After counseling hundreds of clients through the divorce process – and having experienced it as a child and adult myself – I have seen the good, the bad, and all the ugly. Too many times in the midst of divorce, unresolved anger takes over a person’s behavior and they become something that they usually are not. This can happen to the nicest of people; no one is free from the temptation of hurting their Soon-To-Be-Ex (STBE) as much as, if not more than, they have already hurt them.
To help keep things civil as possible, I have compiled a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” as a reminder of what ethical behavior during a divorce looks like.
- Spend this time working on yourself instead of focusing too much on the other person. This way you are better prepared to be without your STBE.
- Stop arguing with them and yourself. Remember, you are getting a divorce for a reason.
- Eliminate emotional, verbal, and physical intimacy from the relationship to prevent as much confusion as possible.
- Respect your STBE’s physical personal space as if the two of you were strangers.
- Answer only the question your STBE asks you. Try to prevent expanding the conversation in a way that will only cause further harm.
- Have one or two good friends that support you in this process. Just like with any trial life throws at you, a support system is essential to keep you secure.
- Respect new boundaries of ‘This is my space and that is yours’. Crossing those newly set lines will only lead to greater conflict.
- Discuss any and all surveillance with your attorney. Try to keep the process legal to benefit both you and your STBE in the long run.
- Make sure to have a witness with you when speaking with your STBE if you feel unsafe.
- Think of divorce as a business transaction instead of an emotional one. As difficult as it may be, by eliminating those emotional aspects you are more capable of cleanly handling the process.
- Allow your attorney to mediate as a way to help navigate through any tricky areas of marital dispute.
- Communicate strictly via text message or email as best you can. This will help maintain a healthy barrier between you and your STBE.
- Communicate to your STBE only what is necessary or needed. Allowing any extra interaction has the potential to complicate the situation exponentially.
- If you have children, all kid transitions must take place in a safe location.
- Remember to consider that your kids are ½ you and ½ your STBE, so even in the trickiest situation treat your STBE with respect. This will not only set an excellent example for your children, but it will also minimize any trauma from the divorce that they may be going through.
- Always answer only the questions your kids ask about the divorce, don’t elaborate. Providing details can be unnecessarily painful for you and your children.
- Reach out to your kids daily when you are not with them. It is important to keep strong lines of communication to let your children know that they still have you as a source of love and support.
- Give your STBE the first right of refusal when caring for the kids.
- Have a standard line as the reason for the divorce that doesn’t cause shame or embarrassment for you, your STBE, and/or your kids that you can use as a public or general response. Remember, you’re trying to make it through this process as painlessly as possible, so don’t put your family through any unnecessary negative attention.
- Remember your code of conduct and act accordingly. You are representing yourself, and your behavior is a significant reflection of who you want to become by the end of the divorce process.
- Focus so much on your STBE that you neglect self-care. Your top priority must be taking care of yourself.
- Belittle your STBE or try to instigate them: this is a sad reflection on your character and can cause further aggravation.
- Have sex with your STBE: this only confuses them, yourself, and the situation – even if you tell yourself “it doesn’t mean anything” or “it’s the last time.”
- Hit any part of your STBE, push or shove, verbally threaten harm, throw things, or block your STBE from leaving. This will only provide more for them to potentially use against you throughout the process.
- Overuse texting or emailing just to point out the flaws in your STBE. At this point, it is useless to point fingers and only adds stress and anger where it’s not needed.
- Undermine your STBE’s friendships or try to alienate them from family. You need to start focusing on you and becoming negatively and overly involved in your STBE’s life will not help you accomplish that.
- Go rifling through your STBE’s stuff. Nothing you will find will satisfy what you are feeling – that is something you have to do on your own.
- Track your STBE or record their conversations without permission. This is a violation of privacy that will inevitably make the entire situation worse.
- Be alone with your STBE, if at all possible. Just like emotional interaction and sex, this will make moving on and a cleaner divorce less of a possibility.
- Let your emotions override your logic during the divorce. It’s easy to get caught up in your head and what your feeling during this process, but to remain healthy and stable for yourself and your children, you must be able to be objective.
- Rehash reasons for getting a divorce. Both you and your STBE know why the divorce is happening – reopening old wounds can only cause further harm.
- Communicate verbally unless the communication is about the kids. With such a sensitive topic, keeping it as business-like as possible will benefit all parties.
- Send excessive text messages or emails for any reason. Try to limit them to a few per day at the absolute most.
- Ask your kids, instead of your STBE, to modify any transitions involving them. This will help to limit contact.
- Bad ever mouth your STBE in front of your kids. Your STBE is still their parent and creating a toxic relationship between them and the STBE is never healthy.
- Talk to the kids about the specifics of the divorce, money, separation of assets, or support. Try to limit anything you tell to just what is necessary.
- Keep your kids from speaking to your STBE when they are with you. Just because your contact with them must be limited, doesn’t mean the kids should feel pressured into cutting contact with them as well.
- Supervise your kid’s communication with your STBE. Make sure your STBE is respecting any boundaries that the two of you made for when it comes to communicating with your children.
- Spread rumors about your STBE. Often, you end up only hurting your kids and you looking petty in the process.
- Lose your values, morals, or ethics during the divorce. Always hold fast to what you stand for, and do not let the process of divorce negatively dictate your behavior.
Following these guidelines won’t guarantee a favorable outcome during your divorce – every situation and process is different. However, sticking to these basic rules will help you ensure that you do not lose yourself amidst the chaos of the process.