Congrats! Your first year may still be tough because you are now doing life solo. Couples who continue to fight and do the first year solo will be more challenged. There are so many ways couples can continue to fight after the divorce and no one wins! You are finally divorced and you don't even get the one benefit that should come with living in separate houses- not having to deal with him/her anymore and in a sense still being married. Let's look at some of the petty passive-aggressive things supposed adults do to each other post finalizing their divorce and some counter tactics.
Where is my Check?
Unfortunately, there is too much leeway with the infamous support check so an angry spouse can "mess" with you, if you need the check on the day it was ordered. Obviously, the best way to counter this tactic is make so much money you don't notice when it arrives. Not everyone can do that however, so we have to look at other tactics. Change your payment due dates on credit cards, rent, mortgage payments, etc. whenever possible to best serve your budget. Save whatever money you can so you have extra to cover when your "ex" is acting out. In some cases, and the laws may be different in each state, you can petition to have the legal system collect the payment for you so they deal with your "ex's" behavior not you. The most important recommendation here is don't get angry when it happens. Really? Yes, this emotion is a waste of your time and keeps you married while you are divorced. If you have had a partner who wants to fight expect he/she will continue and move immediately to your own problem solving. And then there is the challenge of the partner who will deny your children the sports they want to do because they don't have any money. Again getting angry is a waste of time. Get your plan of action, expect bad behavior, and act like a robot to implement your plan. More than likely once you no longer care it will stop.
The Disappearing Stuff!
Using your children's "stuff" to get back at your "ex" is such a sign of immaturity and poor parenting. When your child wants to wear his/her favorite sweater at both houses and one parent "hides/misplaces" the sweater so it can't return to the other house "Houston we have a problem." Yes, this happens. Also when one parent won't take care of the child's sports/musical equipment which goes back and forth we have a problem. If you know a direct request won't work, you then have to be protective of the things you buy for your child and they can't go to the other house. There is always the outfit, which often can include the one winter coat, gloves, boots and hat, that the child wears on the day of the exchange and hopefully the child can make sure the whole outfit is with him/her on the next day of exchange. Again don't waste time being angry-it keeps you married- just look for solutions. This way of "ex's" fighting can get very complicated when the child participates in several sports activities and one parent continues to lose the hockey pads, baseball glove, soccer shin guards, etc. As children get older and begin to understand what is happening, they may start to realize it is in their best interest if they are in charge of their "stuff'. If you are the parent who uses your child in this way to get back at your "ex", there are no words for your behavior.
The Late Pickups!
Optimally, we like exchanges to be at school. On Monday morning, the child is dropped off at school by one parent and Monday afternoon the child is picked up by the other parent. The parents don't have to see each other and the child is not worried. Obviously all exchanges cannot use this neutral place, which discourages acting out behavior. We still have to deal with summers, holiday exchanges and parents who live in different areas. When you drop off your child to your "ex's" home it is your job to send him off in a warm, loving, encouraging way. "Have a great time" would be an appropriate salutation. Being on time is appropriate adult behavior. If you have the child at your home waiting for a late parent let the child keep playing and don't have him sitting on a chair waiting. One of the most challenging exchanges is when you have parents who have to meet half way and one parent is going to use this opportunity to be hours late. Pick a town where you can eat, shop, walk, visit friends if possible and keep records. If the behavior continues petition to have the "late parent drive the entire way." You will need accurate records and evidence to change the existing orders. It is also best not to make your own plans on these already stressful days. Again anger keeps you married; problem solving sets you free.
These are just some of the ways the first year can feel like you have not moved on. You have the choice to be surprised and angry every time your "ex" acts out or you can choose to decline to get involved emotionally and find solutions.
" Your first obligation as a parent is to not bring chaos into your kids' lives. ~Unknown
Dr. Anne Brown PhD, RN of Sausalito, California, is a psychotherapist, speaker, coach, and the author of Backbone Power: The Science of Saying No . Anne's approach is especially applicable to people affected by divorce. Backbone Power is a no nonsense self help guide to making decisions while having backbone and integrity in all your choices, short term and long term. In addition to helping the divorce community, Anne has over twenty years experience as the trusted advocate and advisor to influential corporate leaders, trial attorneys, athletes, leaders, physicians and others seeking actionable guidance. Brown is a graduate of the University of Virginia, BS in Nursing; Boston University, MS in Psychiatric-Mental Health in Nursing; and International University, PhD in Addiction Studies. In 1997 Brown also reached a personal goal of obtaining her Black Belt in Soo Bahk Do. You can contact Dr. Anne Brown through her website: www.BackbonePower.com .