Maintaining the Peace

A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about his feelings. He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is vengeful, angry, and violent. The other wolf is loving and compassionate.”

The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?”

The grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”

Rules for Maintaining the Peace

The two of you need to figure out how to live together, peacefully, until the divorce is completed.  Following are some suggestions.  Why don’t the two of you read these, and agree (out loud) to follow them?

Rule 1: Stop the arguments before they happen.

An argument never results in anything positive.  So, don’t have them.  Establish an agreement that either one of you can say, “Stop,” and both of you must stop, immediately.  Or,  you can say, “Stop.  We’ll discuss it with our mediator.”  If you feel yourself heating up during a discussion, recognize it, and just say “Stop.  I’m ready to blow.  So, let’s discuss this later.”  An argument is a waste of time, and it can only do additional harm.

If you are using the services of a therapist, you may need to step up your visits to help you manage your fears and anger.  Study anger management techniques, like deep breathing, exercise, yoga, meditation, music, …  You can’t bottle up the anger, but you don’t need to direct it toward your spouse.

Rule 2: Don’t threaten, and don’t play games.

You aren’t going to carry through with your threats.  In the end, the two of you will agree on a fair arrangement, so all of the threats and games will have been a waste.  Game playing just leads to additional games and threats from the other player.  When the two of you finally get past the threats and games, you’ll be right back where you were before the threats were made.  In the meantime, you will have wasted a lot of time, spent a lot of money, increased the tension, and hindered the process.  So, don’t do it!

Rule 3: Don’t panic.

The process takes a lot of time.  When your partner starts to play some game or makes a “legalistic” threat, don’t join in, don’t make a counter-threat.  Keep in mind that, in the end, the two of you will come to a fair agreement.  No final agreements are going to be made today or tomorrow.  You don’t have to react immediately to every move.  You can take a few days to respond.  The threats are made out of anger, and the game playing is done out of fear.  Think about why your spouse is taking these actions, and help mollify him/her.  There are two exceptions: (1) If your spouse is going to physically hurt you or hurt him/herself, you need to take immediate action.  (2) If your spouse is hiding assets or wasting/spending them at an unusual rate, you need to contact your attorney.

Rule 4: Use your support network.

There are people around you who are willing to help you, with the emotional, with the logistical.  Don’t be afraid to use them.  They have made themselves available to you:  friends, family, therapist, mediator, attorney, clergy.

Rule 5: Make your own space.

Don’t sleep together.  Each of you needs a room in the house that is just yours.  The other person is never allowed to enter your room without your permission.  This has two advantages: (1) It provides you with a place where you can feel safe, and separate.  (2) Each of you starts to learn how to be single, before the divorce is finalized.

Rule 6: Allow the other person his/her right to privacy.

Don’t ask where he/she went, what he/she was doing.  During the divorce process, each of you will embark on your journey into the single life.  Gain your independence.  Don’t rely on your spouse.  And, don’t nose into your spouse’s new private life.

Rule 7: Agree on spending limits.

During the divorce process, the two of you will be determining how to divide each of your assets.  This includes your checking and savings accounts – and your credit card bills.  So, don’t go spending and buying, until both of you have divided the accounts and made some rules.  Do not move any monies among accounts, unless both of you agree.  Keep your spending to a minimum.  No expensive gifts.  No trips.  Minimal entertainment.  Unless both of you agree.

Rule 8: Earn the trust of your partner.

In order to negotiate the terms of your divorce, you will need to trust the honesty of your partner.  And, your partner will need to trust you.  Each of you needs to ensure that you are doing the right things so that your partner can trust you.  Before buying anything expensive, discuss it with your partner.  Don’t hoard assets.  Don’t appear to be secretive.  Provide documentation to support any issue that your partner questions.  Don’t flip-flop on issues: Yes, you can change your mind, but changing it several times on one issue leads to distrust.  Be able to back up your proposals with thought-out reasons: Reasons don’t have to be logical, they can be emotional, but they have to be explained.

Rule 9: Don’t use the kids as a tool against one another.

Don’t use the kids for passing messages back and forth.  Don’t say anything negative about your spouse to the kids.  If you really want to do what’s in the best interest of the kids, act that way.  Negative actions will either damage the relationship between your child and the other parent, or it will backfire and damage the relationship with you.  And, certainly, it will worsen the relationship between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse.  You really don’t want any of these things to happen.  But, if you are intent on hurting your spouse, don’t do it through the kids.

Rule 10: Prepare for your new life.

Open a checking account in your own name, with a minimal deposit ($100?).  Get a credit card in your own name, but don’t use it, yet.  Rewrite your will, but don’t sign it until you are divorced.

Especially for the children, maintaining the peace is so important.  The kids need peace, and they want to see their parents being peaceful with one another.

Rule 11: Don’t accept legal advice from your spouse.

This is usually a bullying technique.  Your spouse does not know the law.  And your spouse’s attorney is trying to build up your spouse, not you.  Plus, we find that people often misinterpret what their attorneys tell them.  While we’re on the subject, don’t take legal advice from friends, either.  Get your own attorney.

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Maintaining the Peace

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“Nothing is ever gained by arguing. Stop the fights before they happen.”

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