Why Be Nice?

A favorite pastime for those enduring divorce is to sit around with our besties and Trash The Ex.  The ex-related expletives bring a sense of purpose or confidence.  Perhaps the practice offers a sense of release so that one can proceed with a clearer head.  Either way, it feels good to vent among those who are closest and offer support.

I get it.  And I’ve done it.  But I don’t condone it.  At least, not to excess.

Let me explain:  I could write an entire blog post about what a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad person my ex husband is.  I could say that he’s a liar, a cheater, a miser and a genuine all-around jerk.  I could tell you that his family sucks… that he was financially, sexually, emotionally and physically abusive… that he took pride in putting others down and would make it his mission to bring misery to those he felt deserved it… I could say that he neglected me, he smothered me, he held me to inappropriate standards or he bored the hell out of me.  And some of that might even be true.  However, the essence of my communication only proves that I have incredibly poor taste in men.   I might as well simply state, “I chose a miserly, abusive, cheating, lying tyrant to be the father of my children.”  And why, after hearing a statement like that, would anyone think he’s the dumbass?

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Aside from incriminating ourselves, badmouthing the ex does another detrimental thing:  it de-humanizes him/her.  When one is “at war” with the “enemy”, anything goes… and we’ve all seen The War of The Roses, right?  (And if you haven’t , you should obtain access and watch it at your earliest convenience) My favorite line from that movie was, “There is no winning!  Only degrees of losing!”  I think we can all agree that Oliver and Barbara both lost.  Big.

A little humility and empathy can go a long way in divorce proceedings.  When previous partners are able to recognize each other as people (and recognize their children as the product of both of them), it’s easier to work together.  In this scenario, couples are more apt to make effective compromises for the good of the entire family.

“I laugh, I love, I hope, I try.  I hurt, I need, I fear, I cry.  And I know you do the same things too.  So we’re really not that different, me and you” ~ Not That Different, performed by Collin Raye, written by Joie Scott and Karen Taylor-Good

I do realize that we all think we’re The Nice One.  We always are, in our own minds.  And I suppose that’s part of the problem: our own minds.  I don’t want to get too Buddhist and babble too long about how much grief we allow our egos to cause us.  I’ll just say that emotional detachment and compassion are essential for effective interaction.  Keep in mind that people who hurt people are hurting people.  Maybe s/he slashed your tires… but, why might that person have been so pained that s/he would take such action?

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” ~Plato

In closing (yeah, I’m gonna shut up in just a minute), I’d like to say that I realize it’s not possible to reason with an unreasonable person.  I’d also like to suggest that the person you once loved more than life itself might not be as unreasonable as you think.  A bad marriage can (and should!) end with a good divorce.  It’s up to you to create that outcome because (last quote, I promise)

“You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

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This entry was posted in divorce.

10 comments on “Why Be Nice?

  1. atable4three says:

    In and after divorce both people need to examine themselves. Often its the “victim” who needs it just as much or more than the dirtbag. Here is a link to a radio show I thought of when I read your post. The first story told is one that heard just before my divorce started.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/291/reunited-and-it-feels-so-good

    BTW I was the “victim” of an adulterous spouse but if I continue blaming her for everything what does that leave for me other than worthless excuses for any future failures?

    • That was a good show- thanks for sharing! There are many lessons to be learned and it’s true that both partners need to take a good look at themselves throughout and following the process. Divorce is presents a tremendous opportunity for self discovery. Unfortunately many people don’t realize it because they are too busy being angry.

  2. Courtney Bosch says:

    Best. Post. Ever.

  3. […] Why Be Nice? (thedivorceencouragist.wordpress.com) […]

  4. […] Said/She Said, Part 1 Last week I wrote about the importance of empathy and compassion during a divorce.  As families evolve, it’s important to extend that empathy, compassion and communication across […]

  5. jobo says:

    Wow, SO TRUE isn’t it? Really like your perspective on this. While my divorce and my ex aren’t nearly as bad (for which i feel blessed, to be honest), the whole trashing the ex thing isn’t my thing either and hey, you are right, it kinda makes *us* look like the dumbass, in a way, right? Not that we are of course…

  6. Talibah says:

    Love this post! Love, love, love it! Quotes and all.

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