Dignity is your best friend during divorce (or any crisis).
Look, I know divorce hurts and you're looking for just about any way possible to feel better (because that's what I did). The thing is that sometimes what you do to feel better backfires and the next day (or even within a few heartbeats) you wish you hadn't done or said what you just did.
This is why it’s important to choose dignity during divorce – so you don’t have (too many) regrets about how you handled yourself.
Dignity is our best friend in a crisis because it reminds us that, although we may be at the mercy of uncertain circumstances, we can at least be in control of ourselves. Psychologist Susan Quilliam
Choosing dignity is being grounded, centered and in control of yourself. And there’s a huge upside to choosing the high road. You feel good about yourself which means your self-esteem gets a (much-needed-when-you’re-going-through-divorce) boost.
Here are 12 ways you can choose classiness as you navigate your divorce:
- Put down the ice cream scoop, chip bag and wine glass. Drowning your sorrows in ice cream, chips, alcohol or any comfort food will at best provide a temporary comfort (Rutgers). But they won’t help you long term and in fact may make maintaining your dignity more difficult.
According to USC neuropsychology professor Dr. Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, “Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain. The more balanced you make your meals, the more balanced will be your brain functioning.” And you definitely need to have your brain working at its best to remain classy.
- Pick up a vibrator or bottle of KY. Having indiscriminate sex is just a patch for the need to feel sexy, to feel lovable, to feel connected to someone and to meet your sexual needs. Spend some time pleasuring yourself until you’re ready to date like an adult instead of a horny teenager.
- Be a problem solver. There’s a great line in the movie “The Martian” – Work the problem. Everyone who wants to divorce with dignity should choose this as their motto. Rather than getting side-tracked by being overly emotional at inappropriate times, being a victim, playing the blame game, being vengeful or being defensive, look for solutions to whatever the immediate problem is.
This doesn’t mean you have to solve all of the issues or challenges on your own. Do your research. Ask for help from those who are more knowledgeable than yourself and be open to examining their suggestions so you can take their input and choose how you want to solve whatever problem you’re facing.
- Act as an equal – neither superior nor inferior – to your ex and whomever else you deal with during your divorce. For you to maintain your dignity you need to know that you’re just as 100% human as the next person. You need to treat others with respect and expect that they treat you with respect as well. If they don’t then you need to get clear with them about your expectation that things will change.
- Be clear with your legal representation that there will be no fighting. Attorneys learn to litigate and fight for what they believe is in the best interest of their clients. By taking the initiative to set the rules with your legal representative, you’ll be better able to stick to the highroad. Your time is too precious to waste it on unnecessary and lengthy legal battles.
- Know what’s important to you and don’t fight over piddly sh*t. Important is your kids and their welfare. Important is an equitable (notice I didn’t say fair) division of the assets and debts. Unimportant is anything that is replacable – like the iTunes library.
- Do not keep your social media network updated on the latest in your divorce. Just because you have the technology doesn’t mean you should use it. Airing dirty laundry about your divorce just isn’t productive and for goodness sake don’t go changing your relationship status until your divorce if final.
- Wait to find your next relationship until after your divorce. Finish up the work on ending your marriage before bringing anyone else into the picture. But, if your new relationship is the reason for your divorce, then the least you can do is avoid flaunting it.
- Stand up for yourself and ask for what you want and need. It’s imperative that you take care of you. There’s no guarantee that your ex will do it even if they’ve promised to. You may not get everything you want, but be sure and get what you need. Remember being a doormat is neither classy nor dignified, so ask!
- Be fair. Don’t hide or dispose of assets to prevent your soon-to-be-ex from receiving them. Do your part to move the divorce forward by providing requested information in a timely manner or by taking the actions you need to take (i.e., getting the house ready to put on the market) as quickly as possible. Don’t be so generous that you suffer. Being fair is about both of you.
- Don’t drag your kids into the drama. No matter their age, your kids shouldn’t be involved in any of your divorce drama. They’ve got their own challenges to deal with as a result of your divorce and don’t need exposure to yours.
- Express your emotions constructively. No temper tantrums, ultimatums, pity parties, stuffing (aka ignoring) your feelings, or displaying your emotions to manipulate your former spouse or anyone else. Your emotions are important and should be honored and felt, but they don’t need to dictate your actions or the actions of anyone else. If you need to schedule time to get them out in a healthy way, then schedule the time.
Divorce isn’t easy. It will be one of the most difficult life changes you’ve ever experienced. Displaying dignity and class throughout the process will require great self-discipline, but the hard truth is that you will slip up at least a little (or maybe even a lot). There will be at least one moment when you wish you could take back what you said or did.
But don’t beat yourself up over it. It really is OK because everyone who chooses the highroad makes at least one and usually several mistakes along the way.
It’s also OK because I know that as soon as you recognize your mistake you’ll correct it to the best of your ability and avoid further inflaming the situation. How do I know? Because that’s what a classy, self-respecting person who’s filled with integrity does.
I'm Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
This article first appeared on YourTango.com.