Sheila Gutterman has been named a Colorado Super Lawyer from 2009 – 2017, including in the list of Top 50 Women Lawyers. She has been named one of America’s Top 100 Attorneys and is known in the Denver community as an outstanding leader, dedicated to the resolution of family disputes.
During this time of year, the greeting card and media images of warm and loving families are not the reality for many couples and their families. If there is an ongoing divorce, or if the parties have already been divorced, there are challenges and triggers resulting in disappointments and stress. This, of course, can occur in intact families, as well. But, as a family is dissolving, or if it has been dissolved, there are further complications. While I do not pretend to have a fix, the clearest message to each of you is to stay within your comfort zone.
Some parents choose to share holidays with each other “for the sake of the children.” This can be a good idea if the parents truly feel amicable. Children are smart and pick-up on tension. Another alternative is to alternate parts of holidays, or the holiday itself, yearly, but for the parent not hosting the specific holiday to stop by and spend a little time at the other celebration. The parents each need to build new traditions or return to old extended family traditions with the other side if that is comfortable. Always talk with the children about the change and reassure them that everything will be fine. As in all situations regarding the children, keeping any conflict away from them is the key. And, remember, that each child is different and that each needs to be reassured in the ways that are age appropriate for each.
Try to stay in the present. Feeling victimized and doing things that are self-destructive, such as excessive eating (which we all do!); drinking too much; doing anything careless or reckless, or dwelling on the past is non-productive. Whether earlier times with your “ex” were wonderful or terrible, you will not find it helpful to mull them over constantly.
Be the adult parent for the sake of your children. The divorce may be disruptive and cause internal struggles for your child. Work with your situation and seek out professionals to help. Remember that the goal is for your children to remember your support during their childhood.
Acknowledge that you will have mood swings. Treat the ups and downs as a normal component of the divorce. This is, of course, easier said than done!
In closing, this time of life presents an opportunity for reflection and personal growth. You are free to not put up with the dysfunction of your old relationship and the ongoing drama of a poor partnership. You can choose to surround yourself with persons who support you. You are now free to guide your own destiny, based on what is meaningful to you. There will be emotional issues, but you certainly do not need to handle each one now. Think of what makes you smile. Get away from the intensity. Give yourself space to have a good time. Life is short and you deserve to have fun. Divorce can actually make you stronger if you choose survival. To be a survivor, you must stop processing and reprocessing the same old stuff. We know that it is not easy to stop digging through the remains of your feelings, but that is what you must do, one step at a time. Good luck to you.