Not all couples live happily ever after. If you decide to divorce, you don't want to continue the bickering and arguing that has been going on in your marriage — that's why you decided to divorce in the first place.
As a marriage counselor in Denver, CO, I have seen hundreds of couples who are still arguing and litigating years after their divorces were finalized. One thing I have learned over several years of seeing these couples (often by court order) is that there are certain things required to ensure a peaceful divorce.
A peaceful divorce requires mutual respect
After years of fighting and finally deciding to get a divorce, it's hard to think that you'll ever have kind feelings for your ex again. But if you want a peaceful divorce, you're going to have to learn to.
I know, I know. If you figured out how to do that, you probably wouldn't have divorced in the first place, right? Well, this is a little different. You don't have to fall in love with your ex again, but you do have to respect him or her for the positive things he or she does. Think about it this way. Your ex may not have done everything right, but there were some things he or she may have been pretty good at. Even if all you can do is respect a few good things, that's a good enough start.
A peaceful divorce requires you to conquer demons and baggage from the past
You can blame your spouse for the things he or she did wrong, but remember that every relationship takes two people. So, instead of blaming your ex for everything, look deep inside yourself and find out what things you did that contributed to the demise of your marriage. Owning this "baggage" will help you as you try to make sense of why your marriage failed, and it will also help you in future relationships by making sure you're not doing the same things again.
Stop trying to make your ex understand you
People like to feel understood; however, when there's a divorce, you can guarantee that concept flew out the window ages ago. Just accept that your soon-to-be ex will not understand you or see your point of view, and stop trying to make that happen. No matter how much you twist your ex's arm or get mad at him or her, you can't force understanding. Accept this and find new things to focus your energy on.
It's easy to nitpick someone you don't like. If you don't like someone, then everything that person does is viewed through a lens of dissatisfaction. But this just creates more anger, resentment and bad feelings between you and your ex. After so long, the couples who succeed at creating peaceful divorces realize that the nitpicking isn't helping anyone be peaceful or happy. They learn to let go of things like dropping children off a little late or (still) not checking the voicemail.
Remember that time your spouse embarrassed you at your work party? Or how about that time he or she forgot your anniversary and blamed it on you? Well, now that you're divorcing, there's no need to hold on to those things. Have the courage to forgive so that you can look forward to a brighter future.
Forgiving your ex is, perhaps, the hardest for most people because, a lot of the time, your ex doesn't offer an apology. But even if your ex doesn't apologize, forgiveness is still beneficial for you. It allows you to stop feeling the hurt and pain from the things your ex did in the past, and it allows you to begin moving forward without those scars affecting the rest of your life.
Ensuring a peaceful divorce is hard to do. People divorce because there has been so much hurt, pain and anguish that they just can't put up with their spouses anymore. To move on and try to create a cordial relationship with someone who has hurt you so much takes a lot of work. Don't be embarrassed to call a counselor or lean on loved ones for help.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog for expert information on how to improve your relationship.