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A Man’s Guide to a Civilized Divorce – Parenting & Social Issues

At this stage of your divorce, it’s critical to maintain the parenting status quo. If your wife has been the parent in charge of the children, now is not the time to assert your equality as a parent. Your relative parenting roles will be negotiated soon, and in your anxiety to maintain your role as father, do not precipitate threatening struggles over the children.

One of the most painful aspects of divorce is informing the children. I have seen many couples mess up this sensitive task by handling it unilaterally or precipitously. So develop a plan with your wife for you to together tell the children about the divorce. This is absolutely a joint task, and you may want some joint counseling about how and what to tell them.

Managing the News of Your Breakup

This is the time to develop a plan with your wife to break the news to relatives and friends. You can assume that she has discussed this already with intimate confidants, so don’t be surprised to discover that some people already know. Nevertheless, offering to consult with your wife on the timing of the public dissemination of the news is an essential courtesy to extend.

Managing Your New Social Lives

Be very discreet in dating at this time. Even when your wife is the initiator, she will not be ready to receive information that she has been replaced without your even breaking stride.

Do not assume that because she is leaving you she is done with you emotionally. She may even continue to harbor strong feelings toward you and may fantasize that you will make some dramatic gesture to win her back.

If your wife gets a report that you were at the movies with some other woman just 2 weeks after she told you that she wanted a divorce, her resentment may sizzle even though you think she has no right to such feelings.

Ideally, dating should wait until you are living separately, and even then there is no reason to put new relationships in your wife’s face. You have nothing to prove to her, and there is no issue here of who is right or wrong.

It is only an issue of maintaining civility and moving the relationship along to a businesslike collaboration. But if you are dating while you are still living in the family home, it is worth taking pains to keep that activity thoroughly segregated from your continuing life at home.

Copyright © 2004 Sam Margulies, Ph.D., J.D.
Excerpted by permission from A Man’s Guide to a Civilized Divorce: How to Divorce with Grace, a Little Class, and a Lot of Common Sense.

Sam Margulies, Ph.D., J.D., has been one of the leaders in the field of mediation for 25 years. An early pioneer in mediation, Margulies was instrumental in helping to define the field. He has taught mediation for 20 years, has made innumerable presentations throughout the country, and has published extensively. His first book, Getting Divorced Without Ruining Your Life, was one of the earliest texts that taught that divorce can be done decently and without the traditional adversarial process.

Margulies lives and practices mediation in both Greensboro, North Carolina, and Montclair, New Jersey. When not mediating, teaching, or writing, he can often be found driving his tractor on his North Carolina farm.