You are on a path towards divorce. Your wife either won’t stop her affair, or reconciliation has become too difficult and you have had enough.
You feel anger. Humiliation. Fear. Sadness. Loss. All of these emotions and more will be a part of your life as you try to recover from the betrayal and go through the gauntlet that is divorce.
You should let yourself feel all of these emotions and seek out the support you need to get through the hurt; however, when it comes to the divorce process itself, controlling your emotions is key to getting the outcome that you are looking for.
I am almost three years out from learning about my wife’s affair, and a year since my divorce was final. It has been a roller coaster of emotions, and ultimately time is the only thing that has really helped me feel better.
Emotional triggers abound during divorce, but knowing where those triggers might lie can help you better prepare to manage your emotions when they do pop up.
Don’t make the divorce negotiation about revenge
The negotiation process is draining and full of emotional challenges. You may feel like you want to get back at your ex. You may want to use the divorce process as a way to make her feel the pain that you have been feeling. However, I urge you not to use the divorce as a tool for revenge.
Both sides are going to end up with less than what they had in the marriage. There is no way around it.
Ask yourself the following question: “What will my ex-wife’s living situation have to look like so that the kids are well taken care of when they are with her?”
Start your negotiation from an honest answer to that question. My first proposal for settlement was a split of everything as close to the middle as possible. Unfortunately, my ex took the opposite approach.
Months and thousands of dollars later, the final settlement was basically what I had originally proposed. Removing emotion from your divorce negotiations can help you save money and set you free sooner.
Lose your friends; heal instead
Two years after her affair started, we learned that my ex-wife’s cancer that she originally had 10 years prior had spread, and she was terminal. I spent a year taking her to chemotherapy treatments, doctor appointments and caring for her side-effects at home.
A year after she was diagnosed, I learned about her affair.
When it was clear that she would not end her relationship and I decided to file for divorce, one of the things that I worried about was how I would be perceived by friends and others in the community when they learned that I was divorcing a cancer patient.
Holding the label of “a husband who left his cancer stricken wife” was something I truly feared.
And here is what I learned. You are going to lose friends. Not necessarily because they believe the stories they hear about you, but because the tendency is for people to run from drama. Most people don’t understand the emotional toll adultery has on the person who has been cheated on, and they really don’t want to know the details.
Divorce is a topic that most people, especially if they are married, would rather avoid. It is almost as if you carry the dreaded divorce/adultery virus, and they are scared to catch it.
Find the family or friends who are willing or able to listen, and don’t worry about the others. They don’t matter right now. Who cares what they think?
Your job is to make it to the end of the divorce process mentally healthy for yourself and your kids. Know your values, and let your actions stream from those values.
Acknowledge your role in the breakdown of the marriage
During divorce your ex will blame you for many transgressions. In some cases, those accusations will cross over into criminal complaints.
Which accusations will you own and which ones will you either challenge or, if possible, ignore? Were you overly critical, boorish, lazy, dirty, or uncaring in your marriage? Then own it, not for her, but so that you can learn and grow.
Your next relationship will benefit from your taking ownership of your behaviors.
Don’t accept labels that aren’t true
Accusations that aren’t true can eat at you and your sense of self. For three years before the divorce — the same length of time as her affair — my ex constantly called me an angry person, and over time, I began to see myself that way.
During the divorce process my ex accused me of abusing her and the children and an assault that was the basis of a restraining order she filed. I was able to show in court that all of her accusations were bogus and part of her strategy of making me look bad in family court, but the whole time I struggled with that sense that maybe she was right and I was an angry man.
It has taken me several years (and a lot of positive feedback from my current girlfriend) to begin to remove the “angry man” moniker from the way I think about myself.
They know the buttons to push, because they installed them
This is not my saying, but it is so accurate. Your soon-to-be-ex spouse knows you better than almost anyone else. They know how to get under your skin.
If they are smart negotiators (and my ex-wife was a criminal defense and family law lawyer… she knew what she was doing), then they will look to get a rise out of you to get what they want. Don’t let them.
Figure out what it is that makes you the most upset, and then take steps to counteract the emotions that rise up when the button is pushed.
Of course that is easier said than done. For me, my greatest trigger was my ex accusing me of abuse. Her rewriting our history to justify her affair is a trigger that can quickly get my adrenaline going.
Every time I received a text or she said something about how horrible I was in person — or in court — I would feel my insides burn. I got better at not responding to the texts. I got better at ignoring her story. You can learn to get better at not letting your triggers get a rise out of you.
There is an old Woody Allen stand up routine that goes something like, “My wife and I couldn’t decide whether to vacation in Bermuda or file for divorce. We settled on divorce because a holiday in Bermuda only lasts two weeks, but a divorce is something that we have forever.”
Your marriage is at an end, and for good reason. Don’t let the emotions of the divorce proceedings define you or the divorce settlement itself. You have yourself and the divorce to live with forever.
Kris is the creator and author of the blog DivorcedDad101.com, which is designed to help other dads recover from the divorce process and be successful single fathers.
He has three teenage kids, and spends his days teaching a whole bunch of other teenagers how to dissect animals and how not blow themselves up in the laboratory. He can also be reached on Twitter at @DivorcedDad101.