Divorce can be the dirtiest, ugliest brawling-in-the-mud fight that any of us could dare to pick. Bad divorces are like wars, with savage battles that can stretch over years; they are often devastating to everyone involved. It should go without saying that if you have been unhappy in your marriage to someone, you can’t expect your communication and cooperation to improve during the divorce. It might, I’m rooting for you, but probably not. So how can you implement a damage control plan in a divorce war?
March that lonely high road.
Taking the high road is incredibly difficult if the other side is using underhanded tactics but just know that this is the best plan for the long term goal of peace. You get to keep your dignity, you get to be the adult. You will appear more credible both in court and in your social circles if you aren’t petty. Don’t crawl on your belly to take a cheap shot at your ex, choose your battles carefully and basically treat others as you want to be treated (even if they don’t deserve it).
Don’t fire all of your guns at once.
You know all of those juicy, intimate details and secrets that you learned about your (ex) spouse while you were married? They might look like the perfect ammunition now, especially if your ex is unloading your dirty laundry in court or around town. Before you fire back, just know that mud-slinging usually ends with two mud-caked people revealing all of their most embarrassing secrets to an amused general public. Not fun. Keep your revelations relevant and only dish on a need to know basis. If your ex is really crossing the line you could, however, tip your hand a bit. Wait until the two of you are alone, express your wishes for a peaceful conclusion. “I was hurt when you brought up _____, I want this to go as painlessly as possible for the family’s sake.” You might add, “I would never talk about (insert mortifying info on your ex here) just to hurt you.” It’s worth a shot.
Spare the civilians.
Keep your kids, family and mutual friends out of the fight as much as humanly possible. Don’t take hostages; don’t make them take sides and don’t use your loved ones to get back at your ex. Don’t ever ever bad-mouth your ex to your children, this is absolute poison and can border on emotional abuse. (Sorry, but I take a hard line on this, kids shouldn’t have to deal with grown up problems.) It doesn’t matter if your ex is in fact a complete scum sucking bottom feeder, your kid gains nothing by hearing that from you. Anyways, that’s what girlfriends (or guy friends) are for! Unburden yourself with your trusted buddies if it helps but keep the little ones out of the fray.
Don’t fight to win.
In fact try not to fight at all, negotiate peace! There are no winners in a nasty divorce, everyone loses (most tragically, the children). Even a large monetary gain is worthless if you lose your children’s respect in the process, so set a good example of grace under fire. Be diplomatic and look for a middle ground; end the conflict even if you didn’t start it. Isn’t that what we teach our kids about fighting? It’s time to teach by example, can you walk the walk?