I have a couple of friends in the midst of a difficult divorce, and while I can’t say I’m an expert I think I managed to handle it fairly gracefully by keeping the following things in mind:
Decide what’s important to you and leave the rest behind
While it’s possible the dispute really is about who gets to keep the giant cat, more often it’s about ego and hurt. In my case I made decisions about what physical things and emotional baggage I was going to take with me. For example, I compromised on furniture but I also compromised on how we both understood who’s responsibility it was that things didn’t work out. Frankly, I found the division of possessions much easier.
Make decisions….then stick to them
No one likes ending a relationship, and ending a marriage is even more painful. If it’s truly time to move on (made changes already, tried counseling, etc…) than an absolute must is to make decisions and not back down. Once you’ve worked out what’s important to you then it’s time to make decisions, and no matter what you have to stick to them. When I decided to move on from my marriage one of the things I figured out was that I was not going to get into a knockdown drag out fight over whose fault it was. I had some good reasons (she probably has her own list too) but I talked it out in my head and realized I would have to let my ego absorb those for the sake of moving on. It was not easy because my ex and I did not see eye to eye on some things, which is obviously a part of any divorce. But because I had already decided what was important, and then made decisions I could stick to it made the situation much easier…..albeit still very painful, and truthfully when we divorced I still loved her even though I knew it was the right decision.
And while we’re talking about ego…
Keep in mind your ego is not your friend in a divorce
This is a hard one. To be clear, I’m not saying this as a courtesy to your ex (though it’s possible and totally fine to have empathy for him/her/ze/zir). I’m saying it because if you want to come out a better person on the other side you are going to have to let go of your ego. In a divorce there is no way your ego won’t be bruised, no matter how much you were or were not at fault. Take a lot of deep breaths and ask yourself, pratically speaking is this what’s best for me or is this my ego hurting? Actually, this isn’t a bad exercise in general. Keep that in mind next time your illegal bare-knuckle rabbit boxing league is shut down.
Last but not least – it’s not anyone’s fault (mostly)
It’s kind of a subtle point, but one huge thing that takes time is accepting / understanding that it’s not anyone’s fault ultimately. This does not excuse bad behavior, nor does it excuse you from accepting your part in the relationship, good and bad. I made a list of things I’d do the same, and another of things I’d do differently if I had the chance. But at the end of the day I had to accept that sometimes it’s just not meant to work out.
Disclaimer: I don’t have kids. I imagine that complicates things significantly, but perhaps these things are still accurate…? I’m not really sure. What I hear/see/read has definitely made me think I’d apply a much higher standard to a possible co-parent vs. marriage partner.