Being a Dirtbag in Divorce

Take a minute to check the checklist

Sure, go ahead and get divorced. But don’t screw up your kids in the process. Split the assets; one of you take the dog or have it go back and forth between houses. Unfriend your ex on Facebook, etc. and don’t cyber stalk. And do yourself and everyone connected to you a favor: take a minute to complete the following checklist:

Am I leaving for another person, or for myself? If you are leaving for another person, don’t. Relationships borne of affairs, whether emotional or physical, almost never last. Your children will hate the person whom they perceive broke up their family. Even if your ex covers for you and you lie to the kids and everyone else about the timing of your new relationship, the truth will come out. Don’t fool yourself: The fantasy family life you envision with this new person will not come to pass. If you’re leaving for yourself, because your spouse treats you like crap, you have no sexual chemistry with him/her; never did or can’t make it come back in any way; you feel completely alone because your spouse is too self-obsessed to care about you or his/her children more than he/she cares about him/herself; or certainly if he/she hits you or verbally abuses you, then make a clean, quick break and never look back. Know why and be honest with yourself about what the hell you’re doing.

Am I using the law to satisfy an emotional need? In general, don’t sue your spouse or former spouse for custody. You’ll only out yourself as a Narcissist, if you do. Virtually all custody cases in family courts are brought by people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder or by people who use children to get more money. You don’t want to be in either camp, because if you are, you’re a disgusting person. Furthermore, kids end up resenting or even hating the parent who tries to take them from the other parent. And if you weren’t the primary or even half-time caregiver before, you certainly aren’t in the mental space to be one now. Your evil plan will backfire, cost you and your ex a lot of money (which is ultimately less money for your kids to use on important things like college tuition) and destroy your relationship forever with your co-parent. Unless your spouse is physically or emotionally abusive to your kids, is an addict or otherwise truly unsafe, figure out a way to share time and don’t invent pre-textual reasons you need to take them to Court.

Am I looking to blend families with my new boyfriend/girlfriend? Let’s say you left a marriage for your own sanity or because your spouse decided for whatever reason to leave you. You now find yourself in a new relationship with a person who also has kids. Wouldn’t it be great if you all lived together? Ask yourself this: Great for whom? Yes, great for the adults, who are presumably happy not to be alone anymore, grateful for regular, hopefully satisfying sex, eager to share living costs. But for the kids? Not so much. Blended families are really hard on children. The step-parent never loves their non-blood offspring as much as their own. Step-siblings will not be as bonded as blood relatives, when their backs are against the wall. Kids are often mean to the step-sibling as a way of getting back at the step-parent. If this happens repeatedly, and your new partner doesn’t boundary the child or, worse, if they vilify your child as a way to cover the fact theirs is being a total brat or is completely screwed up from his/her own parents’ divorce, run for the hills and never talk to that person again. Do consider delaying a blended family until the youngest child is out of the house, unless the kids really and truly are ok with it. Less good for you, probably better for the kids. As Jackie Kennedy said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters much.”

Go ahead a get a divorce if that’s what you think you need to do, but don’t be a dirtbag about it.