Reasons for marriages collapsing vary, but primarily couples split up over poor communication, household finances, abuse and infidelity.
Nobody sets out on their wedding day aiming for a divorce, but if marriages must come to an end there's no good reason most splits shouldn't be civil — especially if there are children involved.
"It's very important to try to have an amicable divorce," says divorce therapy psychologist Michael Hakimi. "You don't have to put on boxing gloves. When it becomes a fight, the only winners are the lawyers. The losers are the couple."
Noting that he has kept good relations with his ex-spouse, Hakimi says that an amicable split is highly doable — but you need to work at it just as you need to work at any relationship.
To keep your post-marriage relationship on an even keel, Hakimi says to focus on keeping personal emotions checked and recognizing that you control the path to an amicable divorce, as does your ex-spouse.
"Make every effort to speak in a calm, clear and rational manner, and accept responsibility for your own actions," Hakimi says. "Also, avoid blaming each other, pointing fingers and digging up all the issues of your entire history together."
To help repair the damage and set the stage for a civil relationship, Hakimi advises that you:
Communicate in public. "When having a difficult discussion, do it in a place such as a restaurant or cafe," he says. "Spouses tend to act more appropriately in public. And do not consume alcohol while discussing marital issues."
Keep emotions out if it as much as possible. Sure, you're feeling hurt after a marriage dissolves. But harboring resentment is a surefire path to a nasty divorce. "Do not use your hurt feelings as a weapon to lash out at one another," Hakimi says. "Rather, try to resolve hurt feelings in therapy constructively."
Keep it positive in front of the kids. Children listen when you complain about an ex-spouse. And it's not healthy for them. "Do not badmouth your spouse or discuss your marital problems in front of your children," Hakimi says. "Tell your children you both love them, and that they are blameless for the divorce. Get therapy for the children, if needed."
Be the bigger person. Go ahead and take the lead in being civil in all discussions with an ex-spouse. "If your spouse gets upset about something you say or do, try saying: 'I'm sorry; I did not mean to upset you,'" Hakimi says. Another important phrase: "I apologize. Let's continue our conversation at a later time when we are calm."
It's also advisable to talk to a divorce counselor for ongoing support in getting along with an ex-spouse.
"Ask around for a recommendation," he says. "The state psychological association where you live also can make referrals. Talk to a few therapists, look at their websites, education and experience and decide who you feel most comfortable with."
It might seem like an uphill climb, but achieving a "friendly" divorce is possible — but only of you want it, and work at it on a regular basis, along with your ex-spouse.
— By Brian O'Connell for MainStreet