Marriage wasn’t a play the long game experience
I never imagined as I walked down the aisle on my wedding day that six years later, I would be divorced. My parents divorced when I was five years old. I told my future wife, on our first date, that I never wanted to get divorced. The end of my 14-year relationship and marriage was a shock that I didn’t see coming. Not the long game play I hoped for.
The thing I wanted least to happen in my life, getting divorced, came true. I had no warning or opportunity to try to save the marriage. It was an excruciatingly difficult choice to not seek revenge, to not say things that would hurt my ex-wife, and to not act in a way that would impact me long-term. I have two boys who were six and four when my wife left. From personal experience, I knew the impact the divorce would have on them and decided immediately that their future mattered the most to me.
I regularly get asked “how did you not seek revenge?”, “How did you maintain a level head?”, “Didn’t you just want to lash out?” Undoubtedly, I wanted to do all those things. Of course I wanted to destroy my ex-wife’s life. And of course, I wanted her to be in as much pain as I was in. But, when the negative thoughts hit me, I always asked myself “how will my actions today impact my boys in 20 or 30 years?” or “will today’s great pleasure from hurting her, offset the sadness I’ll feel when my boys’ relationships aren’t successful?”
Retribution doesn’t put your kids first
Divorce books say, “put your kids first.” I certainly say the same but with the recognition that it is extremely easy to say but extremely difficult to do. It’s hard to bury your anger, to bury your desire for vengeance, and to bury your instincts to be a “man” and seek retribution. It’s hard but critical that you do. How do your kids benefit if you argue in front of them, spend $100,000 on lawyers or seek to make their mother pay for what she did? They don’t.
I’m not suggesting that you just agree to everything your ex-partner wants but push back on/push for things that matter and on things that will impact your kids in 20 years. Try taking that mentality to discussions with your ex-partner.
There will be moments when your anger is triggered and there will be moments when you want to lash out. My advice is to take a breath, excuse yourself from the room or look at a picture of your kids to refocus yourself on what’s really important. A lot of the things you will find yourselves arguing about really won’t matter in the long run.
Will what I’m doing work? I don’t know. Ask me in 20 years when my kids are in their own relationships if my play the long game approach works. I wholeheartedly believe that the sacrifices I’m making now to have a positive relationship with my ex-wife will benefit my kids today and for years to come. At least, I keep telling myself that because it’s certainly not easy.
For now, I play the long game for my kids
All of this is hard work. But I’m working on it and will continue to do so for my boys.