Divorce is a very stressful time. It oftentimes involves some of the most important things in a person’s life including their finances, children and even self-identity.
If there is an angry or exceedingly difficult spouse involved, that can make matters even worse. But what can one do to make the process manageable?
DON’T JUST REACT
It can be a natural human tendency to respond in kind to the actions of another. But that is not always wise. Sometimes it is better to turn the other cheek.
If you react to your spouse’s bad behavior in kind, you are also engaging in bad behavior, even if it is in defense of yourself. If someone pushes you, and you push back, even in response to them, you did just as much pushing as they did.
There is strength in not responding in kind to bad behavior. Instead, you can look at bad behavior as just that, the other person is acting inappropriately. Not responding to bad behavior with similar actions is the more mature and healthy way to deal with bad behavior.
ACTING LIKE AN ADULT ISN’T A WEAKNESS
Simply because you don’t respond in kind to bad behavior doesn’t mean that you have to live with it. The courts who hear divorce cases see numerous examples of bad behavior by spouses going through divorce, on almost a daily basis. Courts can become frustrated with both parties when there are examples of bad behavior on both sides. This is true regardless of who started the inappropriate behavior.
Think of it like this. If you see two children in a sandbox fighting and throwing sand at each other you’re more likely to tell them both to stop rather than worry about who threw sand first. On the other hand, if you come upon the same two children and one of the children is throwing sand at the other and the other is acting maturely and saying please stop hitting me, what would you do? You would tell the child acting inappropriately to stop it immediately and that child would be in trouble.
Courts can look upon feuding parents in a similar fashion. This means not responding in kind to bad behavior may actually end up being recognized, and perhaps rewarded, in your divorce case by the judge who will ultimately decide it.
PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING
It is common for people to feel that they need to respond to bad behavior in kind so they will not feel weak or taken advantage of. But you can only feel weak or be taken advantage of if you let yourself feel that way.
Another way to look at the situation is this. First, your goal is to get through the divorce not to fight with your spouse. Do not let the improper actions of your spouse change your goal or your behavior.
Think of not responding to bad behavior as a strength and positive quality. Imagine what the you ten years from now would tell yourself today about how to act. Would you say this: “I wish I’d have fought more with my ex-spouse?” Very doubtful. So why engage in behavior today that you will regret later on.
CHILDREN COME FIRST
A child’s job is to love both parents. A parent’s job is to let a child do their job.
A parent makes it difficult on a child if that parent is fighting with the other parent. It can cause conflicted feelings for the child, stress and even long-term psychological problems.
You would always protect your child. You would never do anything to hurt your child. Think of not reacting to bad behavior by your spouse as protecting your child from the emotional trauma that results from feuding parents. Also recall that you are, by your own actions or inaction, showing your child how to behave appropriately.
Divorce is never easy. But sometimes pulling back and looking at the big picture can help make it easier to deal with a difficult spouse during the process.
About the Author:
Stuart Scott is a litigation attorney with over 25 years of experience. He has tried hundreds of cases in both state and federal court. Some of his noteworthy victories have been featured in local, state and national publications. Stuart is also listed as a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 Family Law Mediator. Stuart focuses his primary area of practice on family law. He represents people going through divorce and focuses his efforts on providing his legal services and advice to his clients in this area. Mr. Scott may be reached in our Nashville office at 615-620-1710.