We all know the Golden Rule – “Treat others as you want them to treat you.” The idea is to treat others with decency and respect because that is how we want to be treated, regardless of whether the other person treats us the same way.
Does the Golden Rule apply in divorce situations? I think it does; or at least it should. When I reference divorce, I am including the ending of other similar relationships, such as unmarried couples separating. Divorce involves the end of a relationship. In most cases, it is the end of a relationship that was once based on affection and mutual desire to be together. Just because the relationship is ending does not mean the original basis for that relationship is wiped clean and disappears. There are some good reasons to preserve as much of that positive relationship as possible.
Reason #1 – If you have children together, you will be tied together for the rest of your lives. Even after your children are adults, you will both (hopefully) be involved in their lives. If you remember the Golden Rule during your divorce, it may be much easier to co-parent your children going forward. It’s much easier to work with another parent if you have a relationship based on decency and respect instead of antagonism and revenge. It’s also much easier for your children to deal with the end of their parents’ relationship and all the associated changes if they see you handle it using the Golden Rule. Parents are the most important role models for their children, whether they’re modeling positive behavior or negative behavior. I have talked with many adults whose parents divorced and how their parents handled the divorce affects those adult children tremendously.
Reason #2 – You must look at yourself in the mirror each day. Do you want the face looking back at you to be someone who has done their best to treat others with decency and respect or someone who has disregarded others? I believe that most people are basically good and want to do positive things during their lives, so they will feel better about themselves and their lives if they follow the Golden Rule. I believe that people who purposely injure others, even if they believe it’s justified by some perceived injury they experienced, are probably unhappy and making their own lives worse by their actions.
Reason #3 – Treating others with respect and decency is free and could provide significant benefits in resolving your divorce. Even if your spouse does not respond in kind, following the Golden Rule can eliminate some conflict. Less conflict means spending less emotional energy, time and money resolving your divorce.
If you live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, including Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, Harrisburg, Hershey and surrounding communities and would like to discuss the Golden Rule or any other family law or estate planning or administration issue, please contact me.