Anyone who thinks that the moment the judge bangs his gavel is the moment your problems with your ex-spouse are all over is – and I say this gently – delusional. Especially those of us who have children.
But we cannot fight over every single thing. As hard as it will be, we must – absolutely must – pick our battles and choose what we’re going to fight for and what we’re going to let go, otherwise we will remain entangled not only in court but with the person we are trying to extricate ourselves from and heal up from.
Over the past three+ years of being divorced, I have come up with three filters to decide what I’m going to fight for, regarding my children. Hopefully they will help you a bit.
My children’s safety. When my kids aren’t safe, the Mama Bear in me comes out. If your children are not physically safe in your ex-husband’s care, tell someone. Tell your lawyer or a counselor and find out what steps you need to take to protect them. Unfortunately, even serious things may not be taken seriously by the court system – depending on your state – so there may be situations where no one will intervene and you will have to come up with creative ways to set boundaries and work with the situation at hand.
Morality issues that directly affect my children’s lives and/or hearts. When my kids have been lied to, and I have found out about it, I have told them the truth. When something has been violated that was an agreed-upon tenant during our marriage, even though my children are older, I have chosen to stand up for what’s right so that my children see me hold to the faith they were raised in. These issues are more of a sticky-wicket because they’re not as cut and dry, and because our culture doesn’t believe what we believe. But if it’s an issue that you feel is important enough, prayerfully stand up for your children and for what you believe God would want you to do.
Money. This one depends on the specific situation and on your financial status. There are things I stopped asking to be reimbursed for ages ago because it just wasn’t worth the emotional fight. But if, for instance, your ex-husband stops paying child support altogether, that is something I would absolutely look into rectifying. Keep in mind, sadly, sometimes the court fight will cost you more than what you are owed, so you should always take that into consideration as well.
All other things, I for the most part, try my best to let go. I used to keep a list of all the little wrongdoings. And although there were many, somewhere along the way, I just stopped. Because I realized that every time I thought about those things was me basically allowing my ex-husband to rent space in my head for free, and it took up too much emotional energy. Don’t get me wrong, I do not have this down pat. I was recently in the middle of something (that falls into one of the above categories) and it took up precious time and headspace. I’d give anything for all this to just disappear. But until our kids are eighteen, we must somehow work with what we’ve got. And then after that, though there are graduations and weddings and grandbabies, our children’s relationships with their fathers will be solely up to them.
Until then, live with each other as peacefully as possible, which sometimes simply means keeping your mouth shut. Pray for wisdom and discernment and restraint. And punch a pillow or go for a bike ride or vent to a friend instead of sending an inappropriate text or email or voicemail. Some fights you’ll regret getting into; but more often than not, you won’t regret letting something go that wasn’t that huge of a deal in the big picture of life.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. –Romans 12:18
If this post helped you, Moving on as a Christian Single Mom would help too.
There is one thing I would consider adding… right after ‘keeping your mouth shut’.
I know you are aware of how crucial this is, but surprisingly – and I say this from experience in a SMALL divorce ministry, as in, a few ladies God has sent my way – there are some women that don’t really know how damaging it is to malign your ex- in front of your children.
This was a HUGE struggle for me. As part of the ‘letting go’ process, I had to really WORK at keeping my lips zipped when in company with my children.
I tried venting to adult friends, but I learned rather quickly that ‘venting’ was another excuse for me to keep alive my ‘record book of wrongs’.
And what I really needed to do was LET IT GO. Forgive. Hard stuff. But worthwhile, and I’m still working on that, 12 years post-divorce (8 years of that 12 was dealing with visitation and woefully inadequate child support).
Anyway, just thought I’d shout out on that one.
And Bless you, as always, Elisabeth, for the awesome work you do!! Keep it up, please! 🙂
Love in Jesus Christ,
Very good advice Elizabeth! I recently wrote about the opposite problem, that is, how to handle when HE won’t leave YOU alone! I find that to be just as common, if not more so when people are dealing with abusive ex-spouses. In those cases, I give similar advice, which is try not to respond to bating phone calls and emails and texts. Only respond to those that you really need to, and then in the most minimal way possible. This keeps you from remaining emotionally entangled with him.