The ABC's of coping with an unexpected divorce

Sometimes a divorce announcement is so unexpected, it literally comes as a body blow. One minute you’re skipping along thinking you have the best, most committed, god-blessed marriage ever, the next you discover your significant other has been “double-dipping” and committing other unsaintly deeds. What else can you do but ask for a divorce? Or was a divorce asked of you on top of the injury – i.e., the double-dip and then the request for a divorce? This is the kind of stuff that can drive even the most holy person to commit high crimes and misdemeanors, isn’t it? When insult gets added to injury like that. But hush. You can get out of this without the blood shed. Here’s what you do:
1. Ascertain that you have your facts correct. For instance, are you sure this was a “double-dip” situation? Or are you just paranoid?
2. Before you hit the roof, remember what the scriptures says about love: “love is gentle and is kind, slow to anger and quick to forgiveness.” I believe it is 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verses 4-7. But don’t quote me. The verse goes something like this: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
3. Consider asking for a time out – i.e., would your spouse like to mull the situation for a few weeks before either of you get divorce attorneys?
4. Don’t lose your temper. Refer again to # 2.
5. Encourage your spouse to get couples therapy. You never know. It could work.
6. Forget about hiring a hit man. That is anger. Refer again to #2
7. Give yourself permission to be hurt but not to hurt in retaliation.
8. Have yourself a merry little cocktail or two if it will calm your nerves. But don’t become dependent on spirits for your strength. Your strength comes from within, and from a higher source and power. So tap that power when you feel you cannot cope. Seriously, pray and ask for strength, courage and wisdom.
9. Ignore the urge to become completely disillusioned and disgusted with the entire world and everybody in it, even if the marriage does end up being dissolved after all your efforts to patch it back together.
10. Just because this marriage failed doesn’t mean there weren’t some genuine good times, and some genuine good things in your spouse. No one is all bad or all good. There are no perfect marriages. It is all a bunch of hard, hard work. And the making of decisions to stick things out, no matter what.
11. Know who to trust with the confidences of divorce drama. Sometimes taking advice from the wrong people can get you all stirred up and then you start acting crazier than if you had not gotten this bad advice. Be careful.
12. Laugh in spite of it all – what a tonic. What amazing medicine laughter is.
13. Make time for taking care of yourself and those who count on you like children and pets.
14. Never badmouth your spouse to the children. Really, it’s not appropriate. It just isn’t.
15. Open your heart and mind to new pursuits as soon as possible. It’s good not to focus too much on unhappiness, disappointment and rage.
16. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What would you have done under the circumstances? (in other words, don’t judge and search your own heart to see what your role was and what the lessons are that you are to learn from this whole situation.)
17. Question things when appropriate. Don’t just take everybody elses word for it. Empower yourself by asking questions and insisting on getting answers.
18. Resist the need to be the victim.
19. Stand up for yourself without being self-righteous.
20. Take the high road even though its really hard.
21. Understand that a lot of times its not about you.
22. Verify everything.
23. Work on your peace.
24. X – Factor. There’s always the x factor. Figure out the x factor of your situation. Knowing the x factor might change everything.
25. Yield the right of way when you know in your heart you should.
26. Zealously advocate for having a role in your children’s lives, no matter what.
Originally published October 29, 2010