Together, we can change the course of how divorce is handled in our culture. It’s time for peaceful divorce to be the new status quo. If you help pave the way, everyone who divorces will have an easier go of it. Imagine how much family grief could be eliminated if dissolving a marriage meant keeping the peace and embracing the change rather than tearing families apart.
The first step is to decide what you want at the end of this process and to spell it out. You’ll need to set goals at the outset so you’ll be able to stay on course when things aren’t going your way. There will be temptation to behave badly during your divorce. Your mission statement will keep you focused.
Divorce Mission Statement
A mission statement for your divorce is your compass guiding you away from conflict and toward peace. There will be many tempting distractions during your divorce. Your mission statement will keep you on track.
Laura and Andy’s Divorce Mission Statement
Laura and Andy divorced three years into their marriage, when their son John was two years old. Laura asked for the divorce. Andy thought their marriage was fine and was very embarrassed that his young bride wanted to leave him. Laura felt like she owed Andy the decency of handling their divorce with respect and collaboration after having failed to be honest about her feelings that the marriage wouldn’t work even before the wedding.
Laura wrote out her divorce mission statement in her notebook and showed it to Andy:
At the end of my divorce it will be true that John has two supportive parents, committed to co-parenting, our financial responsibility was divided fairly, and I value what I learned about myself during my divorce and it made me a better person. I’ll do this by putting John’s best interests above my own, focusing on accepting situations rather than manipulating outcomes, and allowing myself time to grieve. As a result I will feel hopeful that I will find love again, confident that I can adjust my lifestyle to my new financial situation, and courageous about facing challenges.
Although Andy was still reeling from the news that Laura wanted to get divorced, he appreciated that his wife intended to keep the peace in their divorce and be an effective co-parent for his young son, and that she intended on treating Andy with respect, too, despite the divorce.
Your Divorce Mission Statement
Writing your own divorce mission statement will help you stay on track with your goals and values. You can write it out yourself, or use the interactive version by clicking here: http://www.makingdivorcework.com/divorcemission.html
Living your mission doesn’t mean an overhaul of your personality. The past is the past and it doesn’t matter now how you got here. If how you got here is of real concern to you, consider addressing the issue with a professional counselor, your doctor, or a support group. This is about moving forward and making sure your thoughts and behavior are in line with what you deeply care about.
If your spouse is willing to work on a mission statement with you, do it together. If not, write it on your own and consider sharing it. Your divorce mission statement should focus on your core values for dissolving your marriage and living your life afterward.
You can use the following ideas to help you write your divorce mission statement. They are intended as a guide only, and we encourage you to make your own mission statement as personal as possible. You can use the ideas to write your own divorce mission statement, customized to fit your own situation.
- At the end of my divorce, I want the following to be true:
- I still respect my former spouse and our relationship is friendly, cordial, and civil.
- I realize my marriage was not a complete mistake and value the years I was with my spouse.
- Our children understand and are reminded that our divorce is not their fault.
- I am committed to being cooperative and respectful when my spouse engages with the world as a single person (dating, working, making new friends, etc.).
- I took responsibility for any feelings of abandonment, rejection, fear, anger, grief, and guilt I had, without blaming or shaming my spouse.
- I was kind and honest throughout the entire process.
- My children have two supportive parents committed to co-parenting.
- We did not have to go to court to settle our divorce.
- We spent as little money as possible on our divorce, preserving assets to be split between us instead of using them to pay lawyers.
- Our financial responsibility was divided fairly.
- I will make sure that the above statements are realized by doing the following:
- I will accept situations rather than manipulating outcomes.
- I will focus on what is important, both short term and long term.
- I will use written goals and journaling to track my progress.
- I will not use my divorce to punish myself or my spouse.
- I will not consider divorce as something that I need to recover from, but rather as something I can heal through.
- I will ask for advice from people who are a positive influence, and then follow that advice.
- I will put my children’s best interests above my own.
- I will take care of myself physically and emotionally.
- I will forgive myself and my spouse for getting divorced.
- I will focus on moving forward rather than getting bogged down in the past.
Write up your own divorce mission statement in your notebook. Refine it until it feels right to you.
Your divorce mission statement will serve as a reminder of who you want to be at the end of your divorce. The hard work of staying in touch with your mission, and realigning your behaviors to fit with your mission, will be worth it.
(The above is an excerpt from chapter 1, pages 4-9 of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life). Click the following to find out more information about Diana Mercer's and Katie Wennechuk's new book, "Making Divorce Work", or to purchase a copy.
She is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Penguin/Perigee 2010) (Simon & Schuster/Fireside 2001) and writes for the Huffington Post, as well as her own blog, Making Divorce Work.