Adulting 101: Divorce Edition
Getting a divorce requires a lot of adulting. (And yes, "adulting" is now a verb.) The timing on that couldn’t be worse, because when you’re getting a divorce, adulting is extremely challenging.
To make it easier, I’ve developed some divorce attorney-approved guidelines for adulting during your divorce:
Don’t try to play the “young and dumb” card. Let me hit you with some hard truth here: You can’t play the “young and dumb” card if you’re neither young nor dumb. If you’re at the point in life where you’re getting a divorce, you should be old and wise enough to know what constitutes dumb behavior, and you should have developed the impulse control to resist it.
For example, racking up big credit card bills and fees for no-nos like shopping sprees and late payments might be a dumb mistake that a college kid with her first credit card could be forgiven for, but the same latitude does not extend to you. You’re going to need room on those credit cards for divorce-related expenses like security deposits, moving expenses and legal fees.
Plus, your credit card statements are going to be scrutinized by your ex and his lawyer. It’s hard to claim that you’re a mature mom with good judgment when you've maxed out your credit cards with spending benders at Boston Proper, Forever 21, and Dick’s Last Resort. Bottom line: No retail therapy for you. Go get some real therapy and leave your credit cards alone.
Don’t engage in public displays of…well…anything. Drunkenness. Nudity. Profanity. Anger. Crying. On second thought, I take back crying. An occasional bout of public crying might be unavoidable (and therefore understandable) when you’re going through a divorce. And I’m not just saying that because I myself was guilty of crying in public on at least one occasion that I can remember during my divorce. (Sorry for that super awkward lunch at Hyde Park Bar and Grill 8 ½ years ago, Connie.)
All of those other behaviors are examples of conduct you might expect of kids—depending on their age, of course. Public displays of nudity, anger and crying are staples of any self-respecting toddler’s daily repertoire. And drunkenness and profanity are on full display in any college town every Thursday through Sunday night.
But none of those is acceptable from a person who is adulting properly—whether you’re going through a divorce or not. So, if you get a charged with public intoxication and/or public urination at the lake this summer, don’t try to explain it away to your lawyer by saying that your kids were with their dad and you were having a little “me time.” Getting a massage or playing golf is an acceptable “me time” activity. Being drunk and disorderly is not.
Make new mistakes. When your lawyer takes your case, she’s agreeing to take you where she finds you—previously committed immature mistakes and all. Whether you’re the one who had the affair, or you’re the one who keyed his car when you found it parked at the No-tell Motel, whatever transgressions you confessed during your initial consultation come with the territory.
But you don’t get unlimited forgiveness. If you later key your ex’s new girlfriend’s car after spotting it in his driveway over the weekend, don’t expect the same level of acceptance from your lawyer. Unless you’re a tweenager, you should know that insincere apologies are more of an insult than anything else. An apology doesn’t count if everyone knows you’re just going to do the same thing again, anyway.
Your lawyer doesn’t appreciate it when you disregard her advice, make your case more difficult and jeopardize the potential for a good outcome. She can’t be the only grownup working to get you out of this mess—she needs you on the job, too.
If you make a mistake, there are three simple steps to follow. 1. Own up to it—to your lawyer, I mean; not in some rambling text to your ex at 2:00 a.m. Definitely do not do that. 2. Learn from it. 3. Move forward. There’s no better evidence that you’re not learning from your mistakes than repeating them. And not learning from your mistakes means you clearly are not adulting well. Or at all, really.
Remember, going through a divorce isn’t some sort of hall pass for stupid mistakes; it’s a mandate to avoid making them. So put on your big girl or boy pants, throw it into adult gear, and keep it there.