12 Ways To Handle Your Divorce With Dignity And Class

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Hold Your Head Up High During Divorce

Look, I know divorce hurts and you’re looking for just about any way possible to feel better. I know, because that’s what I did when I went through it, and my clients all do the same when they go through it.

The thing is, sometimes, what you do to feel better backfires and the next day (or even within a few heartbeats) you really wish you hadn’t done or said what you just did.

That's why it is so important to stand in your dignity during divorce — so you don’t have (too many) regrets about how you handled yourself.

Psychologist Susan Quilliam says, "Dignity is our best friend in a crisis because it reminds us that, although we may be at the mercy of uncertain circumstances, we can at least be in control of ourselves."

Choosing dignity means staying grounded, centered, and in control of yourself. It's about mindfully responding versus emotionally reacting. And there’s a huge upside to choosing the high road: You feel good about yourself, which means your self-esteem gets a (much-needed-when-you’re-going-through-divorce) boost.

Of course, staying calm and keeping your dignity during such a difficult time is far easier said than done. So, to help you stay true to you, here are 12 ways to navigate your divorce with class:

1. Put down the ice cream scoop, chip bag and wine glass.

Drowning your sorrows in ice cream, chips, alcohol or any comfort food will, at best, provide a temporary comfort, but it won’t help you long-term. In fact, "eating your emotions" may make maintaining your dignity more difficult.

According to USC neuropsychology professor Dr. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, "Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain. The more balanced you make your meals, the more balanced will be your brain functioning."

And you definitely need your brain working at its best to remain calm and classy.

2. Pick up a vibrator (or bottle of KY).

Look, having casual sex is just a Band-Aid for your very valid need to feel sexy, lovable, and connected to someone who actually meets your sexual needs. But those encounters come with their own baggage. Instead of bringing someone else (and all that drama) into the picture, spend some time pleasuring yourself until you’re truly ready to date like an adult, instead of a horny teenager.

3. Be a problem solver.

There’s a great line in the movie "The Martian" ... "Work the problem." Everyone who wants to divorce with dignity should choose this as their motto.

Rather than getting side-tracked with overly emotional reactions (at inappropriate times), feeling like a victim, playing the blame game, and taking a vengeful or defensive stance, look for actual positive solutions to the immediate problem.

Of course, you don't have to solve every issue or challenge on your own. Do your research. Ask for help from those more knowledgeable than yourself, and stay open to examining their suggestions so you can take their input and choose how you want to solve whatever problem you’re facing.

4. Act as an equal to your ex (yes, seriously).

For you to maintain your dignity, you must accept that you’re just as 100 percent human as the next person. Which means you're neither superior nor inferior to your ex or anyone else You need to treat others with the same respect and courtesy that you want to receive. If others don't treat you with equal civility, make it clear you expect that behavior to change.  

5. Let your legal team know you want to stand your ground without getting ugly.

Attorneys learn to litigate and fight for what they believe is in the best interest of their clients. Set some ground rules with your legal representative so you're better able to stick to the highroad. Your time is too precious to waste it on unnecessary and lengthy legal battles. 

6. Don’t fight over piddly sh*t.

The most important thing is your kids and their welfare.

Important is an equitable (notice I did not say 'fair') division of the assets and debts. Unimportant is anything that is replaceable — like the iTunes library or Netflix membership.

7. Don't journal your divorce woes on social media.  

Airing dirty laundry about your divorce on Facebook (etc.) just isn’t productive. And for goodness sakes, don’t go changing your relationship status until your divorce if final.

8. Wait to find your next relationship until after your divorce.

Yes, I know divorces take a long time. But so does fully recovering from one emotionally. Finish up the legal and emotional work of ending your marriage before bringing anyone else into the picture. But, if your new relationship is the reason for your divorce, then the least you can do is avoid flaunting it.

9. Speak up for your needs. 

It’s imperative that you take care of your kids ... but also that you look out for yourself. There’s no guarantee that your ex will honor anything he's promised to do. You may not get everything you want, but be sure to get what you need. Remember: being a doormat is neither classy nor dignified, so speak up! 

10. Be fair.

Don’t hide or dispose of assets to prevent your soon-to-be-ex from receiving them. Do your part to move the divorce forward by providing requested information in a timely manner or by taking the actions you're required to take (i.e., getting the house ready to put on the market) as quickly as possible.

Don’t be so generous that you suffer. Being fair (even when you're mad at your ex) is about both of you.

11. Don’t drag your kids into the drama.

No matter their age, spare your your kids exposure to your divorce drama. They’re facing their own challenges as a result of your divorce. Venting to a friend on the phone within earshot of your children still counts as dragging them into the drama. 

12. Express your emotions constructively.

It's normal to feel extreme emotions during divorce. But, feeling them and expressing them are two different things. No temper tantrums, ultimatums, pity parties, stuffing (a.k.a. ignoring) your feelings, or displaying your emotions to manipulate your former spouse or anyone else (including your kids).

Your emotions are normal and valid. It's good to honor them, but don’t let extreme feelings dictate your actions. If you need to schedule time to get them out in a healthy way, then schedule the time.

Divorce isn’t easy. It's one of the most difficult life changes you’ll ever experience.

Displaying dignity and class throughout the process will require great self-discipline, but the hard truth is — you WILL slip up occasionally (maybe even a lot). You'll experience at least one moment that you wish you could take back what you said or did.

Don’t beat yourself up over it. It really is OK. As soon as you recognize your mistake, just correct it the best you can and avoid inflaming the situation further. That’s how a classy, self-respecting person handles one of the hardest experiences in life with true integrity.

Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce coach helping clients learn how to cope with divorce and navigate the chaos it brings. If you want help understanding what to do next, reach out to Karen by emailing her at Karen@drkarenfinn.com for a private discussion about the best next steps for you to take.