My ex and I had a peaceful divorce; one full of cooperation, communication and compassion. It cost less than $400 and took only as much time as the state required.
When I refer to my experience, some people dismiss me. After all, I’m the exception, not the norm. Most divorces are ugly and expensive because most exes are assholes. And I couldn’t understand that, because my ex is obviously a really great person, otherwise I would’ve had a more typical divorce.
As I read about divorce I find more and more articles to help people identify and deal with various personality disorders. The most popular one I see is narcissism. Narcissists are focused only on themselves. They lack empathy. They engage strategically. They want only to win. They don’t compromise, and communication is difficult.
It seems these days most exes are narcissists. I don’t know if mine is/was because, to the best of my knowledge, he’s never been evaluated by a trained mental health professional. But I can tell you that if I’d been a student of divorce when my journey started, I’d probably have diagnosed him myself.
You see, although my divorce was peaceful, my marriage was not. No, he didn’t beat me. But we fought. A lot. We screamed and slammed doors. Sometimes things got broken. We called each other names. He put down my job and my friends, and he knew how to “push my buttons” (don’t all married people know how to do this?). He thought he was right about everything. And if he was right, I was wrong. And if I was wrong, I was stupid.
The marriage wasn’t a good fit for either of us. Quite simply, we wanted different things, and we each resented the other for imprisoning us in the life shared. As a result, we got angry. And things between us got ugly. Oh, and he got himself a girlfriend too.
When we decided it was over, we could’ve run off to separate lawyers and began the traditional proceedings. We had enough assets to fight over and enough money to fight it out. I could’ve spent an hour (and several hundred dollars) telling an attorney how difficult my ex was to deal with. And he could’ve done the same. We could’ve easily had a typical divorce.
But we didn’t. Instead of feeling angry about the end of our marriage, we were relieved and grateful. Instead of calling lawyers, we sat down together to talk through the division of our assets. We remained logical, compassionate and, at times generous, as we discussed budgets and timelines. And when we were done, we put our plan into action.
About two months later we’d separated everything and were living in different homes. The only thing left to do was legally dissolve the marriage, so I called a lawyer.
Like any good attorney, he was thorough. He wanted me to tell him everything, but I refused.
“I just need to file for divorce,” I insisted.
He explained that there was much more to divorce than simply filing the documentation. He needed to know about our bank accounts, properties, debts, etc.
“We’ve already divided everything,” I explained. “The only thing left is the paperwork.”
My attorney agreed to send me some forms to sign and return with a check. I complied. My ex complied. Three months later, I received a divorce decree featuring an official gold seal. The divorce was done, and six weeks after that, I had a new (old) last name.
The experience left me with the knowledge that a good divorce is possible following a bad marriage. Because our separation was a welcome solution to a problem, we found ourselves joyously in agreement about our future. It was easy and exciting to work together as we accomplished our shared goals.
In short: I didn’t have a peaceful divorce because my ex was a saint. I had a peaceful divorce because we chose cooperative communication over hired guns and mudslinging.