Want to divorce with dignity? Here’s how

By Kate Kovats

There’s really only one way to get divorced — with dignity. My colleague, Tonya Graser Smith, and I encourage our clients to divorce with dignity, because we believe it’s the best way to peacefully start your next chapter and your new normal.

Last month, I offered two ways to divorce-proof your marriage. This month, I offer two keys to divorcing with dignity.

  1. Be a good friend, not a broken record.

Your divorce is the biggest thing happening in your life right now, but not for forever and maybe not in the lives of your friends and family. You will want to lean on friends and family members, and chances are they will want to be there for you, too. But trust me, those relationships will suffer if all you do is talk about your break-up, your ex, or your divorce battles. There is only so much guidance or advice you should get from your friends-and-family circle about your divorce, because you are the one who must live with the outcomes.

Let this quote by Carol Burnett be your mantra. “Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.”

To be clear: Don’t talk nonstop about your divorce.

Be a good friend, sister/brother, aunt/uncle, cousin, co-worker, neighbor.

Remember birthdays and anniversaries. Ask about what’s happening in the lives of those you care about and who care about you. Share what good books you are reading or Netflix series you are binging. Just see how many conversations you can have in which the word “divorce” is never uttered. And then notice how you feel. Calmer? Peaceful? More centered? More focused on others? Less selfish? More dignified?

Enjoy your friends and family. Let them be your escape. When you need to talk about your divorce case or vent about your future ex-spouse, think about calling your divorce lawyer and your therapist. Helping you through divorce is quite literally their job.

  1. Act, don’t react.

Keep in mind these words by Lena Horne. “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

In divorce, the way you act is often more important than how often you react… if you react at all.

For example, you don’t have to respond to every angry or passive aggressive text from your soon-to-be ex as soon as it lights up on your screen. Set boundaries for yourself and your sanity. Give yourself a cooling off period and don’t take the bait. This is so if you do respond it’s even keeled and all business. This is an infinitely more dignified approach than matching your spouse angry text for angry text. And it will probably save you money in any resulting and hugely unnecessary lawyer fees. And you will no doubt feel better inside, which is the biggest benefit of all.

After you’ve taken the time to cool off, before responding to your ex, ask yourself “was there a question?” If not, you might not need to respond at all. Trying to set the record straight or correct the other person will get you nowhere and likely leave you only feeling more frustrated. If you do need to respond, keep it short, simple and business like.

When your marriage is ending and you want to peacefully get to your next chapter, choose to divorce with dignity. It really is the only way.