By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
Because divorce is such a complex life experience it’s rare to find it realistically portrayed in film, TV or theater. Too often we see over the top drama, unrealistic circumstances or vindictive escalations more motivated by viewer ratings than thoughtful, meaningful dialogue.
Surprisingly, the Netflix original movie, Marriage Story, is an excellently portrayed divorce story. It stands apart for addressing parental divorce with jarring authenticity. The beautifully written, emotionally compelling script focuses on a believable family. Both parents are facing universal challenges that escalate in understandable, organic ways. The stellar celebrity cast play their characters with nuanced sensitivity. We recognize their confusion. We relate to their pain. We resonate with their decisions and all the known and unseen consequences that emerge every step of the way.
The film begins with both partners putting together a list of what they liked and appreciated most about their spouse. It’s an assignment from their therapist. While their professional lives revolve around acting, they are a very typical couple in many ways. Their marriage slowly went off track. But they both love their 8 year-old son and still respect one another as people and parents. Consequently they both want to keep things simple and sane as they move through the divorce.
That all changes once they inadvertently put themselves under the influence and advice of top tier divorce attorneys. The dance of making fair decisions that protect them both becomes the tango of who can dip, trip and surprise the other more frequently and effectively with only one goal in mind: winning!
From my perspective, when you approach divorce to win, everyone loses – especially the kids. Divorce should not be about winning and losing. It should be about decisions and choosing! Rather than a legal battle it should be a life transition challenge, overseen by mental health professionals, focused on win-win outcomes for everyone in the family!
Social workers and mediators should be involved in finding solutions that honor the needs of parents and children alike.
As founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, here are my suggestions for creating a peaceful, cooperative, life-affirming divorce:
- Strive for mediation and avoid litigation. Litigation takes a financial, emotional, psychological and spiritual toll that’s rarely worth the effort. Yes, sometimes it’s necessary. But be sure you’ve seriously considered win-win mediation options before ever moving down that other road.
- Avoid just going for the win! Divorce professionals often take pride in making you a winner at the price of making your former partner a loser. When children are involved, following that path can lead to a dangerous and difficult mindset. Losers tend to escalate their anger, resentment, defensiveness and hostility over time. Your kids suffer the consequences and often end up resenting both parents when they’re grown.
- Remember you’re a role model! Co-parenting is a life-long position. Let go of petty gripes, make peace with bigger challenges and find a way to be present for your children through every stage of their life. Being a grandparent is a great reward for having a positive relationship with your kids and a cooperative sane one with their other parent. Your kids will thank you for your efforts when they’re grown.
The Marriage Story movie takes us on a roller-coaster ride closely resembling the ups and downs, highs and lows of too many toxic, draining, costly divorce battles. See the movie. Learn from their mistakes. Seek out the guidance of a qualified divorce coach, counselor or support group. And put yourself in your children’s shoes, as well as your former spouse’s shoes, before every life-altering decision you make!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book
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