When emotions still run high after divorce, mistakes are sure to follow. Wondering how your own choices are stacking up? Read on to learn about common post-divorce mistakes and how to avoid (and overcome) them.
Not taking charge of your post-divorce finances. Almost everyone experiences a financial adjustment after divorce. It’s crucial to embrace your newfound single earner status and adjust your circumstances to fit your new situation. You can be on stronger financial footing, but this means being practical: should you move to a smaller place with less maintenance? Should you rent instead of buy for now? Do you know how to make — and stick to — a monthly budget? If you let your spouse handle the finances during your marriage, you must now assume this role yourself. Spending the way you used to when you’re married will put you in a financial hole you may never dig your way out of. See a financial planner or read a book by Dave Ramsey or other personal finances author to get practical tips for moving forward.
Rushing into a relationship. Studies show that it takes most people two years to acclimate to divorce. Although it may be tempting to date to the point of distraction, or run headlong into a serious relationship, your emotions may cloud your judgment. Make sure you take time after divorce to assess your values and goals. Don’t hunt for a plus-one just to prove to your ex and everyone else that you’re a desirable mate. You will be much more likely to find an appropriate partner when you’ve adjusted to your new life and gotten clear about what kind of person you want to be with. Take time to get to know yourself as a single person. [Read more: Post-Divorce Dating: Getting On With Your Life.]
Ignoring the court order. Are you angry because you believe you got a bad divorce settlement? Resent paying child support or sticking to a parenting plan you don’t agree with? Playing games with child support or refusing to honor your custody schedule creates a slew of problems: it creates chaos for your kids, ratchets up the conflict between you and your ex, and sets the stage for a court battle. Unless there’s a legitimate reason why your order needs to be modified – an unforeseen circumstance that affects custody or your ability to pay support – it is in your best interest to follow the rules, or you may find yourself back in court facing contempt charges. If you believe your settlement is unlawful or contains legal errors, schedule an initial consultation with a family law attorney who can go through the settlement to look for mistakes.
Playing the blame game. No matter how badly your ex has behaved, and how much stress they’ve caused you, focusing on all the things they’re doing wrong won’t solve anything. Getting stuck in blame will drain you of energy and keep you from recognizing your part in problems. Does it make you feel powerful to be the “good one?” Do you secretly gloat over the fact that your kids are taking your side? (And are you doing anything to influence them?). True empowerment begins when you stop blaming your ex and start identifying what you can do to manage conflict and co-parent effectively. Even if your efforts do little to change the situation, you will feel better when you’re not letting your peace hinge on your ex’s behavior.
Putting your kids in the middle. Do you let your kids know what you think of your ex’s parenting? Enlist them as “spies” to deliver intel on their other parent’s life and choices? Give them the idea that they don’t have to follow your ex’s house rules? You may think you have your children’s best interests at heart, but doing anything to hurt their relationship with your co-parent creates anxiety for your kids, who won’t know who to believe, or feel they must take sides. When kids get caught in the cross-fire, they don’t learn healthy conflict resolution and relationship skills. How you and your ex interact now has an enormous impact on your kids’ ability to forge positive relationships when they’re adults. Your kids are watching you to see how grown-ups are supposed to behave, so do your best to show them how to handle adversity, resolve differences, and treat others with respect – even when you disagree with them.
If you’ve made some of these mistakes, don’t despair. It’s never too late for self-improvement. Acknowledge what you could have done differently in the past and focus on what to do going forward.
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