Getting Over Guilt After Divorce
Disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only and are not to be considered a substitute for professional legal advice or a consultation with a lawyer.
1. Family Law Tip of the Week
If you are negotiating the splitting of assets as part of your divorce, in most cases, it is best to get as many of those assets as you can now (as opposed to accepting payments over months or years). While you should always consult with a financial expert over the potential tax consequences of receiving certain assets now, keep in mind there is always risk in reaching a settlement that allows your ex to pay you back sometime in the future.
2. Guilt After Divorce
Guilt is an issue for a lot of people. It’s not a productive emotion and it can get in the way of a lot. In this episode of The Family Law Insider, Dr. Judy Rabinor discusses guilt and strategies to get past it.
Judy is the author and the expert in befriending your ex after divorce. While aren’t talking directly about befriending your ex after divorce today (like we have on some of the other podcasts we’ve had with Judy), we’re going to talk about something that flows from trying to befriend that ex.
Guilt Keeps Us Stuck
“There are things we should be guilty for.”
There are times when guilt is a very appropriate response. The right thing to do is ask yourself what really went on and whether you behaved “badly.” If so, ask yourself why you behaved in such an insulting, terrible, or dangerous way…and then apologize. Many people have trouble apologizing and this is relevant when it comes to divorce; divorce brings out the worst in people, as they generally behave pretty badly when getting divorced. It is important that people accept, understand, and honor what went on that made them behave a certain way. Allow for that feeling, apologize for it, and let it go.
Healthy Versus Unhealthy Guilt
“Honor thy father and thy mother.”
How many people have had moments when they did not honor their father and mother and did something insensitive, cruel, mean, hostile, or nasty? A good parent teaches a child that we all sometimes make mistakes. Saying sorry and being sorry makes it okay. We all sometimes do things that we feel badly about afterwards.
“Can divorced people actually forgive themselves and each other?”
It’s very unhealthy to carry guilt about something in the past that can’t be changed or fixed (when what you really want is forgiveness). Most people get divorced without a lot of thought. They say the divorce is mutual. Digging down deeply, they might find that it isn’t. Very often, one person is the initiator, and the initiator feels guilty because s/he does not suffer as much as the other person.
Letting Go Of Guilt
“Bad manners doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”
Invite your guilt to sit down right next to you. Listen carefully to what it is saying. This exercise might lead someone to say, “My guilt is saying, I’m a bad person.” This is usually something learned from childhood and in family: If you do something bad, you’re a bad person.
Judy helps people realize whether they are really a bad person or simply did a bad thing. She claims that forgiving, loving, and accepting one’s self is a part of all spiritual traditions and psychotherapy. All people make mistakes and do wrong things throughout their lives.
“There’s a child inside of all of us.”
It is important to have that person you hurt forgive you. It changes the relationship if you say, “I’m sorry.”
But can you forgive yourself? Judy recommends you forgive yourself like you forgive your child. Children lose their temper, lose their patience, and do the wrong thing… And so do we. We try to teach children that it’s okay to lose your temper, and we love them anyway.
Your Guilt And Your Child(ren)
“Divorce doesn’t have to be a harmful thing.”
Nobody really talks about the part of the divorce that parents enjoy—having more time for themselves. Most parents feel happy when they get a little time away from their children. Some people also feel guilty because they think divorce is not good for children. Judy says that’s not why they got divorced. Judy tries to help people think whether the divorce itself was bad for the children or whether it was how the divorce was handled.
“Be a team on the side of your children.”
We’re living in a culture where divorce is the norm. People feel guilty because they feel they’re doing wrong to their children or to the other person. Divorce could be much better for the kids if the parents are able to be friendly towards one another and keep the best interest of the children in mind. Divorce doesn’t have to be like in the movies where the parents are hateful and nasty to one other.
“Guilt can actually be a great motivator.”
A child could be motivated to clean their room out of guilt. In Judy’s opinion, a good parent lets the children know the distinction that if their room is a mess, it doesn’t mean they’re a mess.
“I hope you don’t feel guilty if you’re going to be 5 minutes late.”
If there’s anyone out there who knows they are weighed down by guilt for small things, figure out where to draw the line. If you notice that you have excessive guilt, that you’re the kind of person who apologizes all the time if you’re 5 minutes late, be conscious of what’s driving that. Is that how you judge people? The more we can learn to be kind and forgiving to ourselves, the better off we’ll be.
3. Thoughts From the Life Coach
In this week’s thoughts, James talks about worry.